Posts Tagged ‘meat’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Salt pork, onions, and mushrooms added to sauce.

Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Three pounds of stew meat being tossed with Kosher salt.

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

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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.

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Lid put on pressure cooker.

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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.

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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.

 

Alton Brown fans probably know that he is going to back on our TVs starting Monday. He is going to revisit Good Eats, revamping the old recipes he is unhappy with, and adding new methods, techniques, and information. I am anxious to see which recipes he chooses to alter, as there have certainly been some less than perfect recipes along the way. Of course, there have also been some fantastic recipes that have become mainstays in our house. Now, back to my personal assessments of Alton’s original Good Eats.

Beef Paillard

Alton’s beef paillard calls for a good cut of meat, namely beef tenderloin. To serve four people, he calls for a pound of beef. Since it was just the two of us, I had the butcher cut us a couple steaks from the tenderloin, rather than buying a larger cut of tenderloin. Prior to cooking, place your meat in the freezer for two to three hours, as this will make it easier to cut thin slices. When your meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer and slice it into thin slices; Alton used an electric knife for this, but I used a sharp chef’s knife.

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Beef tenderloin, after freezing for two hours.

Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, spritzing the beef and the plastic with water (this decreases friction and prevents tearing of the meat and plastic). Pound the meat until it is very thin – probably about 1/8-inch thick.

When all of your meat slices have been pounded, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

While the skillet heats, brush both sides of the meat slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with pepper and Kosher salt.

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Paillards of beef tenderloin, brushed with vegetable oil and seasoned with pepper and Kosher salt.

Once the skillet is hot, invert the pan and brush the back of the skillet with vegetable oil. Place the beef paillards on the inverted skillet and they should begin sizzling immediately. Alton said his beef took about 10 seconds per side, but I would say that mine took about 30 seconds per side. I would err on the side of caution here, as you really do not want to overcook the beef.

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Inverted cast iron skillet.

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Paillards added to oiled skillet.

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Paillards, flipped after cooking on one side.

Transfer the beef slices to plates, drizzle them with olive oil, and garnish them with some capers, shaved Parmesan, and greens.

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Alton’s beef paillards with olive oil, capers, greens, and shaved Parmesan.

With this recipe, my biggest concern was that I would overcook my beef, but it turned out perfectly. The meat was amazingly tender and seemed to melt in your mouth. And, Alton’s garnishes of olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and greens were spot-on, complimenting the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. The salty nuttiness of the Parmesan, along with the tang of the capers was just perfect with the fruitiness of the olive oil. The best part of this recipe is that it is worthy of a special occasion, yet you can put it together in a very short period of time. This is a recipe that, in my opinion, needs no revamping.

Turkey Piccata

While I had previously eaten chicken piccata (piccata means “sharp”), I had never before had a version with turkey. Alton’s recipe calls for a whole turkey breast, which, surprisingly, was just impossible for me to find. I had to settle for some pre-sliced turkey breast, as that was all I could find after going to numerous stores. If you are able to find a whole turkey breast, slice it into half-inch slices. Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap, spritz them with water, and pound them until they are twice their original size.

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Slice of turkey placed between sheets of plastic wrap.

Season the top sides of your pounded slices of turkey with Kosher salt and pepper, and place them, seasoned sides down, in a pie plate of flour. Season the second sides of your slices of turkey and coat them also with flour, shaking off any excess.

Next, heat 4 T unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

When the butter has melted, add the floured turkey slices to the pan, cooking them until golden (about two minutes per side).

Move the cooked turkey slices to a foil packet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.

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Cooked turkey transferred to foil packet.

To the pan in which you cooked your turkey, add 2 T chopped shallots, cooking for about a minute.

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Shallots added to the pan.

Add 1/2 C white wine and 1/3 C fresh lemon juice to the pan, allowing it to simmer for two to three minutes.

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Wine and lemon juice added to the pan.

Finally, whisk 2 T butter into the sauce.

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Butter, stirred into the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the warm turkey slices, garnishing with parsley, capers, and peppercorns, if desired.

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Capers added to finish the sauce.

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Turkey piccata.

