Posts Tagged ‘meat’

We sat down last night and watched the first two new episodes of Good Eats:  The Return. I was really happy with the episodes, as they seemed to maintain the original character of the show, while in a more modern setting. It was a little hard for me to watch the new episodes since my dad is no longer here; he was super excited when I told him last year that new episodes were on the horizon. We surely would have been chatting on the phone today about Alton’s newest recipes.

I have realized that I think I sometimes put off writing for this project because it does always remind me that my dad is not here. I shared my love of Good Eats, and food in general, more with him than with anyone else. I think, though, that it is time for me to alter my mindset, and view each part of this project as an ode to Dad. He would have wanted me to continue on with vigor, so it’s time to hold myself to it.

In other news, I am officially 34 weeks pregnant, and things will soon be very busy and different in our house. I feel much of the time like a beached whale, so I am fast approaching the point of being ready for the baby to be out. A few more weeks of baking are good though, I know. Speaking of baking, onto the food…

Beef Jerky

I love when this project leads me to make things I have never attempted before, and this episode’s beef jerky was just that. Alton’s jerky uses 1.5-2 pounds of flank steak, which you will want to place in a plastic bag in the freezer until it is almost solid.

IMG_2951(1)

Flank steak before freezing.

Once the beef is nearly solid, use a Santoku or chef’s knife to cut the meat into thin strips along the grain; don’t worry if some of the strips are larger than others – just follow the natural grain of the meat.

Place the meat strips in a large plastic bag and add the following ingredients:  2/3 C soy sauce, 2/3 C Worcestershire sauce, 1 T honey, 2 t black pepper, 2 t onion powder, 1 t red pepper flakes, and 1 t liquid smoke (I combined my marinade ingredients in a liquid measuring cup first).

Seal the bag, and massage the bag with your hands, working the marinade thoroughly into the meat. Place the meat in the refrigerator for three to six hours.

IMG_2963(1)

Marinade massaged into beef, and placed in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours.

After marinating, drain the meat, discarding the excess marinade.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels.

IMG_2968(1)

Beef patted dry.

Now it is time to dry the beef. To dry the beef Alton’s way, place the meat strips on the ridges of clean furnace filters, stacking the filters on top of each other, and placing a final clean filter on top. Using a bungee cord, strap the filters to a box fan. Turn the fan on, and allow the meat to dry until jerky-like, which Alton says should take 8-12 hours. Rather than buying a bunch of new supplies, I opted to use my mom’s old food dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s instructions for jerky.

IMG_2970(1)

Beef strips placed in dehydrator.

I found that my jerky was done after about 13 hours of drying, and that was with a temperature of 145 degrees, so I have to imagine that Alton’s cool air method of drying would take considerably longer.

IMG_3052(2)

Alton’s beef jerky.

The marinade for this jerky is amazing, and produced maybe the most flavor-packed jerky I have ever tasted. Some of the jerky strips that had more fat were a little more on the chewy side, so I liked the leaner ones better. With being pregnant, they tell you that you should avoid eating dried meat, so I only tasted the jerky (this is probably overkill). I do plan to make more of this jerky once I am not pregnant, as we both really liked it and it is much cheaper than purchasing commercial jerky. I recommend this recipe for sure.

Jerky Tomato Sauce

Aside from snacking on jerky, you can also use it as an ingredient, as Alton did in his tomato sauce. Jerky was, afterall, made originally as a means of preservation. Alton made his sauce on a camping stove in a tent, and you surely could make this in camping circumstances, but I made it for a regular weeknight meal. To make his sauce, use kitchen shears to cut 3-4 ounces of your homemade jerky into small pieces.

Place the jerky pieces in a bowl and pour 1+ C of boiling water over them, setting the jerky aside.

IMG_3055(2)

Boiling water poured over chopped jerky.

Next, heat a medium saucier or skillet over medium heat, adding 1 T vegetable oil, 1/2 C chopped onion, 1/2 C chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let the vegetables sweat for 4-5 minutes, or until soft.

IMG_3057(2)

Vegetable oil, onion, green bell pepper, and Kosher salt in a medium saucier.

Add two cloves of minced garlic to the pan, cooking for two more minutes.

IMG_3058(2)

Two cloves of garlic added to the softened veggies.

Add the jerky and its soaking liquid, a 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 C heavy cream.

Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Sprinkle in some dried parsley (I used fresh), and simmer the sauce until it has reduced to your desired consistency.

Serve the jerky sauce over pasta, rice, or biscuits. I served Alton’s jerky sauce over pasta, adding some freshly grated Parmesan.

IMG_3065(2)

Reduced sauce served over pasta.

