Orecchiette with Sausage, Baby Kale, and Bell Pepper

Sat, Jan 17 • 0

Orecchiette_Pasta(Even though this recipe is called orecchiette, I’ve made it with other shapes of pasta. Rigatoni works well.)

2 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
Freshly cracked black pepper
14 oz sweet Italian chicken sausage, casing removed
6 cups baby kale
10 oz orecchiette (or other shaped pasta)
¼ cup grated pecorino romano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Start a large pot of water boiling, with 2 teaspoons of salt.

Meanwhile, heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion and red bell pepper, crushed garlic, and the rest of the salt. Cook, stirring until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage using a wooden spoon, and brown for 10 minutes. Add the kale, and cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then remove the cover, and stir and let the moisture evaporate.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Mix the sausage mixture and the pasta and the reserved water. Cook together until the water evaporates. Remove from heat and mix in the cheese and the optional red pepper flakes.


Best Damn Smoked Chicken Recipe, period

Mon, Jan 9 • 0

This may be the best thing that could ever happen to a chicken.

I get a whole lot of compliments on this one. There are some members of my extended family who insist I bring this to any family gathering, regardless of the time of year. The technique of putting lit coals over top of unlit coals ensures a nice, long burn, and will provide enough heat for the 2-hour long cooking time. This recipe specifically relies on using a Webber kettle grill. You’ll need to further experiment in order to come up with the proper technique for a different kind of grill.

2 whole chickens, 3 to 4 pounds each
2 fist-sized lumps of chunk fruit wood
1 aluminium drip pan, 10×14
20 – 30 charcoal briquettes
cooking spray
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
7 quarts of water

Take two chickens and cut them each into 8 pieces — 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Save the rest for chicken stock. Brine the chicken in 6 quarts of water that you’ve dissolved a cup of sugar and a cup of salt for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towel. Season it with pepper, and spray both sides with cooking spray.

Soak wood in water for 15 minutes. (I’ve tried both apple and cherry wood, and can’t detect any difference in flavor, but do avoid mesquite because it’s just too strong a flavor.)

Light half a chimney full of briquettes and let burn in chimney until the top is white with ash. In your kettle grill, put an aluminum pan on one side and fill it with a quart of water. On the other side, put in 20 unlit briquettes, and nestle the wood chunks in it. Close the top and bottom vents of the grill to the halfway point. Pour the lit charcoal over top of the wood and the unlit charcoal, and put on the grill, and let it heat for 5 minutes with the lid on, then clean the grill and put on the chicken, skin side up, and putting the breasts around the outside, over top of the pan of water, furthest from the heat. Put the cover back on, and let the chicken cook undisturbed for 90 to 120 minutes.


Wild Rice Stuffing

Sun, Nov 7 • 0

Tried this in a chicken last week. I’m usually against putting stuffing inside a chicken or a turkey, since it means longer cooking time, and increases the chances of bacteria, but I figured if I didn’t make the stuffing too tightly packed, and if I put it in the bird hot, just before roasting it, I could get away with it. The cooking time did end up being longer than I expected, but that may have been due to the chicken being larger than I usually go with (4½ pounds as opposed to 3). In the end, I think I liked it more than my wife did.

The following quantities are for a 3-5 pound chicken, but you could increase it for a larger bird, like a turkey. The recipe still needs fine tuning, and you could easily swap out or omit some of the items. For example, replacing the onion with shallots or leeks. You could replace or augment the chestnuts with the chicken or turkey’s giblets. (Note: I was enticed into making up this recipe by an article and recipes in the Washington Post food section. In it, they talk about the best place to buy prepared, steamed chestnuts, and that’s apparently Trader Joes. They sell them in skinny maroon-colored boxes, nearish the flour and other baking supplies in my local store.)

1 cup prepared basmati and wild rice mix (fully cooked)
¼ yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
¼ cup chopped celery (ideally, the light yellow stalks and leave tops from the heart)
¼ cup chopped steamed chestnuts
liquid: vegetable or chicken broth, white wine, vermoth, or water
herbs: sage leaves, fresh thyme, to taste, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Prepare the rice ahead of time, and allow to cool. Avoid adding salt at this stage.

In a frying pan, soften onion and celery in butter or olive oil. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds). Add rice and chestnuts, and enough liquid to moisten, and allow it to  all get quite hot. Remove from heat, and taste for salt and pepper. You want it to be saltier than normal, since it’s going to flavor the whole bird from the inside. Add the herbs at this point, too.

Spoon the hot stuffing into the cavity, being careful not to pack it too tightly. Tie the opening closed with kitchen string. Roast in a hot oven (425°) until the juices run clear when you pierce the flesh near the thigh. Allow the chicken to rest, then cut the string and spoon out the stuffing before carving.