I had mixed feelings about this recipe because I found the sauce to be tangy and delightful, but my turkey was tough. I see that Alton tells you to cook the turkey for only one minute per side in the online recipe, but he cooked his turkey for two minutes per side in the episode, which seemed to be too long. I also think my turkey piccata would likely have been better if I could have found a whole turkey breast and sliced it just prior to cooking. I’m tempted to give this one another try because the sauce was smooth, buttery, and full of lemon tang. I would recommend opting for chicken if a whole turkey breast is unavailable.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is something I remember my mom making once or twice. She viewed it as a special occasion dish, as her mother served it to her father’s business clients who came to dinner. Chicken Kiev is actually of French, rather than Russian, origin, but was brought to Russia by the French in the 18th century. I remember my mom sometimes being frustrated with her Chicken Kiev because the filling would leak out during cooking. Having never made it before, I was hoping Alton’s recipe would keep my filling intact. This is a recipe that you will want to start at least two hours prior to serving, or even the night prior. The first step of this recipe is making a compound butter by combining a stick of softened unsalted butter, 1 t dried parsley (I used fresh, so I used twice as much), 1 t dried tarragon, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper in a stand mixer.

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Butter, parsley, dried tarragon, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Place the compound butter on wax paper, roll it into a log, and place it in the refrigerator to firm.

After the butter has firmed up, place a chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap, spritzing the chicken and plastic with water.

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Chicken breast in spritzed plastic.

Pound the chicken until it is thin enough to roll. Chicken breasts are fairly thick, so it is tedious to get the chicken thin. Place a couple slices of compound butter in the center of the pounded chicken, along with 1 T panko bread crumbs.

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Pounded chicken topped with compound butter and panko bread crumbs.

Roll the chicken over the butter and bread crumbs by folding the longest edge of chicken over the filling and then folding in the ends. Continue rolling the chicken, using the plastic to help you roll and keeping the ends tucked inside. Wrap the rolled chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

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Rolled chicken.

When ready to cook your chicken, roll the chicken in a pie plate containing two eggs beaten with 1 t water.

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Chilled chicken being rolled in egg wash.

Next, roll the chicken in a plate of panko bread crumbs.

Put a half-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it to 375 degrees. Once hot, add the breaded chicken rolls to the pan, cooking for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a rack, letting it rest for five minutes.

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Chicken resting after cooking.

I found that my chicken took considerably longer than 10 minutes to reach 165 degrees inside. You do get some carryover cooking, so I think it is best to pull the chicken from the oil when the internal temperature hits 158-160. Otherwise, your chicken may be slightly overcooked by the time you cut into it.

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Alton’s Chicken Kiev.

We were pretty happy with Alton’s Chicken Kiev. His method for rolling the chicken worked well, and kept the filling intact for the most part (my one roll split a little bit). It is easier to roll the chicken if you get it really thin, so try to get it as thin as possible before filling/rolling. Also, don’t skimp on the chilling time for the rolled chicken, as the chicken really needs that time to maintain its shape. The panko bread crumbs gave Alton’s chicken a really great crispy crust, and the filling of the chicken had lots of anise-like flavor from the tarragon. I do wish that the compound butter would have melted a bit more, though. I just wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way to 165, as my chicken was just a tad overcooked. My mom can’t really cook anymore because of her Parkinson’s, but I think she likely would have adopted Alton’s Chicken Kiev recipe as her go-to.

In this episode of Good Eats, Alton tackles a couple of “man food” recipes. What exactly is man food? Well, judging from the two recipes in this episode, I take it that man food is either composed of meat, deep-fried, or both. This girl was certainly happy to give Alton’s manly recipes a try.

Corn Dogs

While I can truly appreciate a good hot dog (especially a Chicago dog), corn dogs have never really done much for me; it comes down to the corn batter. Typical corn dog batter is chewy, dense, and overly sweet. I was hopeful that Alton could improve upon the carnival classic with his recipe. To make his corn dogs, pour a gallon of peanut oil in a deep fryer (or in a Dutch oven if you are like me and don’t have a deep fryer), heating it to 375 degrees.

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Peanut oil, heating to 375.

While the oil heats, combine the dry ingredients for the batter in a large bowl:  1 C cornmeal, 1/4 t baking soda, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 2 t Kosher salt, and 1 C flour.

In a second bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:  2 T minced/seeded jalapeno, 1/3 C grated onion, 8.5 ounces of canned creamed corn, and 1 1/2 C buttermilk.