We liked this sauce more than I thought we would, to be honest. I initially thought this would be just another tomato sauce, but the jerky really did add a lot of flavor, making a sauce that was fairly interesting and with some added meaty flavor. I still don’t know that I would go out of my way to make this again, but for a convenience meal it was really quite good. Should you happen to find yourself with some extra jerky lying around, this is certainly a good use for it.

Recent happenings have caused me to fall way behind on this blog, which actually provides a great distraction at times. After feeling “off” a couple weeks ago, I ended up having various tests done, which led to a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia last week, which can be a life-threatening pregnancy complication. I am currently 30 weeks pregnant, and I am being tested/monitored weekly, with a goal of taking the pregnancy to 37 weeks before delivery. It all depends on how my body handles things in the coming weeks, but I am unfortunately facing the reality that I will be delivering this baby early; it is just a question of how early.

I made the recipes in this episode quite a while ago actually, but am only now sitting down to finally write. My newest lab results should be in today or tomorrow, so I am trying to distract myself in the meantime. Since this is sort of a summery episode, I figured I’d better get on it while the warm weather is still here! The recipes from this episode are great to make on a hot evening because they are both grilling recipes and thus won’t heat up the house.

Spicy Beef Kebabs

First up, Alton makes beef kebabs in this episode. You will want your meat to sit in the marinade for 2-4 hours before grilling, so be sure to allow adequate time for marination. To make the marinade, combine 3 cloves of garlic, 2 t smoked paprika, 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t cumin, 1 t Kosher, 1/2 t pepper, and 1/3 C red wine vinegar in the bowl of a food processor.

Process the marinade until smooth, and then drizzle in 1/2 C olive oil with the machine running.

For these skewers, Alton recommends using boneless beef sirloin, of which you will need about 1.5 pounds.

IMG_2838

Boneless beef sirloin.

Cut the meat into two-inch cubes, place the cubes in a large plastic bag, and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and toss the meat to coat thoroughly.

Place the meat in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-4 hours. Before threading his meat onto skewers, Alton likes to pre-arrange his meat on a sheet pan, placing cubes of similar sizes on the same skewers for even cooking.

IMG_2853

Beef after marinating for several hours. Pieces of meat arranged such that pieces of similar size go on the same skewer.

Once your meat is sorted, thread the meat onto metal grilling skewers, placing about five or six pieces on each skewer; leave about a half inch of space between the meat cubes.

IMG_2854

Beef cubes threaded onto metal skewers.

To grill the skewers, first be sure that your grill grates are pretty clean and preheat your gas grill to medium-high. Place the skewers on the grill, rotating them every two minutes for a total cook time of eight to 12 minutes. For this cut of beef, Alton prefers his meat to be cooked to medium doneness, which should take about 12 minutes.

IMG_2860

The beef from Alton’s skewers.

When done grilling, wrap the hot skewers in foil and let them rest for a few minutes before eating. To cook the skewers on a charcoal grill, remove the grate and place four bricks around the center mound of charcoal. Rest the skewers on the bricks, suspending the meat above the hot charcoal. I cooked my skewers for the full twelve minutes recommended by Alton, and I thought the meat was a tad bit chewy. The marinade for this recipe was excellent, however, and made the meat super flavorful. I could see using this marinade for a variety of meat preparations. This recipe made for a quick, easy, flavorful meal. My only gripe was that the meat was a little bit too chewy, so I might try cooking the meat a little less next time.

Vanilla Lime Pineapple Skewers

If you are looking for a side dish for your beef kebabs, or for a dessert to follow, Alton has you covered with his pineapple skewers. Begin by splitting a vanilla bean in half and scraping out the seeds/pulp. Reserve the bean. Place 1 C dark brown sugar, 1/2 C lime juice, a pinch of Kosher salt, and the vanilla pulp/pod in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Whisk the mixture until the brown sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for two hours. After steeping, remove the vanilla pod and discard it.

Transfer the cooled syrup to a plastic squeeze bottle. Next, prepare your pineapple by cutting the top and bottom off of the fruit. Stand the fruit on one end and cut the pineapple into quarters. Lay the pineapple quarters down and cut them in half, creating eighths. Cut the core off of each eighth of pineapple, discarding it. Finally, use a sharp knife to fillet the pineapple off of its skin.

IMG_2862(1)

Pineapple cut into eighths.

Thread each eighth of pineapple onto a metal grilling skewer, squirt them with the vanilla syrup, and grill them for four minutes per side, for a total of 12 minutes. As you grill the fruit, squirt it occasionally with the vanilla syrup.

IMG_2871(1)

Alton’s grilled pineapple.

Serve the pineapple warm. This was a fun, summery dessert that was easy to prepare. The pineapple softened and became sweeter, and its flavor was complimented nicely by the flavors in the syrup. The lime juice added a nice tartness to an otherwise very sweet syrup. You could certainly use this syrup on other fruits also, or you could simply take Alton’s suggestion and eat the syrup over ice cream. Either way, the syrup is a multitasker!

