Kale Bacon and Eggs

April 21, 2009

kale_bacon_eggs

I’ve been trying to get better about cooking during the week. It hard because we’re usually hungry when we get home, and a bowl of cereal quickly takes care of the pangs. I know, I know, I should eat a snack around 3:00 or 4:00. Usually I cook on weekends and try to make enough so we have leftovers for the week. The past couple weekends have been spent with family, so I haven’t had a chance to cook and subsequently we have no leftovers. True to form I came home this afternoon and had a small bowl of cereal. I was going to have another but decided to make an attempt at throwing something together. We’ve got some cottage bacon we need to get rid of, and I purchased some kale the other day from the grocery store. What came out was actually pretty tasty. I overcooked the egg and added a bit too much salt, not taking into account the salty garnishes. But overall we were pleased and it was more satisfying than a second bowl of cereal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 3 oz of bacon, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 pound kale, including stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs, fried
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

You need a large frying pan with lid. Saute bacon on medium with a bit of oil till crispy. Remove bacon from oil and set aside. Turn up heat a bit and add pepper flakes and garlic. Stir garlic once or twice and deglaze the pan with vermouth. Add chicken stock and kale stems. Cover and let the stems cook for a couple minutes, then add the kale leaves. Cover, cook at a medium simmer, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender. While the kale is cooking fry the eggs. To serve, mound kale on a plate, garnish with Parmesan cheese, bacon and top with an egg. Should feed two.

By Kenton


Beef Neck Bone Soup

March 28, 2009

neck_bone_soup

This soup was mostly about getting rid of leftovers in the refrigerator.  I had homemade vegetable stock and braised beef shank sauce in the fridge.  Also a few vegetables that needed to be used up.  I decided to break out the neck bones I had purchased the other day for $1.69 a pound.  I think it was about 6 pounds total.  Those 6 pounds of neck bones yielded about 4-5 cups of meat.  I had never cooked with neck bones before but I would again.  There is more cartilage and connective tissues with this cut than I’ve seen in others.  But most of it melts away and can be separated from the meat if you so desire.  I can see how many would find this off putting, but the combination of meat, bone and connective tissue makes a very rich, flavorful broth.  We really enjoyed this soup, and it just kept getting better as the days went by.  I didn’t use a recipe for this soup, just whinged it.

Start by searing the meat on the neck bones in batches.  They are irregularly shaped so you need to move them a few times to sear each side.  Deglaze the stock pot with about a cup of red wine and put the neck bones back into the pot.  If you have extra stock or sauce to add to the pot later, then just cover bones with water.  If you don’t have liquids to add later, then you’ll need to use more water initially to make up the difference.  Add 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic, a bouquet garni of 2-3 bay leaves, 10 pepper corns and a few sprigs of thyme. Simmer until meat begins falling off the bone, 2-3 hours.  While the meat is cooking, cut your vegetables into bite size pieces.  Use what vegetables you have.  I used a mirepoix, 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery.  Approximately 4 cups onion, 2 cups carrot and 2 cups celery.  I also cut up approximately 4 cups of fingerling potatoes.  Once the meat is done, drain the whole works though a colander, saving the liquid.  Pull the meat bones out and lay on a cookie sheet to cool.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth, back into your stock pot.  The broth may have little bits of grit from the neck bones, so don’t bother straining the last cup or so of the liquid.  Once the meat has cooled enough to pull with your hands, separate meat from the bone.  Add the meat and vegetables to the broth.  If you have leftover stock or meat sauce, now is the time to add.  Bring the works to a gentle simmer, adjust acidity by adding wine to taste.  Simmer until the vegetables are done to your liking.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

By Kenton


Homemade Yogurt

March 18, 2009

homemade_yogurt

For some reason I decided that learning to make cheese was a good thing to do.  During my research I came across an excellent resource, Fankhauser’s Cheese Page. On his site he has a Beginning Cheese Making Course which starts with making yogurt and progresses to blue cheese.  I followed Dr. Fankhauser’s instructions for making yogurt, pretty much to the tee, so I’m not going to repeat the instructions here.