Note #1:  This recipe makes a lot of batter. I halved the recipe, made five corn dogs, and still had a lot of batter remaining. Note #2:  You can complete the recipe through this step ahead of time, but you cannot move onto the next step until you are ready to cook.

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Dry ingredients on the left and wet ingredients on the right, waiting to be combined once ready to cook.

Once ready to cook, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. Pour the batter into a pint glass and set it aside for 10 minutes.

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Corn dog batter, poured in a pint glass and left to sit for 10 minutes.

While the batter rests, you can prepare your hot dogs (Alton prefers all-beef hot dogs). To prep the dogs, insert unseparated chopsticks or thick wooden skewers into your hot dogs, and roll the hot dogs in cornstarch, using your hand to remove any excess; you want a very thin coating of cornstarch.

Dip each hot dog into the pint glass of batter and then into the hot oil.

Alton says it will take four to five minutes to fry the corn dogs, but I found that my dogs were golden and crispy in about two minutes. Remove the corn dogs and place them on a rack. Serve the corn dogs with mustard and/or ketchup.

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Alton’s corn dogs.

These corn dogs were absolutely the best corn dogs I have ever had, and I will make them again. The batter was light, crispy, and slightly spicy, and the hot dogs remained juicy. The batter really reminded me of Alton’s batter for fish and chips, which I also loved. I highly recommend these, as they are very easy to prepare and take very little time, aside from heating the oil. Whether you already love corn dogs, or are skeptical that you could love corn dogs, these will be the best corn dogs of your life.

Mini Man Burgers

Since my husband is from the midwest, I’ve long heard how White Castle is the classic place to get sliders, and I have even visited a White Castle once or twice. I was interested to see what Ted would think of Alton’s take on sliders. To make proper sliders, Alton recommends using an electric griddle. We don’t have a true electric griddle, but we do have a panini press that has griddle plates, so I used that. Set your griddle temperature to 350 degrees and preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Wrap your slider buns in foil and place them in the warm oven while you prep the meat.

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Slider buns to heat in the oven.

Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper, placing a pound of ground chuck (20% fat) on top.

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Meat placed on parchment-lined pan.

Top the meat with a layer of plastic wrap and use a bottle to roll the meat until it fills the bottom of the pan.

To season the meat, combine 1/2 t onion powder, 1/2 t garlic powder, 1/2 t black pepper, and 1/2 t Kosher salt, and sprinkle it all over the surface of the meat.

Next, use the parchment paper to fold the meat in half onto itself, pressing it together with your fingers.

Using a pizza cutter, cut the meat into eight equal rectangles, and cook the patties on the preheated griddle for two to three minutes per side.

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Meat, cut into 8 rectangles.

While the meat cooks, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on your warm burger buns, as this will keep the buns from getting soggy.

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Heated bun spread with mayo.

Transfer the cooked burgers to the buns and serve with condiments. We ate our sliders with oven fries on the side, and I opted to put cheese and mustard on mine.

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An Alton slider with fries.

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An Alton slider with cheese and mustard.

Alton’s sliders were pretty darn tasty, with the patties being very well-seasoned, juicy, and flavorful. There’s also something kind of fun about eating sliders since they’re so small, don’t you think? Ted thought these sliders were a good representation of the real midwestern thing. Would he have them again? You betcha.

Skirt Steak

The 91st episode of Good Eats strives to provide recipes that elevate lesser cuts of meat to higher levels, starting with skirt steak. When purchasing skirt steak, it is ideal to get an “inside skirt steak,” though I could not find a steak labeled this way. In fact, I had to visit three grocery stores to find any skirt steak.

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My skirt steak.

Since Alton uses his skirt steak to make fajitas (my grandma used to pronounce fajitas “fa-jy-tas,” which I always thought sounded like a venereal disease), a 2 1/2 pound steak will serve eight people. Skirt steak is ideal for marinades, and it really only needs to marinate for an hour or so. For Alton’s skirt steak marinade, combine in a blender 1/2 C olive oil, 1/3 C soy sauce, 4 scallions, 2 big cloves of garlic, the juice of two limes, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cumin, and 3 T dark brown sugar.

Place your steak in a large ziplock bag and add the marinade, massaging it into the meat. Place the steak in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Steak and marinade in plastic bag for an hour.

