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cooking

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Snow can’t stop me from bringing the heat! I shoveled out the grill, cleaned her off, and smoked up some pork shoulder and ribs. As you can see, one of her wheels got lost in all of this snow somewhere along the way.

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The night before I’d picked up some baby back ribs at Roma. Just a bit over $5 for a half rack. Not too shabby. Sure beats restaurant prices.

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And I also can’t say no to $2.99/lb pork shoulder.

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I made my own rib rub up. A little spicy kick, but nothing outrageous.

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Rubbed liberally on both pieces of pork, and let them sit over night.

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Here they are after a night in the fridge.
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Coals got all nice & toasty.
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Dumped the coals over half of the bottom of the grill with some applewood chips in tin foil on top of the coals.. Put a pan on the other side to catch any meat drips.

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The porky duo hangs out above the pan, and then I cover the grill, shaking the bottom occasionally to release the dead ashes which clog up air flow. Wound up putting another chimney of coals on here.
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Ribs smoked for about 5 hours before hunger set in. Good amount of smoke, I probably could have let them go another 30 minutes with some sauce, but overall I’m happy with how they came out.
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The pork shoulder I let go for about 7 hours. Nice bark formation on the outside. Planning on using some of the fattier bits for split pea soup

 

Pork rib recipe here:

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Gluten, who eats it, right? While I don’t have a gluten issue, a bunch of my friends seem to have some sort of gluten sensitivity. I’ve personally been eating less gluteny things just because my body hasn’t been craving it, so when it was time to bring something to a Shabbat potluck (or Shabbatluck as I’ve dubbed it), I was scratching my head trying to come up with something gluten free and Kosher. Kosher is kind of difficult for me personally because I have to stop and think about what I’m combining in a dish (like, meat + dairy is a no-no, and pork is out of the question). But toss in gluten-free and Sherlock Jane is on the case! So I figured I’d take a page from the Paleo/Primal cookbook and use sweet potatoes as the crust. I kind of hate labeling foods as paleo, but it’s an easy tag to generally figure out something is crap-free in terms of ingredients. So this is paleoish. or Paleish.

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Start with a tart pan and a shredded sweet potato mixed with some eggs and whatever other seasonings you want to toss in there. I bought this Fox Run 10″ tart pan off of Amazon. It’s a pretty crappy tart pan – doesn’t conduct heat very well for baking, so make sure you’ve got a pizza stone underneath it for true tarts to have even levels of heat through the center. For stuff like this it doesn’t really matter, though. We’re not making anything temperamental here

Any way, press your shredded sweet potato into the pan and bake it at 350F until it looks like this:

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Something like 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven and the amount of sweet potato shreds you’ve got going on. I went pretty sparse, and that became evident when they dried out while cooking (which is good, we want to remove some of that moisture to make a crust. But whatever, because only a psycho flips over their quiche to inspect the crust during a pot luck.

Any way, get out your eggs and milk (or cream), whisk them together, then shred some cheese (see, this is where Albany Jane checks out from Paleo-ville) and pour all of that over the crust. If it looks low in the pan, mix up a little more. Then blop some pesto on top. I had some pesto in the freezer from the summer. Man, it was nice to get a little blast of summer in the pan.

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Cook it at 350F until it sets in the center, somewhere in the 35-45 minute range. If you’re worried about leakage, flip over a baking sheet to catch any drips.

This was a potluck HIT! I was happily surprised. Usually the healthier/gluten-free/paleo dishes at a potluck get picked over, but I heard people asking for slices of this at dinner, so it was neat to see the “healthyish” dish have to get cut into smaller slices not because people wanted to be polite and try it, but because everyone really wanted a bite and liked it.

I’m not such an egg-as-a-main/quiche person myself, so I’d like to play around with this sweet potato crust concept with other savory “pie” type dishes, and sweet dishes.

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I saw a rack of lamb for about $10 at one of my local grocery stores. Fresh/never frozen, grass fed, antibiotic-free lamb from New Zealand. Sure, I’ll give it a whirl. I did a pretty decent job. If you get a thermometer, it makes it easy to make. I just set the thermometer at 140F and let it sit 15 minutes to rest after it reached that temperature. 140F renders a medium lamb.