I eat a little over a quart of yogurt a week.  Primarily I eat it in the morning, before I leave for work, as a quick breakfast.  I started wondering about the cost savings of making my own yogurt, roughly speaking I came up with $104.00 a year.   I purchased Dannon plain All Natural Nonfat Yogurt as a starter, on sale for $2.50.  The gallon of milk I used was $2.34 from Costco.  The recipe makes 4 quarts and 8oz of yogurt.   Since the yogurt I bought as starter was on sale and we sometimes pay $3.00 a quart for yogurt I set the price for my estimation at $2.75.  Eating 1 quart a week that comes to $143.00 a year.  From what I understand you can use the yogurt you make as a culture a couple times, before needing to resort to purchasing store bought yogurt.  So only one third of the time is it necessary to purchase a starter; the rest of the time one is just buying milk.  So 4 months of starter, plus milk comes to $20.36.  The rest of the year total cost is $18.72.  So total expenditure for making yogurt is $39.09 a year.  That’s a savings of about $104.00 a year.  This is a rough estimate, I didn’t figure in electricity, gasoline costs, the 8oz bits of yogurt, etc., but depending on how much yogurt you eat, making your own could really save a nice chunk of change.  Time wise it took me two hours, from assembling the supplies to incubation.  I’m pretty sure I can get that time down to one hour.  So for one hours of work a month, I can save $104.00 a year.

Making the yogurt was quite easy.  The only part I found a little tricky, was getting the water for incubating ready, at the same time the milk had cooled enough to add the inoculate.  You want the milk to cool to 122 degrees, around the time the water for incubating is 130 degrees.  This is how I handled it.  Once I had pulled the milk off the stove and had it cooling in cold water, I put a gallon of hot tap water into a pot, covered and brought the temperature to 140 degrees;  then pulled the pot off the heat, leaving it covered.  At the same time I was changing out the cold water as it warmed from the hot milk.  When the milk hit 122 degrees, I added the inoculate, filled the quart jars, and placed in the cooler.  I turned to the incubation water which was still close to 140 degrees, I stirred cold water in 1/2 cup at a time until the temperature had dropped to 130 degrees.

So what is the yogurt like?  I did a taste comparison between the homemade yogurt and the Dannon.  The difference was pretty negligible.  The homemade was a bit more acidic, a sharper taste.  The Dannon seemed a bit more mellow.  The texture was different, the Dannon containing pectin, was thicker.  I have no problem with the texture of the homemade yogurt, which is a little looser.  For those that do, by adding powdered milk a thicker yogurt can be made.  Overall I found the homemade yogurt to be tasty and fun to make.  I’m looking forward to experimenting with making yogurt with different types of milk.

By Kenton


Chicken Fried Steak and Parsnip Mash Potatoes

March 14, 2009

chicken_fried_steak

I seem to be on a cheap beef cuts cooking string.  First it was beef shanks at $2.54 a pound.  The cube steak for the CFS is $2.31 a pound.  And I also purchased some beef neck bones the other day, which I haven’t done anything with yet, for $1.69 a pound.  The chicken fried steak was a big hit with us.  It was as good or better than any CFS we’ve ever had.  I followed a recipe from Cooks Illustrated.  I was going to pair the CFS with mash potatoes and roasted garlic or celery root, but my father-in-law stopped by bearing parsnips from his garden.  So I opted for a parsnip/potato mix.  Corn was the vegetable.  We’ve got a bunch of frozen corn my sister Jill gave us last summer.  This is corn from one of the fields around Ainsworth; quite possibly our cousin’s, I forgot to ask.  When she put it up, it was fresh from the field.  If you’ve only had corn from a grocery store, I don’t care if it was on the cob, you’re missing something.  Try getting your hands on some corn picked the day you eat it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Chicken Fried Steak

Ingredients:

  • 4 cube steaks
  • cooking oil

Dry coating –

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Wet coating –

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and place baking sheet underneath to catch drips.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  This is where you’re going to put the steaks after they’re fried, to keep warm.

Get your breading mix ready.  You’ll need two bowls big enough to dip steaks in, one at a time.  In one bowel combine and mix your dry coating: flour, cayenne, black pepper and salt.  In the other bowl combine and mix your wet coating: buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder and egg.  For a buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk.

