Posts Tagged ‘protein’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sliced gyro meat.

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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.

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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.

Whole Fish

I live in the Northwest, where we tend to eat a lot of fish, so I was excited for the 10th episode of Good Eats. I printed out the two recipes posted online and sat down to watch the episode. To my surprise, there was an additional (third) recipe featured in the show. Why this recipe is not posted online I don’t know, but it is for a whole fish cooked in a salt dome. I had never cooked a whole fish before, so I was excited and nervous about this preparation. Alton uses a six pound Striped Bass when he makes this on the show, and I knew we were going to need a considerably smaller fish. Still, when I made this last week, we had my parents over to share in our two pound Red Snapper. I will confess that we had a frozen pizza on hand, just in case I botched the fish!

Alton tells you to use a pound of Kosher salt per pound of fish.

A pound of salt per pound of fish.

A pound of salt per pound of fish.

This is combined with egg whites and some water, and mixed by hand. For our two-pounder, I used two pounds of salt, two egg whites, and a bit less than 1/4 C of water.

Salt with egg whites and water.

Salt with egg whites and water.

Mixed to a mortar-like consistency.

Mixed to a mortar-like consistency.

You spread a 1/2″-thick layer of this salt mixture on your baking sheet as a bed for your fish.

Bed of salt for the fish to bake on.

Bed of salt for the fish to bake on.

Your fish is placed on top of the salt layer, and you fill his cavity with whatever aromatics you have on hand. For my fish, I used fennel, dill, lemon slices, and orange slices.

Dill, fennel, orange, and lemon.

Dill, fennel, orange, and lemon.

Red Snapper stuffed with aromatics.

Red Snapper stuffed with aromatics.

The remaining salt mixture is mounded over the fish’s body, forming a dome with only the head and tail visible. I had a little more salt than I needed, but I still had a healthy layer of salt all over my fish.

Fish in his salt dome, and ready for the oven.

Fish in his salt dome, and ready for the oven.

I baked my fish at 450 degrees, checking it after 20 minutes, and it happened to be done. You want to cook your fish to a temperature of about 130-135 degrees (you can take the temperature of the fish straight through the salt dome).

Post-baking.

Post-baking.

I let my fish rest for about 5 minutes before beginning to remove my salt dome. In the episode, Alton suggests using a mallet or hammer to crack your dome, but I simply used the serrated edge of my pie server (the tool Alton recommends to use for serving the fish) to form a crack along the front of the dome. I was nervous that my dome would shatter into a million messy pieces, but the lid lifted off in one beautiful piece, revealing a perfectly cooked Red Snapper inside.

Salt dome removal.

Salt dome removal.

At this point, you remove the skin from your fish and cut the meat from the top half of the fish. You grab the fish’s tail, give it a twist, and the bones should lift out in one big piece. This actually worked seamlessly for me, and, as a bonus, the head popped right off with the bones, which meant I no longer had that creepy eye looking at me. Once the bones are removed, you have access to the bottom half of the fish, which you can lift right off the skin for easy serving.

Bones came out in one easy twist.

Bones came out in one easy twist.

Completed fish, served with lemon.

Completed fish, served with lemon.

Ted, my parents, and I all thought this fish was a big success. The fish itself was moist, and the flavors of the various aromatics really came through. I particularly tasted the dill and fennel. Ted and my mom commented that they thought the fish had a hint of saltiness, but it was far from salty. Lemon wedges were the only adornment needed. I served the fish alongside couscous with currents and almonds, and a minted pea salad. This recipe intimidated me a bit at first, but it was super easy and delicious, and the presentation is fun. This is one I will be making again.

Pan Fried Fish

The second recipe in the 10th episode is for Pan Fried Fish. For this recipe, you use a fillet of fish, and we happened to have some frozen Copper River Salmon fillets on-hand.

Copper River Salmon fillet.

Copper River Salmon fillet.

You season your fillet with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour.

Fillet seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fillet seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fillet dredged in flour.

Fillet dredged in flour.

Meanwhile, you heat Canola oil in a skillet, along with some butter. Once the butter has ceased foaming, you put your fillet into the pan.

Butter and oil in the pan.

Butter and oil in the pan.

Fish in the pan.

Fish in the pan.

Alton emphasizes that you want to jiggle the pan for a few seconds to keep the fish from sticking. Once the fish is golden, you flip it to the other side, again jiggling the pan. 8-24-2014 021You want to cook the fish just until the muscles start to separate, and then remove it from the pan.

Fish after cooking.

Fish after cooking.

You pour out the fat, add additional butter to the pan, and fry some capers, which will visibly plump.

Caper and lemon sauce.

Caper and lemon sauce.

You remove the pan from the heat, add the juice of a lemon, and pour the caper sauce over the fillet.

Finished pan fried fillet.

Finished pan fried fillet.

Super easy, super fast, and super good! The fish paired with the briny capers and the tangy lemon makes an excellent combination. We tend to grill fish most of the time, but this is a great alternative.

Grilled Salmon Steaks

The final recipe from the 10th episode is for Grilled Salmon Steaks. I typically tend to prefer fillets to steaks simply because you do not have to deal with the bones when you have a nice boneless fillet. I recall a time when I was a freshman in college and I went to a party at a friend’s house. It was a BYOM (that’s Bring Your Own Meat) party. The grill would be fired up, but it was up to you to cook your meat at the party. I was not a huge red meat eater at this time, so I opted for salmon at the grocery store. I made the mistake of getting a salmon steak, rather than a fillet. Not knowing that I needed to prep the steak prior to grilling, I simply threw it on the grill as it was. I remember being very disappointed with the plethora of bones I encountered, and I made every effort to get fillets from there on out. Honestly, that may have been the last time I cooked a salmon steak prior to this recipe of Alton’s.

