Friday, July 04, 2014

Tom Perini: Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket

Okay, confession time.  I don't know how to grill, smoke, barbecue, or whatever else you want to call it.  Cooking meat over flame is not something I learned how to do.  (I swear, someone is going to come and take my honorary Texan card one of these days.)  That doesn't mean, however, that I don't love meat cooked over an open flame.  I just have to find alternate ways of making it until I figure out how this darn grill I inherited actually works.

I would say this recipe gets you about as close as possible to a good smoked brisket as you can get without the whole trailer smoker setup.  And that's saying something.  If it's pouring down rain, you don't know how to grill/smoke/barbecue, and you're too lazy to drive around town looking for some decent brisket, this is your savior.

Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket
From Tom Perini

2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 bay leaf, crushed
4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
1½ cups beef stock or a mixture of stock and Guinness beer
1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add the beef stock, liquid smoke, and enough water to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300°F, cover pan tightly, and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork tender.

Trim the fat and slice the meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan or barbecue sauce.

Makes 10 servings

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Martha Stewart: Classic Cherry Pie with a Butter Crust

My dad loves cherry pie.  The strange thing?  I don't ever really remember having it when I was a child.  I think maybe it's just a bit too complicated to be in the regular rotation.  Oh, and sour cherries are pretty much non-existent in this part of the country.  I almost fell over when I saw some frozen at Central Market.  I also knew I needed to make this pie for Father's Day.

Why, oh why, did I have to be this old before experiencing this pie?  This thing is amazing.  It's tart and sweet and buttery and crisp and all of the beautiful things a pie should be.  I seriously considered licking my plate.  Curse you, Central Market, and your frozen cherries!

Classic Cherry Pie with a Butter Crust
From Martha Stewart

2 pounds fresh sour cherries (or drained thawed frozen), pitted (about 6 cups)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pâte Brisée
All-purpose flour, for surface
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Make the filling: Toss together cherries, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a bowl.

Make the crust: Roll out 1 disk pâte brisée to a ⅛-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Pour in filling; dot top with butter. Refrigerate while making top crust.

Roll remaining disk pâte brisée to a ⅛-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 4 or 5 holes using a ¾-inch round cookie cutter. Place on top of pie.

Trim bottom and top crusts to a 1-inch overhang using kitchen shears, and press together to seal around edges. Fold edges under; crimp as desired. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Brush crust with egg wash. Bake pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet set on the middle rack, with a foil-lined baking sheet on bottom rack to catch juices, until pie is bubbling in center and crust is golden, about 1
hour 45 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool before serving.

Pâte Brisée
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water

Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Drizzle ¼ cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture holds together when pressed between 2 fingers (dough should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.

Shape dough into 2 disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Emeril Lagasse: Champagne Punch

For my sister's baby shower, she only had one real request.  She wanted Champagne punch.  Now, what a pregnant woman wants with Champagne punch, I don't know, but anyone who has been around pregnant women knows better than to argue with them.  And they also know they had better find the best darn Champagne punch recipe there is.

Luckily, Emeril came to my rescue again.  I swear, the man has the best recipes.  And how could this not be fabulous?  Look at that liquor list!  This goes down so smoothly, it's almost magic.

Champagne Punch
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1⅓ cups fresh lemon juice
1 cup superfine sugar
½ cup Grand Marnier
½ cup Triple Sec
½ cup cognac
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 bottles chilled dry Champagne or sparkling wine
Orange or lemon slices

Combine the lemon juice, sugar, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, cognac, and orange juice in a non-reactive bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the Champagne and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Pour into a decorative bowl or pitcher. Garnish with orange or lemon slices. Serve in Champagne flutes, wine glasses, or punch cups.

Makes 12 to 16 servings

Friday, June 06, 2014

Bon Appétit: Smoked Chicken Salad

I have been looking for what feels like forever for a decent chicken salad recipe.  You would think this wouldn't exactly amount to Homer's Odyssey, but you would be surprised.  I'm not a big fan of fruit in my chicken salad (grapes?  pineapple??), so any sweet-ish recipe is out.  Plus, I'd like my chicken salad to have a little flavor to it, instead of just being some mash of mayonnaise and boiled chicken.  Luckily I came across this little gem.

You definitely get some flavor in this recipe.  The chipotle chiles add spice and interest, but if you're not a big fan of spicy food, you might want to cut them back a little.  I also like all the different colors and crunches going on.  I was tempted to just keep adding different veggies (green onion?  green bell pepper?).

