Category Archives: Meats Meats Meats

What Else Is Big Grocery Not Telling Me?

You know what’s really, really, really easy? And you know what my grocery store was hoping I’d never find out? It is insanely easy to turn a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast into a boneless, skinless one, and it costs literally less than half as much! This has completely blown my mind, and I want to run out and tell everyone in the world this new, amazing chicken secret. Please, take pity on me and don’t tell me that you already knew this.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Confronting My Fears, One Chicken At A Time

If I had to list my top five least favorite foods, I think it would end up lining up like this:

1. Banana
2. Seafood
3. Coconut
4. Dill
5. Cooked-fruit pie

I do a pretty good job of avoiding all of these foodstuffs, but tonight I had no choice but to collide head-on with one of my most reviled nemeses.

A Culinary Nemesis

Ew.

How did it come to this? How did I end up with a refrigerator full of reeking, vile dill since Monday? What was I thinking??

Well, it all started with perfecting the method for roasting a whole chicken in Cook’s Illustrated big book of poultry. I love roast chicken, and love how Cook’s Illustrated has you learn a master method, and then gives a zillion different variations on that. And I love having a roasted chicken carcass left over to make stock with, rather than buying chicken parts (or a whole one, as I’m often wont to do) just for stock-making purposes. But I’m lazy, and don’t often make whole chickens for dinner, so after a recent especially delicious meal of one, I vowed to try each and every variation on the recipe in the cookbook, in the order they’re printed. I made the master recipe magnificently. I made the one with garlic croutons and swooned over its deliciousness. And then the whole experiment screeched to a horrifying stop with recipe #3.

Herb-crusted roasted chicken.

In other words, a chicken crusted with, among other things, scads and scads of fresh dill.

Yaaarrrrrffff.

But I couldn’t abandon the project practically before it even started, so I girded myself. I psyched myself up. I soldiered on. I could be brave and make one meal with dill, if just to reassure myself that I hate the stuff.

My weekly grocery run happens on Mondays, and this week’s Monday was a doozy. I had to walk all over tarnation in the torrential rain, then spent my entire wildly hectic day at work with cold, damp socks, then had to go to the store, and then, when I finally got home, exhausted and wearing clammy socks, I accidentally crushed the grocery bag with the produce in it against the doorjamb while staggering into the front hall. The capper to my terrible day was getting the full-on blast o’ dill smell from the bag. ::Shudder:: It smelled just as bad as I remembered.

Chicken night was going to be Thursday, so that meant having to smell that horrible stench of dill every time I opened the fridge between Monday and then. It just kept getting worse. It seemed impossible that this was going to be an even remotely sensible culinary adventure. But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I had purchased the chicken and the dill, as well as a bunch of fresh parsley. And who knew — I might like it.

Here’s the deal:

1 3.5- to 4-lb whole chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 cups loosely packed tarragon leaves
2 cups loosely packed dill leaves
2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F), and set a V-rack in a pan (I have used both a roasting pan and a regular baking pan, and both worked fine).

Put the herbs into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until they are finely chopped and combined. Mash up the butter with a fork. Gently loosen the skin on the breasts of the chicken with your fingers, and work the butter underneath the skin onto the meat. Brush the outside of the chicken with the egg yolks and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herbs over the chicken and gently pat onto the chicken so it is uniformly covered.

Place the chicken wing side up on the V-rack, pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the pan (to keep drippings from burning), and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven, flip it over so the other wing side is up, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Then remove the chicken from the oven and rotate so it is breast side up. Return to the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and pan, setting it on a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

So, other than that I was so freaked out about the dill that I neglected to buy fresh tarragon, I followed the recipe to a T. (I added a few tablespoons of dried tarragon to the chopped herb mix before patting it onto the chicken.) It didn’t seem too redolent of dill at all while it was baking. It just smelled kind of nice and herb-y. And it had a nice look to it when it came out of the oven. And, if I’m being really honest, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you there was dill involved if someone made me take a blind taste test of the meat. But it also wasn’t lights-out awesome. It was just kind of fresh-tasting. Sort of a nice roasted chicken with overtones of vegetal greenness. So, while not dreadful, it probably wasn’t worth the copious clean-up involved (that herb stuff was messy, yo), and it definitely hasn’t swayed me on the dill front. That stuff just smells rank.