Seeing as I am now between seasons eight and nine of Good Eats, I figured this was a good time to do one of the special episodes. It’s hard to believe that I last did a special episode over two years ago! This special was fun for me to do because it was an episode I had never seen before and all four of the recipes were super intriguing. I can say that I have definitely left this episode with some recipes that I will be bookmarking for long-term use/memory, so read on if you want to discover some great food.

Salt Roasted Shrimp

Shrimp are not my favorite protein, but I was still excited about trying this cooking method. The recipe begins with placing two pounds of rock salt in a 9×13″ metal pan. Place two more pounds of rock salt in a metal bowl.

IMG_2830

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels.

Place the two vessels of salt in a cold oven and set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. When the oven hits 400, let it continue to heat for an additional 15 minutes.

IMG_2831

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels, and stuck in a cold oven to preheat to 400.

Once the 15 minutes are up, place a pound of jumbo shrimp on the surface of the salt in the 9×13″ pan and pour the hot salt from the bowl over the top of the shrimp. Smooth the salt over the top of the shrimp and place them back in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until pink and opaque.

IMG_2837

Alton’s salt roasted shrimp.

To rinse off the salt, you can dip the shrimp quickly in white wine. First off, this is about the easiest method of cooking shrimp I’ve ever tried, and I thought the flavor of the shrimp was very positively accentuated by the salt. These shrimp had a sweetness that reminded me more of crab than shrimp, and I really liked it. For whatever reason, my shrimp were extremely difficult to peel, and I don’t know why that was. I really do want to try this method again because these were some of my favorite shrimp I have had, as far as flavor is concerned. The salt did season the shrimp, but not overly so, and I did not even try Alton’s wine rinse step post-cooking. If anyone has a theory as to why my shrimp were so difficult to peel, I’d love to hear it. Aside from the peeling difficulty, this was a fantastic recipe!

Perfect Fingerling Potatoes

I think we have all had potatoes cooked in myriad ways, but I have to say that Alton’s recipe here was a new one for me. For this recipe, place 1 1/4 pounds of Kosher or rock salt in a large pot with two quarts of water and two pounds of fingerling potatoes.

Bring the whole pot to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender enough to pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife, which took about 20 minutes for my potatoes. Be aware that smaller potatoes will cook faster.

IMG_2488

Potatoes, brought to a boil and cooked until tender.

Transfer the cooked potatoes to a rack over a sheet pan. Once all of the potatoes have cooked, serve them with butter and chives.

IMG_2490

Cooked potatoes cooling on a rack and forming a salty crust.

IMG_2494

Alton’s fingerling potatoes with chives, pepper, and butter.

These potatoes are like a fun science experiment because they transform during cooking, and form a sparkly salt crust as they cool. The insides of the potatoes are perfectly cooked, while the outsides provide the perfect amount of salty seasoning. These are fun, easy, and delicious!

Sauerkraut

I find fermented food fascinating, and the idea of making my own sauerkraut was super exciting to me. Keep in mind that this recipe takes a full month, including the fermentation time. This starts with chopping five pounds of green cabbage and placing the cabbage in a large bowl.

IMG_2509

Ready to chop 5 pounds of cabbage.

Add 3 T pickling salt to the cabbage, along with 1 T juniper berries and 2 t caraway seeds. Toss everything together with clean hands. Let the cabbage sit for 10 minutes.

Pack the cabbage and any accumulating liquid into a tall plastic container, packing it down.

IMG_2519

Cabbage packed into a plastic container.

Alton likes to use a tall plastic container designed for holding a loaf of bread. You want to keep the cabbage free from air, so place some type of lid on the surface of the cabbage. Next, place a weight on top of the lid (Alton uses a mason jar full of water). I read some of the online reviews of this recipe and used ziplock bags full of water, as they also help to form an airtight seal. A layer of plastic wrap also seems to help to keep air out.

IMG_2520

Weighing the sauerkraut down with bags of water.

Store the sauerkraut at 65-70 degrees for four weeks. Be sure to check the sauerkraut every couple days and discard any scum from the surface. Alton says you really only need to be concerned about dark-colored mold, and ammonia-like smell, or lots of active bubbling; if you see any of these things, it’s time to start over. Otherwise, your sauerkraut will gradually secrete more liquid, turn yellow, and start to smell sour.

IMG_2608

Sauerkraut gradually fermenting over time.

I was out of town for part of my sauerkraut’s fermentation, so I arrived home to sauerkraut that was ready to eat.

IMG_2766

Sauerkraut after four weeks of fermentation.

We opted to eat our sauerkraut on bratwursts with mustard, and I was highly impressed.