It was key to watch Alton’s preparation of the salmon steaks, as it was hard to visualize the technique from simply reading the online recipe. To begin, you run your fingers over the surface of the steaks, removing any pin bones with tweezers.

Salmon steaks.

Salmon steaks.

Now, some of these bones came out very easily for me, while others were real buggers. The next step is to trim the cavity sides of the steaks. You do this with a sharp knife, and then use scissors to cut out the bony center. At this point, Alton smoothly and seamlessly glides his blade down the stomach flaps, leaving one side without some skin and the other without some meat. This will allow the excess skin on the one flap to perfectly overlap the skinless meat on the other flap. This step was not quite so effortless for me, and I’m sure I hacked away more of the fish than I needed to, but I made it work.

Trimming the cavity side, and shortening the flaps.

Trimming the cavity side, and shortening the flaps.

After this trimming, you roll the two flaps up into the center of the steak, overlapping the longer flap over the shorter flap, and you secure the round with butcher’s twine. I was actually quite surprised that my steaks looked as good as they did after this step. Mine had a bigger “hole” in the center than Alton’s did, but they otherwise looked pretty good.

Rolled up and secured with twine.

Rolled up and secured with twine.

8-24-2014 005 Once your steaks are tied, you make a seasoning blend of cumin seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, and green peppercorns. This blend is toasted over the grill, just until fragrant.

Cumin, fennel, coriander, and green peppercorns.

Cumin, fennel, coriander, and green peppercorns.

Prior to grilling the steaks, you coat them with oil (along with the grill), sprinkle them with some Kosher salt, and then liberally sprinkle them with a ground blend of the toasted seasoning mix. We had an extra pepper grinder in our kitchen, so I used that to grind the spices.

Oiled and salted steaks.

Oiled and salted steaks.

Steaks with spice blend.

Steaks with spice blend.

Alton tells you to grill the steaks for approximately three minutes per side, but I found that my steaks took a few minutes longer than that. Once done grilling, you simply cut the twine with scissors, and the skin comes right off with the twine.

Steaks after grilling.

Steaks after grilling.

The skin came off easily with the twine.

The skin came off easily with the twine.

Grilled steak.

Grilled steak.

Ted and I were both surprised at how good we thought these steaks were. The fish was moist and the spice blend paired excellently with the salmon. There were almost no bones in either of our steaks. Though the recipe first appeared to be labor-intensive, it really was pretty easy to execute, and with further practice it could be a quick go-to for grilled salmon.

 

I can admit that I experienced some trepidation upon seeing I would need to butterfly a chicken for the 5th episode of Good Eats. As a child, I shrieked in horror upon seeing our family’s naked Thanksgiving turkey sitting on the kitchen counter. Fleeing the room, I was chased by my older brother who had a handful of giblets. Ever since, I have really not liked the appearance of uncooked fowl. Really, though, can anyone truly say they find raw chicken appetizing? It’s an odd shade of yellowish pink, slimy, slightly sticky, and covered by prickly yellow skin. Still, amazingly, the cooked version can be quite tasty.

The smallest chicken we could get at our grocery store was five pounds, while Alton’s recipe calls for a three or four pound bird. I made my paste of peppercorns, garlic, salt, lemon zest, and olive oil, and filled my roasting pan with carrots, onions, and celery. Then it was time to face the bird… DUN, DUN, DUNNN!!!

Veggies in the roasting pan.

Veggies in the roasting pan.

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Garlic, pepper, lemon, salt, and oil paste.

Garlic, pepper, lemon, salt, and oil paste.

I placed my chicken (I called her “Sally”) on my board and cut down both sides of the back bone. This part was actually pretty easy. The keel bone, however, proved to be harder to remove than it was when Alton did it on the show. I pressed down on her until she was flat, loosened her skin, and spread the paste under her skin. Then I oiled her up and placed her on top of the veggies in the roasting pan.

Sally.

Sally.

Butterflying Sally.

Butterflying Sally.

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Into the oven.

Into the oven.

My oven rack was 8 inches from the broiler, as recommended in both the episode and online recipe. This proved to be too close, as Sally’s breasts were getting too dark too quickly. It was fine after lowering her to the very bottom rack.

Ready to flip. Breast got a little too dark.

Ready to flip. Breast got a little too dark.

The online recipe tells you to check the bird after 10 minutes of cooking. The episode, on the other hand, tells you to check after 18 minutes. Since my bird was larger, I checked her after 18 minutes, and decided to let ‘er go for another couple minutes before flipping her over. Her derriere took considerably longer also, and she ended up cooking for a total of nearly an hour before she was at 165 degrees.

Ready to eat.

Ready to eat.

While Sally rested in the shade of a foil-covered bowl, I deglazed the roasting pan and made the jus. I cut Sally into quarters, making incisions to catch the jus, drizzled her with jus, and topped her with a lemon wheel.

Making the jus.

Making the jus.

The final plate.

The final plate.

Ted declared Alton’s chicken to be delicious, and I think it’s safe to say that he is happy I am pursuing this project.