Cookin again

Dannyalcatraz

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Dinner! My paternal aunt’s brilliant pot roast on buttered sourdough toast. Her gravy supplemented by Dijon mustard. Sammy’s pickle spears and a glass of V8 Bloody Mary mix with splashes of lemon & Worcestershire sauce rounded out the meal.



Damn near bit my fingertips off...
 
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doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
Made chili and country style ribs for my store’s Christmas potluck this month, and it was a hit!

I kept the chili simple this time.

Chili mix is home made bc the wife is allergic to garlic. Red curry powder, paprika, habenero salt, and a mix of red, white, and black pepper. No regular salt. I use low sodium soy sauce, and unsalted butter.

I mixed 1 lb each ground pork and ground beef, with olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and chili mix. The ribs, I first score on all sides, then soak in a splash of soy sauce olive oil and red wine vinegar for maybe 15 minutes while doing some other prep like mixing the spice mix, and then thoroughly rub in the spices, working it into the scores I made earlier. Meat all rests like that for at least an hour.

I got diced 1/2 lb each white onion, celery, and green onion, and a package of chopped soup starter (more onion, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, some other stuff, and a handful of mushrooms I had to chop myself.

I put all but half the onions in the blender with olive oil, 1 jalepeno, a splash of red wine vinigar, and a splash of soy sauce, and puréed it.

Next, I heat up the pot on medium high with olive oil while I rinse my pinto, kidney, and black beans (1 can each bc I was lazy, 1 extra can of black beans) and get everything ready on the counter.

Thenits just drop in the chopped onions, then half the purée, and some of the chili mix. Once it gets aromatic, drop in the ribs, flip after a few minutes, drop in the rest of the purée and the ground meat, more chili mix, and stir that all up for a while until it’s going, lower the heat to medium, and start adding the tomato sauce (thick, tomato paste and as little water as possible, with a bit more soy sauce, and half a stick of butter), and then the beans, and more mix, keep stirring for a while, and then put that lid on and clean up the kitchen.

I always start with less water than I’ll need, so I can add a little at a time as it cooks, to be sure I don’t get a thinner chili than I want when the veggies and meat let out all their juice. I lower the heat to low after half an hour or so of cooking. I use heavy steel pots that retain heat very well, though.

I usually cook it on low like that for half the day, then let it cool, and then put it in the fridge. It’s best the next day.

oh! Also, I put a heaping tablespoon of unsweetened cooking cocoa in the mix! It rounds out the flavor and makes it more full bodied in the same way that it does for Mole.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

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That.
Sounds.
AWESOME!

That unsweetened cocoa trick is gold, though! I would love to taste that. I bet it works a lot like some recipes I’ve seen where they add black tea or coffee as part of the flavor profile, giving a pleasant palate cleaning bitterness that is somehow familiar, but because of the context, is virtually unidentifiable.
 

doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
That.
Sounds.
AWESOME!

That unsweetened cocoa trick is gold, though! I would love to taste that. I bet it works a lot like some recipes I’ve seen where they add black tea or coffee as part of the flavor profile, giving a pleasant palate cleaning bitterness that is somehow familiar, but because of the context, is virtually unidentifiable.
You know, I did both once in a thanksgiving chili, but I’ve nevr tried it in a more normal chili! I’ll have to try coffee next time.

Fun quick tip, semi related. If you find yourself making chocolate pancakes, finely grind about half a tablespoon of coffee from whole beans, and mix it in. It enriches the chocolate flavor without adding more sweetness. Be careful if anyone at the table is sensitive to tannens, Ie if they experience coffee, chocolate, and red wine, as very bitter!
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Staff member
Even though we have pretty good grinders for our beans, I’d be a bit wary of adding ground coffee to pancakes, but I could see adding a reduction of brewed coffee.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Got a great reminder on why you might do things one way rather than another.

Mom likes fancy pizza. No, LOVES. Her fave of the past few years has been a combination of eggplant, artichoke, onions, Canadian bacon and shrimp that we get from a place around the corner. It’s...OK...to me. Eggplant, as I have mentioned before, is my defining line betweennveggies I dislike and those I like, so I can take it or leave it. And while I like artichoke, combining it on the pizza with the eggplant more often than not results in a soggy pizza. So while the flavor is acceptable, the texture rarely is.

Well, we were out & about delivering holiday gifts to people who had been out of town, and we stopped in another pizzeria, one local to our locale at the time. We both kneW the place, but it had been a while. She wanted pizza, and I hadn’t had pizza there since 2017, either, so we tried to order her fave. But they didn’t have artichoke, so we subbed black olives.