IMG_2768

Sauerkraut served on brats with mustard.

This homemade sauerkraut has much more texture than any you can buy in the store, which I really appreciate. I also really like the pops of spice you get from the caraway seeds and juniper berries, and it has just the right amount of tang. We still have some sauerkraut in our refrigerator right now, as this recipe makes a pretty large amount. Add this one to the list of fun things to try in your spare time, as it really requires almost no effort!

Beef Tenderloin in Salt Crust

Since it’s Father’s Day, it only seems appropriate that this next recipe is one I would love to be able to share with my dad. I’m pretty sure my dad never saw this Good Eats salt episode because he would have jumped all over trying Alton’s beef tenderloin recipe. My dad was always one to test a recipe before trying it for a holiday or occasion, and he likely would have invited me to his house for his test run. Beef tenderloin is always a special occasion meal for us, as it is a pricey cut of meat, but last week we had a delicious tenderloin simply for the sake of this project. For Alton’s tenderloin, you first need to make a salt-based dough. To do this, place 5 C flour, 3 C Kosher salt, 3 T pepper, 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley/thyme/sage, and a mixture of 5 egg whites with 1 1/2 C water in a bowl.

IMG_2784

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.

IMG_2785

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and a mixture of egg whites and water.

IMG_2786

Egg whites and water added to flour/salt mixture.

Use a potato masher to loosely combine the dough, and then mix the dough with your hands until it is smooth and uniform. Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it sit at room temperature for 4-24 hours; according to Alton, if you try to use the dough immediately, it will be a crumbly mess. I opted to make my dough a full 24 hours ahead of time.

After your dough has rested, roll the dough to a large rectangle that is 3/16″ thick. You can trim the edges with a pizza cutter to make the dough into a nice rectangle.

IMG_2799

Dough after 24 hours.

Next, coat a 6-7 pound beef tenderloin (my tenderloin was in the 3-4 pound range) with ~1 T olive oil and sear the meat until it is browned on all sides; Alton likes to use an electric griddle to sear, but I just used a large skillet.

Let the tenderloin rest until it is cool to the touch, which took about 20 minutes for my beef.

IMG_2797

Letting the seared meat rest until cool to the touch.

Sprinkle the center of your salt dough rectangle with an additional 1/4 C of chopped fresh parsley, thyme, and/or sage, and place your cooled tenderloin on top of the herbs.

Fold the dough up over the tenderloin crimping the edges together to create a sealed package. You do not want the dough to be super tight on the meat. Trim the ends of the dough and crimp them up also, and seal any holes with extra dough. Transfer the wrapped tenderloin to a sheet pan and insert a probe thermometer into the center of the beef. My dough stuck to my countertop a bit, so I had to do some mending.

IMG_2807

Wrapping the tenderloin in the salt dough.

IMG_2808

My wrapped beef tenderloin.

IMG_2810

Tenderloin in the oven until it reaches 125 degrees.

Put the beef in a 400 degree oven, letting it cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Once at 125 degrees, remove the beef from the oven and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

IMG_2817

Tenderloin removed from the oven at 125 degrees.

After resting, slice the meat with a serrated knife and pull the tenderloin out of the salt dough, discarding the dough. Serve the meat immediately.

IMG_2819

Tenderloin after resting for 15 minutes.

IMG_2821

Alton’s beef tenderloin.

In the episode, Alton appeared to let his tenderloin rest for a full hour, which will result in over-cooked meat. Since the meat is still in its dough envelope, its temperature continues to rise quite quickly after removal from the oven, so I cut my meat after a mere 15 minute rest, and it honestly would have been better a few minutes earlier. Next time, I will probably pull the meat from the oven at 120 degrees, and let it rest until its temperature hits 135-140. I did use a smaller tenderloin than what Alton used and my tenderloin was done after 45 minutes in the oven, so this is a pretty fast cooking method. Aside from those notes, this recipe is awesome. There is a reason Alton stated at the end of this episode that this was his favorite Good Eats beef recipe. I already hope/plan to make this for the next holiday we host, as it is easy, quick, and delicious. The meat comes out of the dough perfectly tender and seasoned to perfection. Seriously, if you want a special beef recipe, make this one. I only wish I could make this for my dad.

I keep meaning to get in a good rhythm with this project, and then I keep having the rug pulled from under my feet. Just as I was starting to begin to recover from the death of my dad, my beloved dog, Hitcher, suddenly died from a pulmonary embolism eight days ago. We had Hitcher for 12 years, after finding him, starving on a roadside, when he was less than a year old. Although we knew Hitcher wouldn’t be around for a long time to come, it was completely unexpected for him to die last week, and his death has completely crushed me. Over the years, Hitcher was my constant “helper” in the kitchen, and made many cameos in this project. Seeing that I prepared the recipes from the next couple episodes before he died, he will make a few final cameos. It is just not the same to cook without him by my side.

