What’s cooking? Smoked Chicken!

A bit of a funny story, as I had wanted a smoker for quite a while and had even bought an inexpensive hotplate and picked up a couple of refrigerator wire shelves to build a wooden smoker. It turns out I didn’t have to, as while I was on an epic roadtrip across the SouthWest, I stumbled into a sale at a sporting goods store that had an terrific sale on a very nice smoker. I picked up this Cajun Injector Electric Smoker and it’s been awesome.

You simply set the temperature and time and that’s it. Computer temperature contolled, no fires to worry about, no fancy pellets to feed. I preheat it to temperature, put in the meat and the wood chips and I can move on to other things, checking on it once every 20 minutes or so just to see how the meat’s internal temperature is coming along.

My system is very simple. I brine chicken breasts for 18 hours or so in a basic brine. I then rub it with a nice bbq rub. I use Gorilla BBQ rub or LaRue Rub with a bit of brown sugar and, optionally, ground hot (habanero or ghost chili) pepper for kick. I preheat the smoker to 235 Degrees and pop them in until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. I then take it out and it’ll impulse cook another 10 degrees on it’s own. Time wise, that’s roughly an hour. For wood chips, I favor hickory chips soaked overnight in water. I use a good handful and this smoker is so good at retaining smoke, I really don’t feel a need to add any more.

I highly recommend smoking meats for a nice protein treat to go with veggies or on a salad and heartily recommend the Cajun Injector as a goof proof smoker.

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Ah the foods I miss…

I’ve been neck deep in work at a new job lately, so it’s really impacted my ability to keep up with the blog and for that I apologize. I was going through some photos this morning and was really missing Khao Soi Chiang Mai style. Similar to a Laksa, it’s a coconut curry sauce over noodles dish that’s simply delicious! Here’s a photo of what I made while in a cooking class in Thailand. I’ll be back soon with even more photographs and a recipe for the dish.

Beef & Mushroom in a Red Wine Stroganoff Sauce

Had a wonderful day off cooking with my daughter. I decided to blend a couple ideas together and we made oxtail stroganoff. The stroganoff sauce was based on the oxtail, assorted mushrooms including porcini for deep, intense, earthy taste, and red wine. The sauce was finished with sour cream to balance out the strong and potentially bitter flavors of the wine and mushrooms. It worked out pretty well.

We started by marinating the oxtails overnight in soy sauce, garlic, and a bit of onion. In the morning, I rolled the oxtail in flour and then put them in the broiler. I often will use a dutch oven to sear them and then make stew in the dutch oven, but today I wanted to try a broiling technique I had seen in a facebook foodie group I’m in. It worked pretty well. Continue reading

My favorite breakfast :)

I try not to have this more than once a week or two, but my favorite breakfast is this version of corned beef hash. It’s really a shredded potato patty, with bits of fresh corned beef folded in, accompanied by an egg, easy over, sprinkled with cheese. It’s that perfect combination of salt and starch and fat in the morning 🙂 When I grew up, my father used to make the potato pancakes, so for me, this is that taste of nostalgia, the remembrance of a happy time when growing up. Fattening, but everything in moderation, right? 🙂

What’s cooking…

I’ve been so busy lately that even regular home cooking has dropped off. Work days are 10 hrs so by the time I get home I’m ready to have a half dinner and then relax.

Today I had a day off, so I decided to go Thai (yes, no surprise, lol) and make a couple favorites, plus something new.

The usual dishes, Som Tum Talay … my usual papaya salad with squid and shrimp, and Pad Kaprow Moo (the spicy basil pork) … and something new to me.

Instead of a large starch we made a Thai dish that’s apparently not often seen here. The dish is quite simple, and the elegance lies in clean execution. Cooked sticky rice is mixed with raw pork, some thinly shredded vegetables and sesame seed. It’s lightly seasoned with just a little white pepper and salt, rolled, dipped in egg and then fried.

The result is a ball that’s soft and sticky inside and crispy and crunchy outside. It’s the perfect complement to anything with a sauce, as you can pinch and dip with the sticky rice.

I found the recipe at one of my favorite sites, importfood.com. I didn’t vary it by enough to justify writing my own recipe, so it’s better to ask you to get it directly from their site.

All in all, it was a delicious dinner and the family was pretty happy with it 🙂

How to make Shu Mai (Siu Mai), one type of Chinese dim sum

Beautiful delicious steamed bundles of goodness… I love dim sum, and especially siu mai. They’re pretty simple to make and your effort will be rewarded.