Place a wire rack on your counter over a cooking sheet.  Make sure steaks are dry, blot with a paper towel if needed.  Coat steak in flour and shake off access, coat with wet coating and allow access to drip off, put steak back into dry coating and shake of access.  Place each steak on wire rack to hold until cooking time.

In your frying pan, add enough cooking oil so that when you place the steaks in, their sides will be half covered.  Bring the oil to 375 degrees.  Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to fry the steak in batches.  You don’t want to crowd your pan, causing the oil temperature to drop too low.  Cook steak to golden brown on one side, then turn and do the same on the other.  When they’re done dab off extra oil with a paper towel and place on oven rack to keep warm.

Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

Carefully pour oil from your frying pan, leaving 2 tablespoons of the oil and as much of the brown bits as you can.  Add thyme and onion, saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, don’t burn.  Add flour, stir until well combined with the other ingredients, about a minute.  Add chicken broth and whisk until smooth.  Add rest of ingredients: milk, cayenne, salt and black pepper.  Blend with whisk and bring to a simmer.  Stir gravy occasionally until thickened to the consistency you like.  The gravy will thicken more as it cools.

Parsnip Mash Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds potatoes, fingerling or Yukon Gold
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled
  • 1/8 to 1/2 cup butter, to taste
  • 1 cup hot milk, cream or half-and-half
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Peel potatoes or clean well and leave the skins on.  Cut potatoes and parsnip into similarly sized pieces, smaller cooks faster.  Put potatoes and parsnips in a pot and add water until it’s half way up the sides of the contents.  Cover and gently simmer until tender, start checking around 30 minutes.  Place colander over a bowel to reserve the potato water and drain.  Mash the potatoes and parsnips in a bowl, adding butter and milk.  Continue to mash, adding potato water until the consistency you like is reached.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Corn

Ingredients:

  • 1 can corn or fresh corn kernels if possible,
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter
  • milk
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Drain corn if canned.  In a sauce pan, add corn and enough milk to cover bottom 1/4 to 1/2 of the corn.  Bring to a simmer.  Stir occasionally, make sure the liquid doesn’t go dry, and taste kernels.  When kernels reach desired tenderness, stir in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

By Kenton


Ms. Glaze’s Braised Beef Shank with Rosemary Polenta

March 1, 2009

beef_shank

I wanted to make a beef dish this weekend to get rid of some of the red wine in the basement.  For some reason I settled on beef shanks.  I really like Ms.Glaze’s blog so I thought I’d give her recipe a try.  I’m not going to repeat the whole recipe here, you can follow the directions at her blog, and I highly encourage you to do so.  The dish is very, very tasty.  Melissa, who doesn’t like beef much, said, “I didn’t know beef could taste this good.”  Our guest Phyllis cleaned up her plate completely, which Mellisa noted she had never seen her do.  Personally I thought it was the best thing that’s come out of our kitchen, since I started this food kick a month ago.  The beef was tender.  The sauce was very flavorful, complex with salty, sweet and tart nuances.  The polenta with the rosemary and Parmesan cheese was just, plain creamy goodness.  Since I had a starch and a meat, I thought I’d round the meal out with a vegetable, and chose green beans.  I found a recipe at Cook’s Illustrated, chosen because one of the ingredients was lemon juice.  I hoped the acid would balance the richness of the rest of the dish, and it did.

The wine

nebbiolo1

I chose a Nebbiolo to go with the meal.  Neither one of us had experienced this wine with a meal before, just at a tasting.  This is a great food wine.  Reminiscent of a Sangiovese, but lighter overall.  The wine handled the richness of the beef and polenta well, cleaning but not shocking the pallet.  It also didn’t clash with the green beans.  The predominate taste was tart cherry, with a spicy finish at times.  Also, once in a while, I picked up that leathery, tobacco flavor of Sangiovese.  The wine was on sale for $15.00 because the current distributor is new, and trying to get rid of the old inventory.  So if you get a chance to pick up a bottle, I’d encourage you to do so.