224075_1040779094361_6486_n

My beloved Hitcher in his younger years.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

I actually made Alton’s gyro recipe several weeks ago, but then had too much going on to do the write-up. Lamb has a flavor that you either love or hate, and I happen to really love it. I tend not to cook with lamb very often because it is expensive, but this recipe gave me a good excuse. Gyro, by the way, means “to turn,” as gyro meat is typically cooked on a rotisserie. If you have a rotisserie, Alton has a method in this episode for using it, but he also has an alternative method if you (like me) do not have a rotisserie. Regardless of whether you will use a rotisserie, you will want to whip out your food processor for this recipe. The first part of this recipe is the Tzatziki sauce. Make the sauce by placing 16 ounces of plain yogurt in a tea towel. Wrap up the yogurt, suspend it with a chopstick and rubber band over a container, and allow it to drain for one to two hours. You will want to use a fairly thin towel for this – I had to switch to a thinner towel when I discovered no draining was occurring.

While the yogurt drains, peel, seed, and chop a medium cucumber.

IMG_1929

Ready to peel, seed, and chop one cucumber. Hitcher loved cucumbers.

Place the cucumber on a tea towel or paper towels with a pinch of Kosher salt and wrap up the cucumber, setting it aside.

IMG_1930(1)

Peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber placed on paper towels with Kosher salt.

Once the yogurt has drained, place 4 minced garlic cloves in a bowl, along with 5-6 chopped mint leaves, 2 t red wine vinegar, 1 T olive oil, the drained yogurt, and the cucumber. Stir the sauce to combine and refrigerate for up to a week.

For the gyro meat, start by chopping a medium onion with a knife, and then process the onion in the food processor until it is very finely chopped. Line a bowl with  a tea towel and dump the chopped onion into the towel. Squeeze as much juice as you can out of the onion, discarding the juice; you will be surprised at how much juice is in one onion.

Place the onion back in the food processor bowl, along with 1 T minced garlic, 1 T dried rosemary, 1 T dried marjoram, 1/2 t pepper, 2 t Kosher salt, and 2 pounds of ground lamb.

Process the lamb mixture until it forms a paste-like consistency.

IMG_1923(1)

Meat mixture processed until paste-like.

If you are using a rotisserie, place two large pieces of plastic wrap on your counter, overlapping them by about two inches. Dump the meat mixture onto the center of the plastic wrap, form a log shape, and roll the meat up tightly in the plastic. Place the meat log in a container and refrigerate the log for at least two hours, as this will allow the log to set into its shape. After chilling, place the lamb log on your rotisserie, leaving some room at the ends. Preheat your grill to high. For a charcoal grill, distribute coals evenly between the front and back portions of the grill, leaving the middle section clear of coals. Regardless of your type of grill, place a double layer of foil beneath the rotisserie to catch drippings and grill the meat on high for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the temperature to medium and continue to cook the lamb for 20-30 more minutes, or until the center of the meat is 165 degrees. To finish cooking, turn the grill off and let the meat continue to spin for 15 minutes more, or until the internal temperature hits 175 degrees. If you do not have a rotisserie, skip rolling the meat into a log and dump it into a loaf pan. Place a pan with an inch of water in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the loaf pan in the water bath and cook the lamb for 60 to 75 minutes, or until it reaches 170 degrees.

Remove the loaf from the oven and pour off any fat. Set a foil-covered brick on top of the meat and let the meat cool until it just cool enough to handle.

Slice the meat and serve it on warm pita bread with Tzatziki sauce, chopped tomato, chopped onion, and feta cheese.

IMG_7866(1)

Sliced gyro meat.

IMG_7867(1)

Alton’s gyro.

I have not eaten many gyros, but I thought this was a delicious recipe. The meat  held together well when sliced and remained moist. The herbs accentuated and complimented the lamb’s grassy flavor, and the whole gyro was a pleasing combination of textures, flavors, and temperatures. With the warm lamb and pita, the cooling Tzatziki, tangy onion, and sweet tomato made a wonderful pairing. Unfortunately, I only got to have one meal out of this recipe since I had to leave town the following day, but I intend to make this again and enjoy it for several meals!

I have had a busy last few weeks and really not by any sort of choice. First, I found myself with a full week of jury duty, which saw me spending full days at the courthouse. While the experience was educational and informative, I am glad to once again have control over my schedule.

Unfortunately, right at the end of my jury service, my dad had an accident and broke eight ribs; two of the ribs were displaced and he also had a Hemothorax. Needless to say, I flew to be with him as soon as I could, and I spent six days visiting him. He is, unfortunately, still in the ICU, so I will likely be traveling to see him again shortly. I am hoping and praying for good news soon. It would be great to see him finally turn the corner. Yes, 2019 has not been kind to me thus far.