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I seared the outsides of the rack of lamb in a pan on the stove, then slathered it with some dill mustard. To be honest, I preferred the lamb flavor without the powerful kick of mustard.

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I roasted this at about 400F for much longer than I thought I would have to. About 30 minutes.

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But whatevs, this gal made some pretty decent rack of lamb!

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Merry Christmas! I feel like I’m finally recovering from the holidays and getting back into the swing of things. Albany John and I decorated the house with the few lights we had and my trusty pinky purple mini Christmas tree. I put the cat in a Christmas sweater. My belated cat Lex used to wear it, but The Bean seems to enjoy it as well. Christmas and holidays in general have a way of bringing up memories.

This Christmas I thought about my life, and how people come (and go). People currently in my life, people who used to be in my life. Ways to try and keep people in my life, ways to better communicate with the people in my life.
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We went sparse with the lights because just before Christmas we had the window to the right replaced (post to follow on the company I used to replace the window, etc., but I want to give the window time to wear for a few months before posting a conclusive experience) so we didn’t put up too many decorations this year. (Well, that’s the excuse for this year)

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She enjoys a nice little dress-up. Merry Christmas everyone.

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For Christmas, Albany John and I got to host Xmas eve dinner. Daniel B. gave us this turkey from his freezer before he left for NJ, and Xmas seemed like an appropriate time to break it out.

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Herby butter stuffed everywhere underneath the skin. I was fighting off a cold at the time and feeling pretty icky, so Albany John did the majority of the food handling to keep everyone else healthy.

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Guess what lasts forever? Apples. These are apples from my tree. Still good from the fridge. We tossed some of these small guys in the cavity of the turkey to add some more flavor.

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I was super paranoid about making a mess in the oven, so I bought those Reynolds oven bags. This bird was close to 20 lbs, and didn’t leave much room in the bag. The convection oven cooked it evenly, really digging that setting. There was still some mess on the walls of the oven and the oven floor, but Albany John was sweet to me and cleaned it up even though I made the mess.

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Albany John made pumpkin pie, too! Yummy!

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Pumpkin pie and whipped cream – what could be better?

Oh yes, so for dinner my mom came over and Albany John’s folks came from Amherst. And since we have a house with multiple bedrooms, they stayed over! Hooray! And they brought…

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Miss Lulu! She was so excited to have a present of her own on Christmas morning.

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Sadly, I did not share as much enthusiasm as my random cold ick morphed into stomach bug megatron 5000 and had me within 5 feet of a bathroom at all times. I even napped. Stomach bugs are the worst. I can take sore throats, earaches, headaches, and fevers, but nausea and dizziness put me completely out of what. I even napped. I was out of kaput for a few days. Rough stuff.

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Our cousin in DC sent us some goodies from the DC area. So many nice treats from family and friends. I felt kind of blah humbuggy about gifts this year. I just really wanted to see people. Presents I kind of fell flat on buying.

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Is there really any better way to eat smelts other than fried? If so, please tell me, because as far as I know, deep frying smelts is THE best way to eat them.

I bought some smelts that were already cleaned and gutted. Most grocery stores will sell them in the frozen section cleaned and gutted or whole.

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Salty, fishy, crispy little fish are one of life’s delicious little pleasures. The bones and fins all fry up into these crisp, crunchy, salty bites of awesome.

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Smelts are one of those foods I don’t think I ever had growing up. I think they’ve become easier to purchase now. I can’t imagine Grand Union having these in stock when I was a kid.

I like to use cornstarch over flour when I fry foods that I want to stay crunchy. Cornstarch stays crisp after frying, but flour has a very short life before going from crisp to limp and soggy. I also like to add kosher salt, because it adds a buttery salinity. And boy, do I like my fish salty. Paprika also adds an extra buttery, rich depth.

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Fried Smelts

Raw smelts, gutted and beheaded.
Cornstarch
Paprika
Kosher Salt
Oil

Mix together cornstarch with paprika & kosher salt. You want a plateful of cornstarch, and enough paprika to add some color. Add in a few generous pinches of kosher salt, then mix it all up.