Smoked Chicken Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, December 1998

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chopped canned chipotle chiles
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ cups finely chopped smoked chicken (about 12 ounces)
½ cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped seeded tomato
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
⅓ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Mix first 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Mix in chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, parsley, and pecans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Monday, May 26, 2014

R+D Kitchen: Deviled Eggs

On one of the better dates I've had in months, I was taken to a restaurant here in Dallas called R+D Kitchen.  The food is absolutely fabulous, but the best part is that the kitchen is open to the dining room.  You can watch all the workers milling around, preparing culinary works of art.  Only problem is that it becomes very difficult to decide exactly which of the delicious items parading by you would actually like to order.

One of the dishes they are best known for are their deviled eggs.  The recipe is an absolute secret, but you can bet I sat there for twenty minutes, savoring the taste on my tongue, trying to figure out what they had done.  I also spent an hour on the internet digging up pieces of the secret that had been divulged to various other diners.  This is the recipe I came up with.  It's pretty darn delicious, with a surprising crunch and a sweet yet tangy flavor.

R+D Kitchen Deviled Eggs

6 large hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons bread and butter pickles, chopped
1½ tablespoons celery, chopped
1 teaspoon chives, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon tarragon, minced

Cut each egg in half lengthwise. Pop yolks into a bowl and set white halves aside. Fluff yolks with a whisk and fold in remaining ingredients. Stuff white halves with yolk mixture.

Makes 12 egg halves

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Simply Recipes: Bread and Butter Pickles

There was a barbecue restaurant out in East Texas near where my parents had a lakehouse.  The barbecue was good, but the best part was the homemade bread and butter pickles they put out on the condiment tray.  Those things were amazing: sweet and tart and crunchy.  I've always wondered how to make them, but I never really bothered to search out a recipe until I ran across some little pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market.  I bought a whole bag on a whim, and then realized that I should probably DO something with them.

While canning seems to eat up whole days, in this case I think it's worth it.  I got five cans of luscious pickles, and they'll keep for probably a year (if I don't eat them all first).  They go with pretty much everything.  I'm starting to sound like a real Southerner, putting out my pickles and chow-chow with each meal.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 pounds pickling cucumbers
1 pound white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup pickling salt
¾ cup white vinegar
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
2¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ teaspoon celery seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
6 allspice berries
6 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon turmeric
5 pint-size canning jars

Carefully rinse the cucumbers, scrubbing away any dirt that may have stuck to the ribs. Slice off 1/8-inch from the ends and discard. Slice the cucumbers in ¼-inch thick slices, place in a large bowl. Add the sliced onions and pickling salt. Stir in so that the salt is well distributed among the cucumber slices.  Cover with a clean tea towel (thin towel, not terry cloth). Cover with a couple of inches of ice. Put in the refrigerator and let chill for 4 hours. Discard ice. Rinse the cucumber and onion slices thoroughly, drain.  Rinse and drain again.

If you are planning to store your pickles outside of the refrigerator for any length of time, you will need to sterilize your jars before canning, and heat the filled jars in a hot water bath after canning. To sterilize the jars for canning, place empty jars on a metal rack in a large 16-quart canning pot. (Jars must rest on a rack in the pot, not on the bottom of the pot). Fill with warm water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to warm to keep the jars hot and ready for canning. Remove with tongs or jar lifters one by one as you can the cucumbers. Sterilize the lids by bringing a pot of water to a boil and pouring water over a bowl containing the lids.

In a 4- or 6-quart pot, place the vinegars, sugar, and all of the spices. Bring to a boil. Start packing the hot jars with the cucumbers and onions. First pack a jar to an inch from the rim with the vegetables. Then pour hot vinegar sugar syrup over the vegetables to a ½-inch from the rim. Wipe the rim clean with a paper towel. Place a sterilized lid on the jar. Secure with a metal screw band.

If you are planning to store pickles outside of refrigerator, process the filled jars in a hot water bath for at least 15 minutes. Return filled jars to the same canning pot with its already hot water. Water level needs to be at least one inch above the top of the cans. Bring to a boil and let boil hard for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes for altitudes of 1,001 to 6,000 feet. Over 6,000 feet, boil for 25 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Let cool down to room temperature. Jars should make a popping sound as their lids seal. If a lid doesn't properly seal, do not store the jar outside of the refrigerator.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kale Cranberry Almond Salad

Okay, I have a new addiction.  And it's to kale.  I know, I know, you were thinking I was going to say dark chocolate or Gruyere cheese or ribeye steak.  Don't worry, I'll probably develop an addiction to them in due course.  But right now it's kale.  I think kale is still making big headlines at the market because it has been unbelievably god-awful cold for so long this year.  Last night it got down to 35°F, and it's APRIL.

But I digress.  Kale.  In a salad.  With crunchy almonds and sweet-tart Craisins.  And an orange vinaigrette.  This stuff is amazing.  I think you could probably even get kale non-believers to jump on the bandwagon.  And unlike loads of chocolate and cheese and steak, you can eat a big bowl of this and not feel the least bit guilty.  And kale doesn't wilt!  Double bonus!