Coq au Vin

In an effort to distract myself and do something productive, I’m sitting down to write up a dish I actually prepared weeks ago:  Alton’s Coq au Vin. Coq au Vin is an old French dish that was originally composed as a means of cooking old, tough roosters (I was informed of this fact by both Alton and my dad). This dish certainly takes some time to prepare and you need to start a day ahead of eating. Salt pork is the first ingredient in this recipe, but you can substitute slab bacon if you are unable to find the salt pork. I lucked out and found salt pork at my local grocery store.

IMG_1639

Salt pork.

Cube six ounces of the salt pork and place it in a large skillet over medium heat, along with 2 T water. Cover the skillet and let the pork cook for 5-10 minutes.

IMG_1647

Cubed salt pork in skillet with water.

While the pork cooks, place four chicken thighs and four chicken legs on a metal rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt and pepper.

IMG_1641

Chicken thighs and legs seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper.

Put 1/4 to 1/2 C flour in a large plastic bag and add a few pieces of the seasoned chicken at a time. Shake the bag to coat the chicken pieces with the flour until all of the chicken has been coated. Set the coated chicken pieces back on the wire rack and set them aside.

When the pork has darkened in color and has rendered some of its fat, remove the lid from the skillet and continue to cook the pork until it is crispy and brown.

Remove the pork from the pan and add 24-30 pearl onions to the pork fat. You will need to peel your pearl onions prior to using them; you can do this easily by cutting off the root end of each onion and cutting a deep V where the root was. Place the onions in boiling water for a minute and let them cool. Once cool, the skins should slide right off.

Cook the peeled onions in the pork fat until they are golden brown, and then remove them from the pan.

Next, add three or four chicken pieces to the skillet and cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides.

While the chicken browns, prepare a “bed” for the browned chicken by placing the following ingredients in the bottom of a Dutch oven:  two quartered ribs of celery, two quartered carrots, a quartered onion, 6-8 fresh Rosemary sprigs, three crushed garlic cloves, and one Bay leaf.

IMG_1637

Vegetable bed in Dutch oven: celery, carrot, onion, Rosemary, garlic, and a Bay leaf.

As the chicken pieces finish browning, place them on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven.

IMG_1660

Browned chicken placed on vegetables in Dutch oven.

When all of the chicken has been browned, add 1 T butter to the skillet, along with eight ounces of quartered mushrooms. Scraping the pan, cook the mushrooms for about five minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan, let them cool, and combine them in a container with the cooled pork and onions. Set the mushroom mixture in the refrigerator until the next day. Pour any excess fat out of the pan and discard it (I had very little extra fat in my pan). Remove the pan from the burner and add 1 C Pinot Noir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a spatula.

IMG_1663

Pinot Noir added to deglaze pan.

Add 2 T tomato paste to the skillet, stirring to combine, and pour the liquid over the chicken in the Dutch oven.

Finally, add 2 C chicken broth to the chicken, along with the rest of the open bottle of wine and another full bottle of Pinot Noir.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, place the Dutch oven in a cold oven and set the oven to heat to 325 degrees. Set a kitchen timer for two hours and check the chicken a few times to be sure it is submerged in the cooking liquid. After the two hour cooking period, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and use tongs to transfer the chicken from the Dutch oven to a packet of foil. Place the foil packet of chicken in the cooling oven to keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucier, discarding the vegetables (or you can feed them to your dog, as Alton did in the episode).

Place the saucier over high heat and reduce the liquid by one third, which should take about 30 minutes. You can check the fluid level by placing a rubber band around a long spoon handle at the initial fluid level. When that level has dropped by 1/3, you are good to go.

Once the sauce has reduced, add the onions, mushrooms, and salt pork to the saucier and cook for 15 more minutes.

IMG_1685

Salt pork, onions, and mushrooms added to sauce.

Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles.

IMG_1688

Coq au Vin served over egg noodles.

This is a really delicious recipe, but it does take some effort and time. For me, it took two and a half hours of prep the first day, followed by the cooking time the second day. I would certainly consider this to be a special occasion dish simply because of the amount of prep. We did, however, get several meals out of this one recipe, so perhaps the time per meal is not much. The chicken in this dish comes out super moist and tender, and has a slight purple hue. The sauce has many layers of flavor, but is light in body. If you want a chicken dish that can serve a group and results in perfectly cooked chicken with lots of flavor, this is the one.

This episode of Good Eats is unique because Alton does not actually cook anything. Instead, this episode serves to prove or debunk five culinary myths. Through a series of kitchen experiments, Alton evaluates each myth and concludes whether each is true or false.