Roll a smelt around in the cornstarch mixture so all surfaces are covered. Cover all of your smelts at once, then fry in batches. They fry quickly, so having them all coated before you start frying makes it easier.

Fry them in some hot oil. You’ll know the right temperature. Somewhere in the medium-high range. Let a few smelts fry for 2-3 minutes for some nice and crispy smelts. And make sure you eat the fins and bones – they’ll be nice and crispy!

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Meet the old micowave-oven-range combo that came with the house. I thought I’d save a few bucks by requesting the oven with house, which did work to a marginal degree – I managed to put off buying a new cooking unit for a few months and let me toss some money into other household projects in the meanwhile. Any way, this post is about the oven that was. It was epically beasty.

When I was looking around for new ovens, Sears told me that I had to tell them the outlet style, so I pulled the oven out of the wall to check. Which was a major tough one, since the previous owner had the newer pergo flooring (why, gosh, why?!) installed around the oven, which meant there was a slight lip on the ground. Combine that with the almost ZERO amount of wiggle room around the cabinets, I had to lift and pull creatively. I managed to employ a crowbar and some cardboard as a lever, but holy cow, it took me about 30 minutes just to get the oven as you see pictured above.

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This is why I wanted to hustle on getting a new oven. It was clean when I moved in, and then I kept noticing metal shaving-type things on the floor of the oven. And when I looked up, oh, it turns out they WERE metal shavings. Because the ceiling of the oven was deteriorating.

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Yay, free iron in my food. The electric coils also moved like crazy, and I was pretty sure I was going to accidentally snap one off when cleaning.
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Another funny thing about this oven – the range was a normal size, but it turns out the oven itself was micro-sized. I found that one out when I went to bake some cookies and the sheet wouldn’t fit one way!

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Each level only had room for one cookie sheet. How crazy, right? And just everything inside was so delicate. I’m impressed that they had this oven for as long as they did, as the previous owners had 7 kids. I think this is a good two-or-three person oven, but maybe that’s a sign of how times and eating habits have changed. Still couldn’t see much of a turkey fitting in there, though.

So after I discovered the metal deteriorating issues, I figured I’d just bake stuff on the top range coils. And one of the big coils had broken. Argh.

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Oh well, a burden to bear, right? So here’s what I ate a lot of leading up to getting a new oven. Steaks from Roma (and let me tell you, I love their discount section! I can just pop in every day, see what meats are nearing their end, and my dinner selection is all set. These NY strips were like $6.99/lb!)

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Boiled potatoes for…

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Duck fat potatoes with steak and microwaved asparagus (don’t judge me, homeownership has made me such a frozen-veggie eater lately. Okay, you can judge me).

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Pan fried swai with dumplings

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Mackerel from the fish monger at the Schenectady greenmarket. These two little fillets wound up only being $3.00.

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And they seared up nicely, and were tasty with mashed parsnips.

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Ricotta cavitelli with broccoli raab and romano.

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But srsly, fish.

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Baking Suit invited me over for a night of gluten free pizza and girly shennanigans. Pizza? Shennanigans? I’m in.
Two kinds of pizza were had that day. Well, two different kinds of pizza crusts. And toppings.

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First up was Bob’s Red Mill. This crust required a lot of baking time (much more than it said on the package) in order to get it crispy and more pizza crust-like. The edges crisped up, the parts under the cheese were still a bit soft. Decent for a gluten-free option. Didn’t really taste “off” or weird.

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My favorite was the Bisquick gluten-free crust, though! This pizza was also white, which is one of my favorite pizza types, with red-wine mushrooms (Baking Suit’s family recipe). So good! The gluten free Bisquick crust was REALLY good. But maybe not really like a pizza. More like a biscuit crust. So buttery and delicious. But it didn’t taste gluten free at all. Had all the properties of Bisquick with gluten in it. I want 80,000 of these pizzas every week.

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Man, I am really starting to get the hang of cooking strip steaks. Albany John and I felt like celebrating life in general one night, so I swung by Roma for a pair of strip steaks.

