Monday, April 2, 2018

Adult Home Fries!

Now, who doesn't like home fried potatoes, raise your hand.

As expected, I don't see a single hand up in the air.  K-Duh!  There is nothing that bonds more pleasantly and perfectly with your morning scramble and coffee.

But why relegate it to to the early dark mornings ghetto, eh?  That's the thought I had last night at Chez Billzo when putting together a marinated Dijon and honey pork tenderloin as a sort of faux Easter meal thing. I found a couple of pounds of baby new potatoes in the pantry, the little red/purple one and scratched my head for a way to use em up in a not boring way.

Don't be a sad bunny, eat your home fries!




Eureka, adult home fries were born.

Gawd, I love potatoes.  To not misuse a blatant stereotype, it's likely from the Kelly side of my family, the Irish immigrant half that true to stereotype came over to the US during the 19th century great famine.

But man, of all the taters I like, #2, right after my Grandma Faye Kelly's mashed potatoes,  has to be new potatoes.  They have a certain sweetness and subtle flavor that their larger brethren don't possess without quite the same glimmer of potato-esque authority. New potatoes are like little pieces of candy without the annoying foil wrappers to dig through.

Tonight I decided to dress them up a bit and make a complimentary side to the pork - without having to work too hard.  It IS a holiday weekend after all.

To start out, I scooped up a few fist fulls of the little darlings and halved them into tiny half moons and tossed them into a small pot and brought it to a medium simmer.

I had to do a bit of helicoptering pull them off the heat when they lost just the perfect amount of structural integrity -  not too al dente, but not too flabby, either. They needed to be almost fully cooked but undone enough to hold up to a fast saute.  Hey, was that vague enough for you?

Once done to my liking, drained and slightly cooled, I grabbed a medium-sized pan and melted two tablespoons of butter, hearting them up quickly but not letting them froth or brown at all.

Then in goes the little purple half moons.

After about 20 seconds for tossing and coating with the butter, I added some sliced red onion (again with the sweetness), some finely chopped celery and sliced garlic and tossed and flipped and let all these new neighbors become acquainted.

I dusted with cracked black pepper, a swirl of salt and a chemtrail of cumin and continued spooning the mixture around to let the butter cover all and do its fatty flavor bonding thang.

This doesn't take long. Perhaps 5 minutes total as the taters are around 85% cooked before hitting the pan. Add more butter if it seems to be drying out too fast - it's a delicate line you're crossing between the wonder of butter and they potatoes feeling too slippery. You want them crisping up slightly but not getting crunchy. unless crunchy floats your boat, in which case do it!

Here's the adult part:
Near the end when I've adjusted the pepper and even added one twinge (med pinch) of cayenne for liveliness, I turned the heat up to med-high and poured one full glug  (one, alligator...) of dry dry dry sherry for a final sizzle and sigh before turning off the burner and shoveling them onto plate.

Good God almighty they were fabulous, in fact I'm eating the leftovers for breakfast with my eggs this morning.










Sunday, April 1, 2018

Buns!!!!

Who doesn't like a nice, savory/spice lamb burger on a warm Spring evening around the backyard fire pit, washed down by a cool Racer5 IPA?  Ya mon!

Such a great meal, and having spent much time and focus to blend the lamb, the fresh mint, the crushed and minced garlic, cumin, sea salt, pepper and just a dash of cayenne for the Take-Your-Breath-Away moment at first bite I didn't want to have a sad.

Yes, the sad part of every barbeque is always the cardboard tasting, limp buns from the local supermarket.  It just ruins the vibe for me completely.

Until tonight.  Level unlocked! by making my own Hamburger/sammich buns.

How could this never have occurred to me till now?  Okay, I'll stop beating myself up and share this fantastically easy recipe for making the best hamburger buns you'll ever eat - extraordinarily cheap and 10X as healthy as the chemically laden, limp blobs one buys in a store.

You can do this like a boss.  It takes around 4 hours, but the actual work is more like 12 minutes. There's even time to fit in 2 naps on a Saturday afternoon. Heh.

What you'll need is already in your pantry even if you only do occasional baking.

1 .25 oz package active dry yeast  (2.5 teaspoons if you have a jar in the fridge)
1 lbs all-purpose flour (3.5 cups)
1 cup warm water  (:30 in the microwave)
1 egg three tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons, granulated sugar
1.25 teaspoons, salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 egg, 
1 tbsp  milksesame seed or poppy seeds  (optional)


The how-to:

Put the yeast and half a cup of flour and the warm water into your stand mixer bowl and pull out the whisk to blend it till smooth.  Doesn't whisking make you feel all chef-ish like nothing else!!