The result: a pizza I could definitely say I liked. The difference lay in the following factors:

1) it was eaten in the parlor, not takeout, so the pizza didn’t have time to steam itself.
2) black olives have a similar saltiness to, but are not as moist as, artichokes.
3) instead of using large shrimp, they used those tiny popcorn shrimp.
4) instead of cubing the eggplant, this pizzeria sliced it very thin, which allowed it to crisp up a bit in the oven. They also seasoned their eggplant a bit more than the place near us.

The pizza we got was nowhere near soggy. The crispier, more heavily seasoned eggplant was actually a plus to the experience instead of merely being there.

And the smaller shrimp? I usually avoid those, preferring to use the larger ones that I feel have a stronger flavor for most applications. That’s what our local pizzeria does, as well. But here, the smaller shrimp had- like the eggplant- a different ratio of seasoning to its substance AND less moisture. The shrimp browned up a bit and delivered an overall bigger impact than the larger shrimp our local place uses.

Because of those little differences, that place got elevated to being one of our go-to eateries in the area, alongside one of the better creole restaurants in the Dallas area.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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I got off to a late start on cooking tonight. As of this posting, I just put my food in the fridge. What did I cook? Pork pot roast.

On a mid-sized Dutch oven, I sautéed 3 ginormous yellow onions, a few clusters of green onions, 4 stalks of celery, and @1 bulb’s worth of garlic in a mix of salted and unsalted butter. Removing those from the pot, I put in a salted and peppered pork butt that I partially removed from the bone and cubed (big chunks), cooking until they showed some brown. Then I removed the meat, quickly deglazed the pan with part of a can of chicken broth, then added the onion and meat back in with most of the rest of the broth. I covered the pot and brought the contents to a boil, then turned it down.

After I could kind of shave the rest of the meat off of the bone, I added a little more salt and pepper, a LOT of dried parsley and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I let that cook down a bit.

Surprisingly, my tasting of the end result revealed it was buttery, oniony and porky. This will be very good over rice tomorrow, after the flavors have some time to mix overnight. Perhaps I will take pix then, maybe not. After all, it’s a green-flecked brown liquid with brown meat chunks. It smells- and tastes- far better than it looks!
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Tonight, I had a very late lunch with Mom, so when I decided I needed one more meal for the day, it was prudent to eat lightly. So I created what I’m calling...Multicultural Quesadillas:

I took some garlic naan, warmed it, and halved it. On one piece, I spread some labneh, then placed a layer of sliced Campari tomatoes on top of that. On the other, I smeared a generous layer of guacamole, which I then folded on top of the first piece.

It was a surprisingly filling vegetarian snack, and the flavor was thoroughly yummy. That buttery, garlicky flavor of the naan played well with the yogurty tang of the labneh and the citrus & spice of the guac. The tomatoes provided a n essential juiciness.

I must admit I missed a trick, though, by not using some of the salsa we were given for a Christmas gift.

I might try some sautéed mushrooms in there in the future.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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I liked the results I got with the Newcastle braise. It’s almost...buttery? Nobody is going to complain that it’s too salty. I actually added a shake of garlic salt to both it and the cabbage at the table.

But I think I preferred the Kirin and Shiner versions more. They had a bit more character. I also think I need to continue experimenting. Guinness has to be tried, if nothing else. I bet Killian’s would be good, too.

And I’m still jealous of the way another cooking buddy’s grilled corned beef looked. Maybe a beer marinade followed by grilling? Probably would not need to do the water bath if I just let it soak in beer overnight. Should do double duty, reducing salt and imparting flavor.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Cooked sirloins, sautéed spinach and potatoes for dinner tonight.


Clearly, that picture is none of those things. That is a soup I made tonight for tomorrow.

Chicken broth, leeks, portobellos, cauliflower, garlic, celery and bacon, seasoned with a modicum of black pepper and thyme. While I was sautéing the bacon, garlic, leeks and celery, I was roasting the ‘shrooms, spuds and cauliflower.

Just based on my tasting as I cooked, I’ll be making this again. But I think next time I may purée the potatoes and cauliflower for a creamy appearance and texture, and I may add a bit more broth.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Well, as it so happens, our caterer friend was in town today and staying overnight- not that anyone told ME- so I got extra feedback on the soup.

OBSERVATIONS:
1) everyone liked it.
2) nobody wanted it to be particularly creamier, and liked it as a “clear”, flavored broth. But a some added a pat of butter.
3) one person wanted more cauliflower
4) one person- not known for liking mushrooms- wanted a bit more mushroom
5) I personally think the broth itself could be helped with the addition of one more bullion cube (I used one).
6) some of the liquid may have been absorbed by the veggies, so I may need to add some more stock.

The caterer is taking a couple of servings home to experiment with, but beyond a little tweaking, thinks the recipe is good as is.

I think the roasted veggies could take a bit more oven time to develop their flavors a bit more.