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‘Ello beauties. The butcher asked me if they were thick enough (!) and volunteered to cut off thicker steaks from a fresh whole strip roast. Such great customer service. But no, these were just for the husbear and me, and really, more than we really probably needed. We could have probably split one steak, but they are so freaking good… And I am a bit of a piggy when it comes to delicious meat.

Any way, here’s a simple, easy recipe for how to cook strip steaks:

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I crusted the exterior of each steak with kosher salt. And when I say crusted, I mean, CRUSTED. Rub those steaks down with kosher salt. Seriously. These are what they looked like after sitting in the fridge uncovered for a few hours. Absorbed all of the salt, no additional moisture.

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Pan sear over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side with just a wee pat of butter, then pop in the oven for 4-6 minutes for a rare to medium rare steak.

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Then comes the long process of letting them rest for a few 15-20 minutes. Such a difficulty.

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Then dig in! These were in between rare and medium rare. Wider parts a little less cooked, thinner parts a little more cooked.

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So there we go – give it a whirl! Have date night at home for a fraction of the price, but all of the flavor.

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Man, I love scallops. I picked up some big, fat scallops, and I was thinking fra diavolo at first, because I had heard someone in passing mention “a really great fra diavolo sauce” so, like a dog with a bone, I was all “FRA DIAVOLO”. Thankfully my better half is better about realizing the delicate flavors scallops have, and how fra diavolo might be a bit overwhelming for their delicate sweetness. So he lightly sauteed the scallops and tossed them in a browned butter sauce with fresh basil.

White wine in the sauce would have been awesome, but we didn’t have any. In my early twenties I didn’t quite pick up or “get” the flavors wines in sauces, but for some reason it just clicked with me how good a splash of a dry white would be in this sauce to add a bit of brightness & acidity.

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Albany John & I haven’t been eating all that many wheaty carbs lately, but this whole wheat linguine was a nice and somewhat hearty treat.

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I’m normally not a “girls night” or “Girls Only” kind of person. But one of my friends is, and she wanted to have a ladies only dinner at her place. Steak dinner. Well, heck yeah. I’m in.

I decided to make steak tartare. I went to Roma right before going to her place and asked the butcher what the freshest cuts of beef he had were. They’d just gotten in some eye of round that day, so I got about a pound of that, plus capers, anchovies, parsley, and onion.

The mincing of the beef was what took so long. My hands are so hot, I had to make sure that the beef was properly chilled. But otherwise it was a pretty easy affair, and now I think I’m going to start making steak tartare more often (when there is beef fresh enough). I liked the lean cut of beef – minced up it was tender, and quite beefy.

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We had strip steaks for the main event (also from Roma – $11.99/lb). They were 10-12 oz each. They seemed so big when we unwrapped them.

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I wound up cooking the beef. A bit of salt & pepper rub, and my friend has a great cast iron griddle that was perfect for 4 big steaks. Seared on the sides for a few minutes, then baked for about 6 minutes to medium rare. If you can’t tell, we were more than okay with rare beef. I would probably cook them for less time in the oven (maybe 4 mins next time) to get a rare center.

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Danika made this rad grilled radicchio salad. It was great! I had never had radicchio before, but immediately put it on my grocery list after trying this deliciously bitter veggie. It was great grilled up as a salad. Smoky & charred with that bitterness, but still having a toothy chew to it. Man, that was awesome.

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We managed to wait a whole 5 minutes before cutting into our steaks. Near the end I realized that I should probably take a picture of the done-ness level. This was also before I got a new camera, so these were just on my phone, and eh, I didn’t do such a great job of it. But it was tasty. I think I like strip steak over ribeye now. Still meaty and delicious, but less fatty.

We also finished our steaks. Like ladies.

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Dessert! Papaya, almonds, some kind of cream, agave nectar, and strawberries.

Oh, we also had this red wine which was AWESOME and I totally regret not taking a picture, because it paired so perfectly with the steak. Wine & steak both complemented each other & didn’t interfere or overwhelm the other (sometimes I think the tannins in reds can seem to sharp when paired with a steak).

You know, I might just be down with these ladies nights if it means interacting with 3 other awesome chicks and feasting like royalty. And getting quality meats in is way more frugal than going out for dinner.

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