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Super-Quick And Hellenic: What More Could You Want?

Once a month I get all motivated to try new recipes — the day the new “Food & Wine” issue arrives in the mail. This month I was stopped in my tracks while flipping through the pages thanks to a feature of “Fast Recipes” that claimed to reimagine classic Greek dishes. Having never eaten Greek food (I have no idea how it’s eluded me this long), it’s not like I was all a-quiver with the thought of whipping up my old exotic faves; no, they just had a really scrumptious-looking picture accompanying the recipe for Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki. I had no idea what Souvlaki is (I’ve since looked it up. This seems to be a skewerless version of it), but it said it would take me 40 minutes, had an easy list of ingredients, and looked perfect for a weeknight meal. Here’s the recipe:

1 1/4 pounds trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 3-by-1/2 inch strips
1 large onion, cut through the root end into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt
1/2 European cucumber, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Warm pita, for serving

(The only change I made to the recipe is that I used pork tenderloin rather than shoulder, because it seems leaner and easier to deal with. But I’m normally a big fan of pork shoulder, so I’m not sure why I opted for that. I guess I’m just lazy.)

1. In a medium bowl, toss the pork strips and onion wedges with the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped oregano and half of the garlic paste. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and let stand for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the yogurt, cucumber, mint and the remaining garlic paste. Season the tzatziki with salt and pepper.

3. Heat a large cast-iron griddle or grill pan (or, in my case, just a large skillet) until very hot. Add the pork and onion wedges along with any marinade and cook over high heat, turning once or twice, until the pork and onion are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pork and onion to plates and serve with the tzatziki, lemon wedges and pita.

Presto! Easy and delicious!

February 10 2009

This was super-duper fun to make, not least because it made the kitchen smell absolutely heavenly. Through a strange confluence of events, I ended up prepping everything before Pookie got home from work, and Boomer got home even later. Now, it should be noted that Spring Fever is creeping up on the denizens of Maple Hoo, and a kitchen redolent of fresh mint and oregano, lemon, cucumber, garlic and onions… well, it was enough to drive us all into progressive tizzies. I was in the thrall of the spring-fresh aromas, then Pookie walked into the kitchen and nearly swooned, then Boomer got home and exclaimed about how fantastic the place smelled. This meal was like a big plate of scrumptious freshness. I’d spent all day at work getting increasingly excited about trying a new recipe, and the whole experience of this didn’t let me down. Everyone should try it!

And perhaps the best part of all, by the way, was that I had extra mint, and there’s only one thing to do with that: make mojitos. (In a tall glass muddle 1 tablespoon of sugar, the juice of one lime, and 6-8 whole mint leaves. When the sugar has dissolved, fill the glass with ice, pour in 2 oz. of light rum, and then top off with chilled club soda. Stir and drink. Repeat the process from the beginning.) It was really the only civilized thing to do.

(Posted by Schnookie)

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Delicacies of Dallas: State Fair Edition

An ode to the world’s greatest foodstuff:

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Chicken-fried bacon
You’re the most amazing thing ever invented good golly but you’re freaking delicious.

Chicken Fried Bacon

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Filed under Dining Out, Meats Meats Meats, On The Road, You Don't See That Every Day

There’s A FIRE! Sale.

Okay, so today was Labor Day. Big time BBQ day. Perhaps the last traditional BBQ day of the year. (Granted, I prefer grilling in the Autumn, when it’s not as buggy out, and I’m more interested in eating meatstuffs, but that’s beside the point.) So I decided to do my civic duty and make Pookie’s favorite pork and bacon kebabs, since this is also kind of a birthday dinner for her. Pookie decided to take The General out back while I was cooking, on the off chance there was some cool fire action to take pictures of.

It’s almost like she’s prescient.

Things started nicely enough.

The grill lit up well enough, considering the false starts I had when I put too little newspaper in the chimney starter, and The General was kicking ass taking pictures of the leaping sparks. Fun!

I built my usual massive fire, and then brought out the meat.

I thought nothing of the fact that I’d put double the bacon in the kebabs, until, well… until all hell broke loose.

Uhhh… that’s a lot of flare ups.

Holy crap! Everything’s on fire!!

The fire trucks are going to be here any minute now!!

Our entire driveway was choked with smoke, but our neighbors managed to stay calm (even though I might not have. There was much freaking out while trying to minimize the fire without sacrificing grilling the meat). And in the end it was worth the drama.