BBQ Pork Chops

Thu, Mar 18 • 2

3 or 4 thick cut natural pork chops, rib cut, on the bone
1 onion
whatever fresh herbs you have on hand (rosemary, thyme, sage)
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
water
2 tablespoons oil
ground black pepper
2 ounces port wine
¼ cup of your favorite bbq sauce

In a zip-top bag, combine the sugar, salt and about a cup of warm water. Mix to dissolve. Cut the onion into quarters or eighths, removing the papery skin. Add the pork chops and the fresh herbs. Zip the bag mostly closed and remove as much air as possible before closing it completely. Toss it around a little, then put in a shallow pan and let sit in the fridge, turning it after 4 hours. After 8 hours, remove the chops from the brine, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Dry the pork chops of excess surface moisture, pepper each side, then fry in the hot pan, 5 minutes per side. Pour off excess fat, and replace with port wine. Put on the lid, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove lid, and baste with bbq sauce, return to oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 more minutes.


Better Roast Chicken

Sun, Dec 27 • 0

So it seems pretty straight-forward, but I never actually tried it until last week. A better way to roast a chicken. I’ve often lamented the fact that the thighs and drumsticks are rarely ever completely cooked to my liking, or if they are, the breast meat is completely overdone. Taking a cue from recipes for roasted turkey, I decided to try twirling the bird.

First, salt and pepper the bird, inside and out. If you want to get fancy, put a couple spoonfuls of compound butter underneath the skin of the breast. Then put the 3 to 3½ pound chicken on a roasting pan that’s preheated in a hot oven (425°), but put it in on its side, and let it cook for 15 minutes. Then turn it on its other side for another 15 minutes. Finally, roast it breast side up for 25 to 35 minutes more, basting the bird every 10 minutes. You should hear the chicken sizzling the whole time while it’s in the oven. (You know it’s done when the joints move easily.) Then let it rest outside of the oven for 15 minutes more, covered with foil.

The result is an very moist and completely cooked chicken. What’s more, as with other roast chicken recipes, it’s just as easy to cook two chickens at the same time, either to feed a crowd or for copious leftovers. And though it’s a little more work, and I can’t wander far from the kitchen, it’s definitely going to be my go-to way to roast a chicken from now on — or, at least until some novel method presents itself.


Braised Lamb Shanks with Barley and Winter Roots

Sun, Dec 13 • 0

Lamb_Shanks2 or 3 lamb shanks
salt
1 onion, chopped fine (or substitute the same quantity of leeks)
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 or 4 parsnips, ditto
2 or 3 turnips, ditto
1 can of tomato paste
6 whole cloves of garlic
16 oz. good english or trappist beer (or substitute cider, stock, or water)
misc herbs (thyme, rosemary), chopped, to taste
2 or 3 bay leaves
4 or 5 crushed juniper berries (optional)
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups chicken stock (or water)

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Season the shanks with salt and brown on all sides in a hot cast iron pan — 3-5 minutes per side.

In a good sized dutch oven, brown the onions and vegetables in a little butter or oil until the onions have gone translucent. Add the tomato paste, and stir, cooking the tomato paste for a couple of minutes. Add the herbage, the spices, and the garlic, as well as the shanks. Pour over the beer and bring to a boil, stirring. Cover, and cook in the oven for 2-4 hours, checking occasionally, turning the shanks. Keep cooking until the meat pulls from the bone easily.

45 minutes, before serving, bring the chicken stock and the salt to a boil in a lidded saucepan. Add the barley and resume boil, then simmer, covered for 45 minutes, until liquid is gone, and barley is soft but still chewy.

Remove the shanks from the pot, and take the meat off the bone, cutting it into bitesized chunks and removing the fatty bits and any gristle. Remove the bay leaves and optionally, the juniper berries that you can find. Return the meat as well as the barley to the pot and stir.


Beef & Barley Stew

Thu, Dec 3 • 2

Now that Gourmet Magazine is no more, I’m getting emails from their successor, Bon Appetit. The other day, they sent me an email that described a stew that sounded great, although their recipe was fully vegetarian and relied on mushrooms for the umami. Mushrooms just don’t cut it in my house, since my wife seems to have some sort of allergy to them, so I made the recipe but replaced the mushrooms with small diced pieces of chuck. The results were quite delicious. A fine dinner for a autumn or winter night.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 8-ounce chuck steak, half-inch dice and trimmed of almost all fat
1 ½ cups chopped leeks (about 2 small stalks; white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1
bunch kale (about 8 ounces), trimmed, center stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped.

Brown the beef in a little bit of the olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Sweat the leeks with a little salt in the residual fat, adding more oil if necessary – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs, and cook until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, the meat, and the barley, and add the vegetable broth. Bring it to a boil, and then cover and lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the kale, and maybe a little more stock if you have it (or water, or chicken broth). Simmer with the lid on for another 10 minutes, or until the kale and the barley are completely cooked.
Count on 5 or 6 good sized servings.


Roast Pork with Apples and Rhubarb

Tue, Oct 20 • 0

Preheat oven to 375º.

Score the fatty side of a pork loin roast, just to penetrate the fat layer. Generously season with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. On the stovetop, brown all sides of the roast, 3-5 minutes per side.

Core and slice golden delicious apples (3) and stalks of rhubarb (2), and place under the roast. Put the whole thing in the oven, and cook uncovered for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165º.

Remove the roast and let rest 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the apple mixture, adding a little butter and agave or maple syrup if desired. Slice the pork into ¼” slices and serve the apple mixture on the side.


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