To cook a skirt steak, Alton recommends using a charcoal grill, but the odd part of his cooking method is that he has you cook the steak directly on the charcoal for 60 seconds per side (he recommends using a hair dryer to blow off any ash prior to grilling). Once cooked, wrap your steak in a double layer of heavy foil and let it rest.

Meanwhile, place a cast iron skillet on your charcoal, allowing it to heat up.

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Cast iron skillet placed on coals to heat.

While your skillet heats, chop one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper, and one white onion, tossing them in vegetable oil. Add the oiled vegetables to the heated skillet, cooking them until soft and slightly charred.

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Sautéed veggies.

Next, slice your steak across the grain, as thinly as possible; skirt steak can be chewy and this will help to break up the meat fibers. Place the sliced meat back in the foil packet with its juices, tossing to coat.

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Steak after cooking more in the oven and resting again.

Finally, serve the sliced steak in warmed flour tortillas, along with the sautéed vegetables.

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Steak and veggies in tortillas for fajitas.

I have a few things to say about this recipe. First off, I cooked my steak directly on the charcoal for a minute on each side, and it was completely raw in the center, even after resting. I had to finish my steak in the oven.

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Steak after resting – RAW.

My second criticism is that a fair amount of ash stuck to my steak, which you could somewhat taste (and added a gritty texture). I will say that I did not use high-quality charcoal, which was probably part of the problem. If I did this again, I would use natural, high-quality charcoal. Finally, I still found my skirt steak to be extremely chewy, which was really disappointing. I’m not sure I would try this again, though I will say the marinade was fantastic, imparting the meat with really good flavor. Still, the raw steak, ashy flavor, and chewy meat outweigh the good marinade. Maybe I will try this marinade on a different cut of meat.

Sirloin Steak

After feeling like Alton’s skirt steak was sort of a flop, I was hopeful that his take on sirloin steak would be a bit better. When purchasing sirloin steak, look for cuts that are labeled as “top sirloin,” “top butt steak,” “center cut sirloin,” or “hip sirloin steak.” Essentially, as Alton puts it, the best sirloin steaks are the furthest away from the hooves and horns. For this recipe, you want a steak that is about 1 1/2 pounds. My steak actually came in two pieces.

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My sirloin steak. It came in two separate pieces.

The key with cooking sirloin steak is to start with low heat and finish with high heat. Begin by positioning two oven racks in the lowest two positions, placing a layer of foil, or a sheet pan, on the bottom rack to catch anything that drips. Preheat your broiler. As Alton says, a broiler is nothing but an upside-down grill. While your oven preheats, oil your steak and season it with salt and pepper.

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Steak, oiled and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Once your oven is hot, place your steak directly on the second lowest oven rack, and place a piece of foil in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar; this will keep the broiler from cycling off. Cook the steak for five minutes.

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Steaks, placed directly on second lowest rack for 5 minutes.

After five minutes, flip the steak, place the foil back in the door, and cook it for five more minutes.

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Steaks, flipped over after five minutes. Left to broil for 5 more minutes before moving up to second highest rack position.

Next, flip the steak again, moving its rack up to the second highest position (be sure to move the drip tray up also). Place the foil in the door and cook the steak for three minutes. After three minutes, flip the steak again, place the foil in the door, and cook the steak for a final three minutes. *I failed to get photos of my steak after I moved it to the second highest rack because my dog gets scared whenever the broiler is on, and especially when I open the oven door. Why? I have no idea. Anyway, remove the steak from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

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Finished steak, resting.

Slice the steak on the bias and serve.

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Finished steak, sliced on the bias.

I served my steak over a green salad and we were quite happy with this one.

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Finished steak, served over salad.

Alton’s cooking method for this is pretty spot-on, though you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly for your steak size and broiler. My resulting steak was pink in the center and tender. This is about as easy as it gets for cooking a decent, fairly inexpensive, weeknight steak. Alton redeemed himself with this one.

Breakfast Sausage

Sausage, I think, is one of those foods that very few people ever attempt to make at home, partially because it seems a bit daunting and because there are lots of decent options readily available. We do not eat a lot of sausage because we tend to try to eat a pretty healthy diet, but who doesn’t like some sausage every now and again? Once again, my Good Eats project pushed me to make something at home that I may otherwise not have tried, and it let me finally put to use the KitchenAid sausage attachment that has been sitting in the basement for five years.