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4th Of July? Guess It’s Time For BBQ

Here at Maple Hoo we’re not much for making a big deal of holidays. Even our Christmas celebration isn’t normally much more than putting out tons of handmade decorations and opening presents. I kind of have one level of cooking in me: everyday. I think I do a good job of making it so we eat well on a sort of “weeknight dinners” kind of way, but when it comes to the big feast days, it’s normally just more of the same from me. There’s only so much effort I’m willing to expend in the kitchen, and that’s a level of effort I’m willing to expend all the time. Our fancy meals are never really that fancy. And our holiday meals are never really that holiday-appropriate. So imagine my surprise when, as I went to assemble my weekly menu plans last Monday, my brain said, “Hey! 4th of July weekend is coming up! We’re gonna BARBECUE!!!”

So, in the wee hours of last Sunday night I flipped through Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice to find a holiday-worthy recipe before heading off to the grocery store after work on Monday. (This is why we don’t eat well on weekends. I do one grocery run a week, and normally I only have the energy on Sunday night or Monday afternoon to think of a handful of meals, and I figure, “Oh, I’ll come up with something on the weekend.” Of course, come Saturday, there’s nothing in the house to eat, so we just have frozen pizza. But I digress.) What I found was a “Sweet and Fruity Pork Tenderloin”. This sounded perfect:

“Sweet Sensation Rub”
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Two 12- to 14-oz tenderloins
Vegetable oil

Now, the recipe also called for an optional mop that sounded really good (it was made with extra rub, chicken stock, cider vinegar, and honey), but I use an electric smoker, so mopping really isn’t that productive. I regretfully opted out, but once the meat was in the smoker, I was just as happy to be parked in front of the TV with my stitching rather than trotting out to be mopping away at it.

So, the deal is that you mix all the rub ingredients up on the night before you’re going to barbecue, and then massage the tenderloins with a thin layer of oil followed by a couple of tablespoons of the rub. Then wrap them up tightly and refrigerate overnight. (The rub smelled exquisite.)

Then the day of the barbecue, you fire up your smoker to 200-220 degrees (F). While that’s getting up to the right heat, let the tenderloins sit at room temperature, unwrapped, for about 30 minutes.

Before tossing them in the smoker, sear the tenderloins on all sides in a skillet over high heat. Then cook them in the smoker for 2 to 2 1/4 hours; they’re done when they register 160 degrees (F).

The recipe also calls, though, for a choice of two spicy-sweet barbecue sauces, that you baste the pork with 30 minutes before it’s done in the smoker, and which you then serve on the side with the meat. The one I picked was “Jalapeach Barbecue Sauce”, a delightfully Semi-Homemade-sounding sauce:

16-oz can peaches in heavy syrup, undrained
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tbsp minced pickled jalapenos
2 tsp pickling liquid from jar or can of pickled jalapenos
2 tbsp peach chutney, or mango in a pinch
2 tsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

You just mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and then let cook on low until the onions are tender and the sauce thickens, about 25-30 minutes. Serve it warm or chilled. It should be noted that I am highly suspicious of pickled jalapenos, so I used a fresh one, but I did use the pickling liquid from some pickled peperoncinis that I happened to have in the fridge. I also couldn’t find any peach chutney, so I went with mango. And I misread the recipe and put in two tablespoons of brown sugar (something I only noticed just now writing the recipe out). I also bought halved peaches in heavy syrup and chopped them pretty finely before mixing them into the sauce — I figured the peach halves probably weren’t going to be breaking down enough on their own to be sufficiently saucy.

You know what? I should make holiday barbecues more often. This pork? Was out of this world. It was, as promised, fruity and sweet, but marvelously, delicately smoky. The meat was tender and perfect, and the sauce was sticky and glaze-like, with the perfect balance of super-sweetness and a fun jalapeno kick. I loved this. I could eat it every single day. And what was especially nice about it was that my Bradley smoker makes it so you just plug the thing in, toss in the meat, and then go about your way. I know there are people who like messing with feeding fires and maintaining temperature and what-have-you, and having smoked things that way in my Webber, I can say with some confidence that, while I’m glad I’ve tried the analog smoking method, I’m happy to have a machine that does it all for me.