Myth #1 – The juices of meat are sealed in by searing.

For this myth, Alton weighed two steaks prior to cooking. The steaks were both oiled, but no salt was added, as salt pulls out liquid. One steak was seared on both sides in a hot skillet, while the other steak was not seared. The seared and unseared steaks were placed in a 400-degree oven at the same time, and a probe thermometer was placed in the center of each steak; the thermometers were set to beep when the steaks reached a temperature of 140 degrees. The seared steak reached 140 degrees faster than the unseared steak, so the seared steak was removed from the oven and allowed to rest for five minutes. After four additional minutes in the oven, the unseared steak reached 140 degrees, and was removed from the oven/allowed to rest.

After both steaks had rested, they were weighed a second time. The unseared steak lost 13% of its raw weight, while the seared steak lost 19% of its original weight. Based on these results, Alton concluded that searing does not seal in meat juices, and declared this myth to be “SMASHED.”

Myth #2 – Birds can be killed from the toxic fumes of nonstick pans.

In all honesty, Alton did not conduct any actual experiment for this myth. Instead, he simply talked about the conclusions that have been made by studies conducted on this topic. It has been found that nonstick pans release toxic fumes when they hit a temperature above 500 degrees, and especially when they are empty. These fumes can kill birds and can also cause humans to have flu-like symptoms. Alton opts to avoid all high-heat cooking in nonstick pans, including searing, frying, broiling, and even sautéing. This myth is “TRUE.”

Myth #3 – Mushrooms should not be washed because they absorb water.

The method for this experiment was to place four ounces of mushrooms in a hand sieve, which was then placed inside a glass bowl; four of these mushroom/sieve/bowl combos were set up. A liter of water was poured over the mushrooms in three of the four bowls, while the final bowl of mushrooms were left dry. The first bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 10 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The second bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 20 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The third bowl of mushrooms sat in the water for 30 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The final bowl of mushrooms was rinsed thoroughly under running water and allowed to drain.

After all of the mushrooms were drained, the mushrooms from each sieve were weighed to analyze how much water they had absorbed. The mushrooms soaked for 10 minutes had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about one teaspoon. The 20 minute mushrooms had gained 0.25 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. Thirty minutes of soaking resulted in the mushrooms gaining 0.15 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. The mushrooms rinsed under running water had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon.

This experiment demonstrated that mushrooms absorb a small amount of water regardless of length of exposure to water. Since mushrooms tend to have a fair amount of grit and dirt on them, Alton concluded that he will thoroughly wash his mushrooms. This myth was “SMASHED.”

Myth #4 – Adding oil to pasta water keeps noodles from sticking together.

To test this myth, Alton added a gallon of water, 1 T of olive oil, and a pinch of Kosher salt to a pasta pot. The pot was covered and placed over high heat until the water reached a boil. Once the water was boiling, Alton added a half pound of pasta to the water, decreased the heat to medium-high, and cooked the pasta until it was al dente.

After cooking, Alton drained the pasta, allowing the liquid to drain into a long, clear tube beneath the strainer. After several minutes, the drained liquid had separated into its oil and liquid phases, with the oil rising to the top of the tube. Alton calculated the drained amount of oil to be 0.43 ounces, which was about 85% of the original tablespoon of oil added to the pasta water.

Since only 15% of the olive oil remained on the surface of the drained pasta, Alton concluded that not enough oil coated the pasta to prevent the noodles from adhering to each other. This myth was hereby “SMASHED.” Alton did, however, state that adding oil to pasta water can prevent the water from foaming by oiling the bonds of the starch released from the noodles. Or, you can just use a larger vessel with more water.

Myth #5 – Water can explode when microwaved.

The experiment for this myth involved placing a tall, narrow, glass bottle (picture a Snapple bottle) full of water in a microwave. The water was microwaved for three minutes on high power, which resulted in water spraying all over the inside of the microwave. This “explosion” of water is called spontaneous boiling, which occurs when the temperature rises above the boiling point without the formation of any bubbles. Since the inside of the glass bottle was perfectly smooth, there were no nucleation sites, which are spots where bubbles can form. In addition, the small opening of the bottle kept the water still, so when the heat energy built up within the bottle, one large bubble was formed and the water sprayed everywhere. To avoid this, when microwaving, use a container with a large opening and stir the contents regularly. This final myth was deemed to be “TRUE.”

When I began this project, I had to purchase the first couple seasons of Good Eats through Amazon. Shortly after beginning this blog, I set our DVR to record any and all episodes that were airing, building a stockpile. I currently have 135 episodes recorded. Needless to say, I had a little bit of a panic yesterday morning when I discovered that the clock on our DVR was stuck at 2:41 and it was emitting an odd whirring sound. Oh, and the DVR refused to power off. Thankfully, it rebooted just fine after being unplugged for a few minutes. Whew!