Then let it sit for 15 minutes.  It'll get frothy and smell amazing as the leetle yeasties start feeding.

Add the rest of the flour, an egg, salt, and sugar and then mix at slow speed with a bread hook for oh, say 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and pat and form it into a lumpy ball.  The dough will be super easy to handle, a bit sticky, but after you four your surface, not to your fingers.

Dreezle a large bowl with some olive oil and flop the doughball around to coat it on all sides, cover and let it proof for 2 hours in a warm place.  If you're lucky enough to have an oven with a proof mode, 85 degrees is pretty much just right.

Take a muchly deserved Saturday aft nap and come back in 2 hours to a doubled in size mass of dough.

pour it out - yes it will just slide right out in one lump due to the olive oil - onto your floured surface again (I hope you napped and didn't waste time doing any pre-cleaning) and press, pull, flatten into a roughly rectangular shaped mass about a half an inch thick.

Taking your pastry knife,








divide it into 8 equal parts.

Use your hands like an Italian Nonna to gently stretch and mold the dough into disc shapes about 1/2 inch thick and 4-5 inches in diameter

Place all 8 onto the parchment papered tray and cover lightly to let rise for another hour (nap #2 opportunity!!)

Preheat your oven around 30 minutes before the hour is up and make your egg wash

Yeah, take that other egg and whisk it with the milk until it's thouroughly blended.  Right before going into the oven, very carefully and gently (you don't want to collapse that nice puffy looking bun, do you?) brush each bun with the egg/milk wash.

Sprinkle some sesame seeds, or poppy seeds, or do nothing, this is totally your choice, onto each bun and then pop them into the oven for 15 to 17 minutes.

Watch it like a hawk and when it gets a tinge of golden brown, pull the plug as you don't want your buns to dry out and get all cardboardy like the store bought units.

Voila!  You're done and ready to BBQ those burgers.

Tonight I did spiced lamb burgers and right before pulling them off the grill I toasted my buns after brushing them with melted butter (the hmburger buns!  Get your mind out of the gutter) and some Swedish stoneground mustard.    Enjoy......


Did I mention these babies cost me all of about $.50 to make? 







Saturday, March 31, 2018

State Fair!!




My Favorite day of the year. The first 80 degrees, barefoot on the deck with a freshly cleaned, scrubbed and shiny grill beckoning me. Yep, it's opening day of barbecue season, complete.

For the first night we did Wisconsin State Fair Brats. Legit bratwursts simmered for about a half an hour in the cheapest-ass beer you can find,* a stick of butter, and a sliced onion. Then grilled for about 5-6 minutes till it's just sweating like it's laying on a Spanish Beach in mid-summer, then tonged onto a fresh baked then toasted roll which has melted butter and Midwestern Swedish mustard and some of those onions from the simmer.

I prefer a 40oz Miller Genuine Draft from the back reaches of deep storage at the local KwickyMart, but my partner in Brat crimes is an Old Milwaukee fan.  Your mileage may vary, just keep to the cheapest beer you can find. save the craft beer for drinking, not cooking.


This is what summertime at the State Fair tastes like, and it will be the main offering along with some homemade coleslaw on my food truck.



Actual instructs:

1. Bring a pot of cheap-ass beer to a simmer
2. Add one onion, sliced
3. One stick of butter
4. Brats (Real bratwurst from a butcher, not corp-clone mystery meat sausage, not turkey/mango/kale sausage -  Bratwurst(s).  If you've no butcher shop handy, Johnson's from Wisconsin will do.

Keep at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes while you enjoy a few sips of a real beer and enjoy your bare feet striking the warm deck (Yay, it's Summer!!)

Fire up your grill to around 500 degrees and tong* them onto the grill
let them sit for about three minutes, then flip them. 

*Don't even think about or even look at a fork, you don't want to pierce those babies and let any of the juice fly free -  not until the first bite.

At this point you, if you're doing things correctly, 




You should have a small pack of dogs staring at you, pleadingly and pretending to be polite and patient.  














After the first flop, take some fresh rolls  (sourdough are great, but then, I'm a California boy and partial) and brush them with melted butter and a mustard of your choice.  I recommend LARS brand Swedish whole grain mustard if you can find it or any German hot mustard.  Place those on a less hot area of your grill and toast them for 2-3 minutes.  Watch them like a hawk, you want toasted, not a burnt offering.


Done and done.  Tong the now grill-marked and glazed looking Brats onto  a roll and top with more mustard and some of the onions from the simmer.  Eat em hot with a real beer.

Again, if you've done things correctly you should get a nice splat of juice right in the forehead, like I did just now, at first bite.  

Welcome, Summer, we missed you.