A classic bulk breakfast sausage was Alton’s first project in this episode, and the only special equipment you really need for this is a meat grinder. Alton emphasizes that a food processor is not ideal for grinding fresh sausage because it results in sausage with a very dense texture. A food processor is suitable, however, for cured sausages. To make Alton’s breakfast sausage, begin by cubing two pounds of boneless pork butt and a half pound of pork fat back in to 1-inch pieces. I had to go to the local butcher shop to get my fat back.

Add the following to the cubed meat:  2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 2 t chopped fresh sage, 2 t chopped fresh thyme, 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T light brown sugar, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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Herbs/spices for sausage, clockwise from upper left: Kosher salt, black pepper, fresh sage, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the meat and spices thoroughly with your hands and chill the mixture for at least an hour; you want the fat to be cold prior to grinding, so it stays evenly dispersed in the sausage.

Once your meat has chilled, run it through your meat grinder of choice (using a fine die), one handful at a time.

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Bulk breakfast sausage.

Wrap the sausage in butcher paper, if you have it, and refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze it for several months. I vacuum-sealed my sausage, freezing it for later use. When ready to cook your sausage, form the sausage into patties of desired size, and cook them in a pan over medium-low heat until they are no longer pink in the center.

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Breakfast sausage patties, cooking over medium-low heat until no longer pink.

Oh, and to clean the meat grinder, Alton suggests running stale bread through the grinder prior to washing it. We tried this sausage for breakfast one morning, eating it alongside English muffins.

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Alton’s breakfast sausage.

I found this sausage to really resemble the spicy bulk Jimmy Dean sausage my dad always ate when I was a kid. This sausage has lots of flavor from the variety of spices it contains, and is moderately spicy. The hardest part of making this bulk sausage is cubing the meat, which really is not much effort. All in all, this recipe taught me that bulk sausage is super easy to make and worth the effort.

Italian Sausage

The second recipe in this episode is for Italian sausage, which means you will need to have collagen sausage casings and a sausage-stuffing attachment. I bought my casings on Amazon.

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Collagen sausage casing.

The process for this sausage is very similar to that of the breakfast sausage above until you get to the stuffing portion. Fennel is a prominent spice in Italian sausage, so you first need to toast 1 1/2 t of fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Grind the fennel in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add 2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t pepper, 1 T chopped parsley, and 2 pounds of cubed pork shoulder.

Toss the spices with the meat and refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to chill the fat.IMG_5235 Once chilled, grind the meat, one handful at a time, into a chilled bowl.

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Ground sausage.

Next, install the stuffing nozzle on your mixer, loading sausage into the hopper. Turn the mixer on, allowing it to run until sausage starts to come out of the nozzle.

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Ground sausage, loaded into the hopper.

Using a wooden spoon handle as a guide, load the collagen casing onto the nozzle (all the way to the far end of the casing), twisting the far end and clamping it with a clothes pin.

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Collagen sausage casing, loaded onto nozzle. Casing needs to be pushed all the way on. Excuse the somewhat phallic photograph.

Turn the mixer on at medium speed, using the plunger to push the sausage through while holding the casing with your other hand. This process is a lot easier with an additional set of hands. Once your casing is sufficiently stuffed, tie the end of the casing with twine.

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Filled casing.

It is now time to form links by twisting your desired width of sausage away from you (Alton did a hand-width portion). Form the second link by twisting the long part of the sausage the opposite direction. Be careful not to twist the links too much or the casing will tear; I found this out the hard way. Once your links are formed, twist them all into an accordion shape, keeping them all attached.

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Links formed.

Age the links in the refrigerator for at least two hours, and up to three days, before cooking or freezing. I will tell you that Alton makes the sausage stuffing/forming look really easy in the episode, while I found there to be a substantial learning curve. To cook Alton’s sausage, place your links in a lidded pan with 1/4-inch of water, and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes have passed, remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking your links, turning them every couple minutes until they are golden brown and have an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees.

As far as serving the sausages, Alton suggests serving them on buns with mustard.

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Italian sausage on a bun with mustard.

Though these sausages were a bit of a pain to form, we were really happy with their flavor. The toasted fennel flavor is prominent in these sausages and they taste as good as any Italian sausage you can buy.