The stock

dark-vegetable-stock

The beef shank recipe called for beef stock.  I don’t like the stock found on grocery store shelves because it has too much sodium, even the low sodium brand.  I’m trying to learn the basics of cooking so I want to make my own anyway.  Making beef stock from bones takes about 9 hours.  So I call the Hy-Vee closest to us and ask someone at the meat department if they had 8 pounds of beef bones I could pick up.  Without a hesitation he tells me, “Yes.”  I ask if I can pick them up the next day, he tells me, “That won’t be a problem.”  I thanked him and he gave me an enthusiastic, “Thank you!” back.  Friday after work I stop by to pick up the bones and the manager of the meat department gives me a funny look, goes to the cooler, comes back and tells me there are no bones for me to pick up.  He asked me who I talked to, I of course couldn’t remember.  He then proceeds to tell me that none of the meat that arrives at there store has any bones they need to cut out.  The only way to get bones to the store is to special order them, which it sounds like they rarely if ever do.  Great, now what do I do.  So I reluctantly grab a couple boxes of beef stock off the shelf.  On the way home I start thinking about all these vegetables I’ve already purchased to make stock, and what I’m going to do with them.  Vegetable stock pops into my head.  I decide to make a dark vegetable stock and then add beef stock I bought, until the sodium content is about right.  Here’s how I made the dark vegetable stock.

Ingredients:

  • 3 onions, sliced
  • carrots, 1/4 the amount of onions, sliced
  • celery, 1/4 the amount of onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 turnip, sliced
  • Bouquet garni, consisting of parsley stems, 2 bay leaves, sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1-1/2 onion, sliced
  • carrots, 1/4 the amount of onions, sliced
  • celery, 1/4 the amount of onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions:

Start by caramelizing the miropoix of 3 onions, carrots and celery in the oil.  Add garlic and turnip.  After garlic has released it’s flavor, about one minute, add the rests of the ingredients: miropoix of 1-1/2 onion, carrots, celery; bouquet garni and peppercorns.  Add water until the ingredients are just covered.  Quickly bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.  Strain through a colander, pressing liquid out of the vegetables with a spoon.  Then strain liquid a second time, through a fine screen.

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter , softened
  • 3 medium garlic cloves , minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound green beans , stem ends snapped off
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, about 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large nonstick saute pan bring oil to the point of just smoking, over medium heat.  Add beans, salt and pepper.  Cook beans, stirring, until they begin to get brown spots.  Add water and cover, cook until water is gone.  Check beans for tenderness.  If you like them more tender add more water.  Once the beans are as just about as tender as you like, add the butter, garlic and thyme.  Cook beans until they are as tender as you like.  Make sure you don’t burn the garlic.  Move beans to a serving bowl and toss with lemon juice and parsley.

By Kenton


Tunisian chickpea soup – Leblebi

February 19, 2009

leblebi

When I was in the Peace Corps I worked out of an office in Kairouan, Tunisia.  One morning a counterpart invited me over to this small eating joint, next to the office.   He wanted me to try leblebi.  Let me tell you, the stuff looked awful.  A thin broth containing chickpeas, spooned over hunks of dry bread.  The cook asked me how much harissa and if I wanted an egg on it.   I told him “zeed” (give me more) a couple times for more harissa, and said yes to the egg.  I thought, what the heck, a raw egg can’t hurt the dish any…  My counterpart and I sat down and he showed me how to stir the mass into a big glob of gook, and we dug in.   As unappetizing as the dish looked, it sure was tasty.  The garlic, cumin and harissa made a nice spicy broth. The bread mixed with the water created a heavy oatmeal like texture, and the chickpeas were delicious.  I ended up eating leblebi just about every morning, until one day the cook told me, “no more.”  I asked him, “When will you have some?”  He replied, “Next year, leblebi is a Winter food.”  I was crushed, no more belly warming, stick to the ribs breakfast, for a year?  I survived, but barely.   Here’s my recipe.

Leblebi:

  • 2 cups dry chickpeas
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Day old french bread, torn or cut into bite sized chunks

Garnishes:

  • Olive oil
  • Raw egg
  • Harissa

If using dry chick peas, soak overnight and drain.  Heat pot over medium heat, add tablespoon of oil, heat cumin and garlic to release flavors (a minute or less).  Bring water, salt and chickpeas to a simmer.  Cook until chickpeas are tender.  Serve in bowls over day old bread.  The garnishes are optional, but a splash of olive oil, raw egg and more harissa to taste is nice.  Mix this all into a mush with your spoon and enjoy.

Author: Kenton