Friday, March 30, 2018

OMGRRD! Pie Pan Chicken

I somehow have managed in my endless quest, to find a new way to do chicken. Though I must say, it was not over the top creativity, it was more laziness over needing to do some dishes before embarking on cooking.  I chose lazy.

I like chicken. there, I said it.  Baked, roasted, fried (YEAH! FRIED!), in a curry, in a soup, I'll eat chicken most anytime. But you know, one grows bored with the same methodology and last night I just couldn't make Game Over Chicken again - as wonderful as that is.
,
Being lazy I just figured heck, just give it a herb rub and bake it and be done with it. It's a Wednesday night for Gawd's sake.

So I pulled out some bone-in chicken thighs and went to the drawer for a baking dish big enough for 8 of them (dang, that home from college kid can eat a lot) only to find I am a day are so behind on dishwashing and all my baking trays were in the dishwasher awaiting orders.

The only vehicle I could find was a largish glass pie-pan and putting off the only other choice which was hand-washing trays, scooped it up.

Bwango, the 8 thighs fit like the pan was made for it, nestled like little puppies at sleepy-bye time.

The rub was in the general direction of smokey-sweet.
Salt
Pepper
Thyme
Oregano
Spanish  smokey Paprika
Garlic
(and a tiny peench of curry power for twang)

I applied, patted and let it sit, deep in thought for about 5 hours till the rub looked like a Diebenkorn  painting, then just before oven time got the idea to give it a dry sherry shower -  which of course I couldn't stop at just two glugs and ended up with a solid 3/4 of an inch of a sherry pool.  the chicken wasn't floating, but it certainly was getting its feet wet.*

*reminds me of Summertime in Wisconsin,  sitting in a Cedarburg backyard bare feet dangling in a kiddie pool while imbibing iced bourbon and watching the Mid-Western sunset.

I digress......

So what I ended up with was a semi-braise situation.  I decided to go for it, though unfortunately, the pie pan left no room for carrots or taters.  The price of improvisation is high.

I gave it a skin-searing blast of 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, then turned down the oven to 350 for the duration.

Another 50 minutes and perfection happened.  A perfectly crispy and crackly first bite into super moist, tender chicken, just dripping off the bone.

OMGRRD Pie Pan Chicken, my new invention.



Served with some wild rice and freshly baked garlic and Basil Focaccia





Saturday, February 24, 2018

Troppo non รจ abbastanza - Focaccia!!


Omg, the simplest and most tasty bread you can ever hope to eat can be yours for a mere fraction of what you'll pay in a store. I'm speaking of course about homemade Focaccia. Fast and easy enough that you can whip up a batch even if the afternoon is waning quickly and your dinner guests are already en route.



Don't be intimidated by this large sheet of golden Italian bread. I got this result on my very first try.  Of course, it's not the first bread  I've ever made (Ciabatta has been my weekly bake for months and months now), but this is something I will indeed continue to make, as for roughly $.75  I made myself a horse doover and solid breakfast bread that lasted for almost a full week.

And the true beauty is that it's great plain and dipped in Olive oil or tarted up with, well, whatever floats your boat.  Well talk more about that in a moment.


Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or t.5 teaspoons if you have a jar)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Put the flour, sugar, active yeast, and salt into your mixer.  I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, but even a hand unit will work just fine.

Blend on super slow for about thirty seconds then add warm water and half a cup of the olive oil.  not hot water, not cold water. room temp + a hair -  I do :45 in the microwave.

Then back on lowest mix speed so you don't get a flour explosion in your kitchen.  As soon as it starts to form a flour mix, up it to medium for  5 minutes or so.

Dump it out onto a lightly floured workspace and roll/knead it just three or four times. 

Then move it to a well-oiled bowl, cover and let it proof for an hour in a warm spot.  I set my oven to <proof> mode 85 degrees, 

After about an hour, or when it's doubled in size, pour about half a cup of olive oil into a large, low rimmed pan and plop your dough in the middle.  push it down and spread it to cover the whole pan (about1/2 to 3/4 thick and while doing so poke it fiercely with your fingertips to make holes and while spreading.  this sounds like a lot of oil, but it's what gives Focaccia that flavor pop.  Flip it once or twice to get both sides lathered in that oil.

Let it sit and think about its existence for another hour while you heat up the oven to 425 and go work on your Italian language lessons.

At this point, you need to make a toppings decision.  This is all about your personal taste so whatever you like is the right choice.  The photos in this post of with roasted garlic, rosemary and some assiago cheese.  But you can use anything - or nothing.  Basil, tomatoes, oregano, sage, cayenne.  have fun.

Then pop that sucker into the oven for 20-25 mins until it golden browns to perfection.  Mine went 23 mins for this attempt. 