For sides, I decided to make corn muffins (just from the recipe on the back of the Quaker corn meal):

And the posole verde recipe from Rancho Gordo. I’d never eaten posole before, but when Pookie and I decided to buy a smorgasbord of beans from Rancho Gordo (ostensibly so we could taste the calypso beans we’d just planted in our garden), I saw this recipe on the site and decided to buy some posole just to try it. I don’t know what I was expecting it to be, but I know I wasn’t expecting it to be this:

The posole is just a dried corn, and as it rehydrated, I expected it to taste like the sweet corn we get here in Jersey. It was not like that at all. It was chewy and starchy, like a cross between corn flour and barley. It was delicious. I also was, stupidly, not really expecting this recipe to yield a soup. I guess I was thinking all that liquid was going to be absorbed like in a bean dish, so once everything came together, it was like, “Surprise! We’re having soup with dinner!” Of course, it was scrumptious. The roasted tomatillos make this magnificently tangy and tart, and there’s a sharp edge from the chiles, with a nice sweet base from the roasted onions. And then everything is brightened up with a hearty dose of cilantro. I used just about every bowl and utensil in my kitchen to make this, but it was really worth it — it seemed like something you’d get in a restaurant. If that restaurant served surprise soups.

So on a holiday we observed by sitting around stitching, drinking Rhode Island Reds, and watching MacGyver, I managed to plate a pretty fancy dinner for us:

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Mmmmm… Pulled Pork Tacos

Because I’m a red-blooded American, I have no choice but to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. And because I’m a red-blooded American, I love tacos. So I figured this was a great opportunity to combine those two elements, and make pulled-pork tacos. With a delighted resolve to break out the smoker, I chose the recipe for “East L.A. Pork Tacos” from Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice cookbook.

The recipe starts with a “Borracho Marinade”, which of course should be followed with a hearty chorus of “Citizens of Borracho!” or “Now can you give a man some fightin’ room” (assuming you’ve seen The Great Race as many times as we have). This marinade is made up of:

2 cups of orange juice
2/3 cup of tequila
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon achiote paste
1 teaspoon cumin
Several dashes of hot sauce (the recipe stipulates “fiery habanero hot sauce”)

For the record, I didn’t have any achiote paste, nor did I have any hot sauce, so I just tossed in a teaspoon of adobo instead. Then I combined all that in the food processor, then poured it over the pork (the recipe calls for 6 shoulder pork chops, 12-14 oz each, but I went with two 4-pound Boston butts) in a plastic bag and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

In my experience with the standard Mr. Brown’s Pulled Pork (or whatever it’s called), I’ve learned the rule of thumb to give 1 1/2 hours for every pound of pork you’re smoking. That meant I needed my smoker warmed up (to somewhere between 200 and 220 degrees F) and ready for these bad boys to do the whole “slow and low” thing for six hours. What a welcome change from the previous smoked items I’ve made, where I’ve been looking at a nine-pound butt that needs to be ready for a lunchtime crowd. Suddenly I was combining my love of tacos with my love of sleeping in — this was becoming the best meal ever!

When the meat was done, it looked like something that would dress the sets of a caveman movie or something. It seems like meatstuffs that get roasted on sticks over fires in the movies always end up with this dark color and sheen. Frankly, they looked fake to me.

They tasted, however, amazing. The marinade gave the edges a nice citrusy zing, and the meat in the center was moist and lightly imbued with the bright flavors of the citrus and garlic and spices. It was just fantastic. And more than that, it was deliciously aromatic while smoking, so I can only hope our neighbors were really jealous.

The recipe then suggested you serve the shredded pork in tacos with all the standard taco fixings, along with a “Sauce Ole”.

The Sauce Ole is made as follows:

3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted green chiles (preferably New Mexican, Anaheim, or poblano, fresh or frozen)
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little, but so the vegetables are still crisp-tender. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavor to develop.

And just because I was feeling all kinds of gung-ho, I did roast and peel the poblano peppers fresh.

The other sides/fixings I made to go with this were some frijoles, some red rice, and some guacamole. And when it all came together, this dinner was insanely good. The Sauce Ole is out of this world, and paired with the pork, it tasted like something you’d get at a restaurant. I have rarely been as proud of a meal as I was of this one. And after laboring over it for two days, I ate it, of course, in about 35 seconds. I can’t wait to have this again!

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