Episode 110 is very seasonally appropriate, as chili, to me, is perfect for fall and winter. I got a kick out of this episode because Alton played the role of a cowboy, and remained in character for the duration of the show; I cannot recall another episode in which he did this.

AB’s Chili Powder

If you want to make good chili, you have to start with great chili powder. Thankfully, Alton has a chili powder recipe that you can whip up easily at home. His chili powder starts with three types of dried chiles:  ancho chiles, cascabel chiles, and arbol chiles. While I had no trouble finding the ancho and arbol chiles at my regular grocery store, I had to take a trip to our local Mexican grocery store to find the dried cascabels. For a batch of chili powder, you will need three of each type of chile.

IMG_9880

Ancho chiles, arbol chiles, and cascabel chiles.

Using scissors, cut the tops off the dried peppers, shaking out the seeds and discarding them; you don’t want the seeds because they add bitterness. Use the scissors to cut the chiles into strips; you can do this straight into a large skillet.

IMG_9882

Chiles cut into strips and placed in skillet.

Add 2 T cumin seeds to the pan, setting the pan over medium-high heat. Roast the peppers and cumin seeds until they are fragrant and the cumin seeds begin to pop.

 

When making this chili powder, your kitchen will smell amazing from the toasted chiles and cumin seeds! Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the chiles/seeds to cool. While the chiles cool, combine 2 T garlic powder, 1 t smoked paprika, and 1 T dried oregano in a blender.

IMG_9885

Garlic powder, smoked paprika, and dried oregano in blender carafe.

Add the cooled chile/cumin mixture to the blender and blend the mixture to a fine powder. Be sure to let the powder settle for a couple minutes before removing the lid of the blender.

 

IMG_9889

Alton’s chili powder.

The finished chili powder is very fragrant and honestly made my mouth water. It has a rich, deep aroma that far surpasses that of store-bought chili powder. Use Alton’s chili powder in any recipe calling for chili powder, such as his chili recipe below.

Pressure Cooker Chili

Alton uses his homemade chili powder to make his version of chili. Yes, Alton uses a pressure cooker to make his chili, but he also gives instructions in the episode for how to adapt this recipe if you do not have a pressure cooker.

IMG_9890

Ingredients for Alton’s chili: beer, tomato paste, tortilla chips, chipotles and adobo sauce, salsa, cumin, and chili powder.

Three pounds of stew meat go into this chili, and Alton prefers a blend of beef, lamb, and pork. I could not find lamb stew meat at my store, so I used half beef and half pork. Heat a pressure cooker over high heat until hot.

IMG_9894

Heating the pressure cooker.

While the pot heats up, put the stew meat in a large bowl with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and toss to coat.

IMG_9892

Three pounds of stew meat being tossed with Kosher salt.

Add 2 t peanut oil to the meat, and toss again to coat.

IMG_9893

Three pounds of stew meat being tossed with Kosher salt and peanut oil.

Brown the meat in the hot pot, removing it after browning; you will want to do this in three batches, so the pan does not get overcrowded.

When all the meat has been browned, put the empty pot back on the heat and add 12 ounces of medium-bodied beer (I used one of Alton’s beers), scraping to deglaze the pan.

Add 1 T tomato paste to the beer, along with 1 T chili powder, 1 t ground cumin, 3 big handfuls of crumbled tortilla chips, 16 ounces salsa, 2 chopped canned chipotles, 1 T adobo sauce from the chipotles, and the 3 pounds of browned meat.

Put the lid on the cooker and bring it up to low pressure. Maintain low pressure for 25 minutes before releasing the pressure and serving.

IMG_9908

Lid put on pressure cooker.

IMG_9911

Chili after cooking for 25 minutes.

Alton thinks this chili is perfect as it stands, requiring no extra toppings, so I served it his way. I served my chili with a slice of cornbread on the side.

IMG_9912

A bowl of Alton’s chili.

Oh, and for those who do not have a pressure cooker, you can make Alton’s chili in a Dutch oven, letting the chili cook, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 6-24 hours. The flavor of Alton’s chili is pretty fantastic, having just the right amount of heat. The flavor from the toasted chiles blends beautifully with the saltiness of the chips, the sweetness of the tomato paste, and the freshness of the salsa. I found that the beef stew meat was more tender than the pork stew meat, which was slightly chewy. Perhaps a little longer cook would tenderize the pork more. I happen to love lamb, so I wish I could have added some of that to my chili. I also happen to really like beans in my chili, so I would probably opt to add them next time, but that’s really a matter of personal preference. This chili is super flavorful, and if you happen to have a pressure cooker, you get the flavor of a long simmer with a very short cook time. The true hero of this recipe, though, is the homemade chili powder.