 Let it cool slightly and dip in some olive oil, or another of my favs, melted butter, garlic powder and cheese.  Baby... that's some mighty fine eating.  


Monday, April 17, 2017

Somewhere on the South East Asian Peninsula

This is not Strictly Thai, nor is it Vietnamese so as someone from Vietnam's eye's  would pop open in wonder, but it is a foray into a South Asian Stir fry with my fav elements of each cuisine. As all home cooling should be it's to my taste, so it's fits me almost perfectly.  This was a fine first try, building a dish on the morphing of three or four separate recipes and hoping for the best.

So what is it I like?  coconut, green and red curry, pork I adore frutta di maiale.  I also like ginger and heat and veggies, so I thought I 'd take a shot at a classic As in restaurant staple:

Crispy pork stir fry over snow peas and bell pepper and onion.  

The ingredents

1 pound of pork cut for stew, then further cut down into littler strips and chunks
1/2 pound of snow peas, end trimmed and cut into 1 inch-ish pieces
a bell pepper cu into strips
fresh cashews (unsalted and chopped)

Peanut oil (3 tbsp)

1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves of garlic,  finely chopped and crushed
Lemongrass -  finely chopped
a big chunk(about an inch) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced/minced
coconut sugar
coconut milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 squirt of fish sauce
green Thai curry paste
cracked back pepper

A cup and a half of white rice


The rough how-to:

Make your rice with a half fistful of minced ginger.

In a sautee' pan add a tablespoon of peanut oil, add some shallot and garlic/lemongrass and 2 tsps of soy sauce till blended then sautee' the snow peas on high heat for a two mins before adding the bell pepper slices for an additional 1.5 mins or so.   add in the crushed cashew for the last minutes
Set aside

add more peanut oil , let it heat up to almost smoking and brown/crisp up the pork.  3-5 mins tops.

add shallots, garlic, lemongrass coconut sugar, fish sauce,  Thai green curry paste (two tsps - to taste)
*optional: some chopped serrano or Jalapeno peppers for heat

When you've got a bit of a sauce going with the meat and blend items.spoon in two tablespoons of the top, think lyer of coconut milk out of the can.  fold in and heat for 3 or four mins.

Plate it over the rice, peas and peppers with some scallions....





Monday, February 13, 2017

Game -over Chicken

Okay, okay, it's been a while since I added anything to this blog.  Instagram and the lure of the 2 sentence description with a photo appealed to the lazier more dominant side o my nature.  I'm all better now. Last night I ended the chicken game and stumbled onto what was easily the best chicken I've ever had, bar none.

The the upside of all upsides, it was ridiculously easy to make.  That makes my top two chicken dishes  (this and my standard Devil Chicken) the easiest thing I make, perhaps only a shade more complex than something like Guacamole.

The marinade is the thing:

Savory and sweet with my go-to sherry soak along with a long enough bake time to really break down the chicken made it flat out as tender as pulled chicken, just falling off the bone tender.

Ingredients:
8 chicken drumsticks  (but you can substitute bone-in thighs)
black pepper
Garlic powder
Smoky Paprika

The Marinade
1/4 cup very dry sherry
2 tbls olive oil
3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbls dry rub (see below)
dusting of garlic powder
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp cracked fennel seeds

1 dash cayenne

Jalapeno jelly  (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9413/jalapeno-pepper-jelly/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringContentType=search%20results&clickId=cardslot%204)

Dry rub:
4 teaspoons ancho chile powder 
4 teaspoons chipotle chile powder 
2 teaspoons ground coriander 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 
2 teaspoons ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon fennel seed 
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic 
1 teaspoon dried dill 
1 teaspoon dry mustard

The how to's:

Rub the chicken with  black pepper, paprika, garlic powder
Set aside or refrigerate while preparing the marinade

In a a bowl add all the marinade ingredients  Make up  the  dry rub in advance and have at the ready, this rub is also great on lamb or pork

Whisk thoroughly till it's a fragrant dark mix of sweet and savory

Place the chicken on a baking dish or just some aluminum foil (sprayed with canola oil)
brush on the prepared marinade.
brush on the Jalapeno jelly

Let the chicken marinade  open air yet lightly covered if it's not a hot day, or in the fridge for 1-2 hours if it is.  Patience is a virtue here. The length of time you exercise the aforementioned patience the greater the reward in tenderness, so go watch a movie or binge-watch cooking shows on Netfilx

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the chicken for an hour

Serve  -  and make twice what you think you'll need.  Worst case, you have the best breakfast/lunch tomorrow that you can imagine

Suggested side: 
Risotto
wild rice
Mashed or roasted potatoes

Enjoy.........