I might try my next serving with a little lemon juice- something I find works well with most chicken soups.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Tonight’s dinner salad:


Ingredients: baby spinach, torn romaine, sliced button mushrooms, diced carrots, San Marzanos, hand-shredded onion cheese, diced ribeye, and diced fruit-glazed ham, seasoned with fresh ground pepper and chives. Dressing was olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Mom’s version had less mushroom, but added pickled turnips, pickled cauliflower, and pickled artichoke hearts. She also added a drizzle of ranch to her oil & vinegar.

The ham in question is my Aunt’s recipe, glazed with butter, brown sugar, strawberry preserves and pineapple slices and/or chunks. It is a symphony of sweet & salty. I’ve mentioned before how I like to use this ham on sandwiches using either roasted garlic or rosemary & olive oil breads, where it’s flavor can play with the herbal notes in the bread.

Well, it’s also pretty fun playing with the tang of the vinegar.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Staff member
Did some cooking last night. Here’s the dinner that resulted:


Simple: fried some commercial smoked sausage

Traditional: did some cabbage with slices of bacon

Experimental: I cut some cauliflower into slabs, basted them with butter and seasoned the heck out of them, and baked them on an oiled sheet pan at 350F for a while. The bottom side browned nicely, the texture was almost creamy. Next time, I may add some shredded Parmesan or Parrano.

While cleaning up, I decided to try making Aji, a simple, no cooking Columbian salsa. When I put it away last night, it tasted decent. Haven’t checked on it yet today.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Staff member
I tried the aji on a piece of toasted roasted garlic bread:


For a first try, attempted on a whim, it came out pretty good.

If I make it again- highly probable- I’ll do things slightly differently. The green onion I used was just something I had in the fridge, pre-sliced. It’s a little big for aji, which uses slices much smaller than that. I used Campari tomatoes this time, but might buy Romas (which I later found in a couple recipes online) next time. Or try small San Marzanos.

And I may try a different vinegar. I used Reese’s tarragon flavored vinegar, but a red wine one might be better.

And I’ll definitely use fresh cilantro next time, too. I would have this time, but I didn’t have any on hand, just dried.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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A lil’ something from Mom!



Saturday, I went to the farmer’s market and got her some fresh peaches- her favorite fruit. (Easy points for Mother’s Day!)

Well, she pitted & peeled 4 of them today, sliced them up, and sprinkled them with lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate. They’re tasty, even for me, a non-peachophile. We anticipate them being even better after a night in the fridge.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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Cooked quite a bit the past two days. Yesterday, did a stock based on smoked turkey necks as well as a pork pot roast with onions, leeks garlic and so forth.

Tonight, for Memorial Day, I did pan fried rib-eyes and a shrimp & portobello boil. To round things out, I thawed some of my aunt’s fiancé’s red beans. I also gave everyone a small ramekin of Bookbinder’s cocktail sauce. Dessert was a slice of bread pudding.
 

Dannyalcatraz

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This is my modified moussaka right before I popped it the oven. (Yes, a post-cooking picture will be taken.) While I was working from a couple of authentic recipes, I did make some changes, some by design, some by happenstance.

By design, I used 1lb of my Louisiana hot sausage as half of the meat in the dish- soooo, “Moussak-aYEE!”, perhaps. I also added a little green onion to the mix.

But as it turned out, I had no tomato paste, and didn’t want to add more liquid in the form of more canned diced tomatoes. :erm:

Also, I forgot to swing by the grocery to get any of the cheeses the Greeks recommended, so I used a mix of parrano and akkawi.

Fun footnote: I used my large spurtle for the first time while making the béchamel. To refresh y’all’s memory, a spurtle is a Scottish predecessor to the spatula we all know and love, and I was given a set for Christmas by a good friend.

Well, damn if the thing didn’t work better than a spatula for both making the sauce and especially extracting it from the 4.5qt sauce pot. I was able to squeegee the side of the pot from top to bottom with a single swipe.

And after cooking:


Came out pretty good for the first moussaka I’ve done in years, but definitely had room for improvement.

My béchamel was a little too loose, probably too much milk. Checking back with the recipes, one of the Greeks added egg yolks to his, which would have added a bit more fluffing to that top layer. When being applied as the top layer, his béchamel looked more like mashed potatoes, mine was more like a pudding. Another added breadcrumbs/crushed crackers to the top as well, to add a bit of toasty goodness.

The akkawi was a mixed blessing: it tasted good and delivered a nice texture as well, but it gave off a bit of oil during the cooking process. Combined with the looser nature of my béchamel, that meant my topping didn’t quite set up properly.

The tomato paste was missed. And it probably could have taken a touch more cinnamon.

More of the Parrano could have been nice as well.

All that said, it was tasty enough that (modest) seconds were had by all who ate dinner tonight,
 

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