Kale Cranberry Almond Salad

½ cup canola oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large bunch of raw curly leaf kale, washed, stemmed, and torn into pieces
½ cup (2 ounces) slivered almonds
½ cup Craisins
4 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped if large chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the first six ingredients.  Toss with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Eat.

Makes 1 to 4 servings, depending on level of willpower

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vikalinka: Black Forest Cake

This year my mom decided she wanted a different kind of chocolate cake.  Something more interesting.  Something like a cake that takes several hours and has three different parts.  ::sighs::  But I can't turn her down.  And I especially can't turn her down if it's Black Forest Cake.  Yes, it gets put in caps.

I found this recipe on the internet, where I joined the hordes of gawkers swooning over the beauty that is a boozy cake.  I had never gotten one to work in the past, mostly because the cherry filling starts to ooze out the sides through the whipped cream, making the cake look like it's bleeding to death.  Not appealing.  But this cake just uses boozy cherries in the middle with no cornstarchy syrup.

Black Forest Cake
Adapted from Vikalinka

For the cake:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
2½ cups whipping cream
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 vanilla bean
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water

2 (14½-ounce) cans tart cherries in water, drained, soaked in ¼ cup kirsch for an hour

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, sift flour and cocoa.  Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, combine gelatin and cold water. Let stand for 2 minutes. Place the measuring cup in a microwave and heat for 15 seconds until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Run a sharp knife along the length of a vanilla bean, open it, and with a blade of a dull knife, scrape out the seeds.  In a large mixing bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and brandy on medium speed while gradually drizzling gelatin mixture over cream mixture. Continue beating cream mixture until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up). Adding gelatin to the filling gives it more stability.

Drain the cherries, reserving the kirsch.  Set aside 8 cherries for decoration, if desired.  Cut each cake layer in two to make four layers.  Brush each layer with the reserved kirsch, and then fill with the cream filling and cherries. Leave ¼ of the cream filling for the sides and the top.  Cover the sides and the top of the cake with the cream filling.

Decorate with reserved cherries.  Chill in the fridge for the cream filling to set. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cook's Illustrated: Blueberry Almond Streusel Muffins

I've been on an almond kick lately.  I think it started back around Christmas when I made almond bars and they practically melted in my mouth.  Now I want to put almonds on everything.  EVERYTHING.  Okay, maybe not everything, but anything that works.  And since I had a container of blueberries in my fridge, that anything was muffins.

I've never really gotten a recipe from Cook's Illustrated to turn out as fabulously as everyone claims they do.  They always seem just...meh.  This one was definitely different.  Probably the best blueberry muffin recipe I've ever made.  They come out tender with a crunchy top.  Note: Immediately shove some in the freezer so you don't end up making a pig of yourself.

Blueberry Almond Streusel Muffins
Loosely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

6 ounces (½ pint) fresh blueberries, picked over
1⅛ cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, browned, and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Streusel Topping
Sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or liners.

Whisk flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.

Whisk sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and well combined. Slowly mix in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not over mix.)

Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Sprinkle streusel and almonds evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 15 muffins

Streusel Topping
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons melted butter

Combine ingredients until it is the size of peas and set aside. Add additional flour to achieve correct consistency, if needed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shiva Indian Restaurant: Saag Paneer

I can't even remember when I first started eating Indian food.  I'm sure a friend dragged me to a buffet and pointed at what wasn't too scary for a naive white girl.  But it was a revelation.  Indian food is so full of spice (and not just the hot stuff)...that it hits your tongue like a little nuclear bomb.  Yes, I think it's that good.

I always look for saag paneer when I visit an Indian restaurant, and I just can't seem to make it through a home-cooked Indian meal without making a pot for the side.  Except for the side turns into enough-for-lunch-for-a-week.  Not that I mind.

Saag Paneer
Adapted from Shiva Indian Restaurant in Houston, TX

1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
1 ounce fresh ginger
1 (1-pound) bag frozen chopped spinach
1 cup plain Greek or Indian yogurt
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6-8 ounces paneer, cut into small cubes
1½ to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
Pinch of sugar

Grind the onion, garlic, and ginger into a fine paste.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, and spices.  Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  Pour the spinach mixture carefully into a large food processor or blender.  Process until the spinach is creamier and no longer chunky, 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Pour the mixture back into the pan.

Add the whipping cream and simmer the mixture for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the spinach has a thick, creamy consistency.  Add the cheese, and simmer for 5 minutes until warmed through.  Season with salt and a pinch of sugar if the spinach is too sour.

Makes 6 servings