There are many kinds of siu mai. The way I’m making it here is Cantonese and has a pork and mushroom filling. Fillings will vary and there’s no ‘one way’ to do it. Feel free to vary your ingredients to your own preferences.

Today, I started with ginger, shallots and garlic, finely chopped. This can be done with knife or a food processor, it’s up to you.

The photo illustrates how finely to chop it. I prefer not to chop too fine, as I like to be able to still make out the individual flavors in the finished product. For this recipe, I used two types of mushrooms. Dried straw mushrooms and dried cloud ear mushrooms.

Chop the mushrooms to medium fine (about 1/16″ to 1/8″ size). The straw mushrooms are pictured above, the cloud mushrooms should look like this.

Once they’re chopped, the proportions should look like what you see above. Add chopped green onion, (rehydrated) dried scallops – chopped finely, and chopped water chestnuts

Proportions look like this:

Using Siu Mai wrappers, take a spoon at a time and form, then place on a pan.

To form the siu mai, simply gather the edges and fold the ‘fins’ in the same direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise).

Steam some for immediate consumption or bag and freeze for another day. 1 pack of wrappers makes plenty for a few breakfasts. Pictured, some siu mais and wonton frozen.

Pork and Mushroom Shu Mai (Siu Mai)
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Siu mai with pork and two kinds of mushrooms.
Ingredients
  • 1-2 shallots
  • 4-6 pieces water chestnut
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 6 dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1.5 lb. ground pork (coarse ground, if available)
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (opt.)
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Shaoxing cooking wine
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 package siu mai wrappers
Instructions
  1. Chop shallots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, garlic, and green onion.
  2. Season pork with the cornstarch, sesame oil, wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  3. Mix in chopped ingredients
  4. * at this point you can let the mixture rest so the flavors can properly marry. I like to let it rest overnight in the refrigerator, when convenient.
  5. Fill wrappings, gathering and pinching the sides. It may be helpful to give it a thump when finished to flatten out the bottom.
  6. Steam for 10 minutes, serve.
  7. They can be frozen and steamed later, if desired.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Sourdough Bread Baked in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I tried out my new Lodge Double Dutch Oven and just LOVE it! My first dish in the pot was to bake a nice round of sourdough. I set my dough to rise on parchment in a round cake pan to give it shape and make it easy to transfer. In the meantime, I pre-heated the oven with a scant quarter cup of water in it. Once ready, I simply transferred the bread into the pot, covered it and set it to bake. It took a little longer to bake than when I make baguettes, but it came out wonderfully, and the pot really helped to make perfect crust.

Here’s a look of the crumb of the bread plated with dinner. Dinner was a chipotle burger with cilantro lime aoli and a simple salad.

Awesome ravioli, and a tip.

 

 

We’re still making pasta by hand in the kitchen and we’ve pretty much got it down pat now. One thing I learned the last time I made the ravioli was that it’s actually better to make the filling ahead of time and refrigerating it. It stays cold throughout the process and is easier to handle. In fact, it stays together so nicely, that you can get fuller and much nicer looking ravioli.

Here’s the tip. Make the stuffing ahead of time and refrigerate. Then when you fill the ravioli, instead of spooning it in or throwing it in, roll them into neat balls. It’s so much neater and makes the ravioli turn out so much nicer.

As you seal the ravioli, keep one end open enough to allow air to escape. If you can keep the ravioli relatively free of air bubbles and filled uniformly, you should end up with a product which looks like this when cut.

The secret to incredible Vietnamese beef broth.

 

 

I was loosely following a recipe for Vietnamese Pho broth and it really came out fantastic. There were two things I learned as I was making this.

One, don’t skimp on the onions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like onions, if you like the dark rich broth you’d get in a Vietnamese restaurants, you’ll need the onions. You will end up straining them all out later, so don’t worry and just go for it.

Two, and this I consider the big ‘secret’ I learned by the experience is to roast your bones. For me, I used a couple pounds of large bones and a couple pounds of beef back ribs for soup. That way I had a good portion of bones and a good portion of meat too. You could go all beef back rib, but 50% cheap stuff works too 🙂 Put it all in a pan with a couple halved onions on the bottom and roast it all. If you want, put a little water in the bottom of the pan so the onions don’t burn too much, then cook at  350 degrees for 2 hours. The difference in flavor compared to boiling is phenomenal.

What was even more impressive, is after I was all done boiling the broth for most of the night, is that the meat is still delicious and the connecting tissue rendered perfectly.

The next time I make any kind of beef soup – minestrone, beef and been, vegetable beef… I’m going to try roasting the bones first and see if the intense flavor works too (I suspect it will!)

Happy cooking! 🙂

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