Thursday, July 17, 2014

Teriyaki Beef Kabobs


Printable version
There is something awesome about food on a stick. I’m not sure what makes it so awesome – all I know is no matter how old I get, I’m still a sucker for corn dogs and popcycles.

One of my favorite stick foods is kabobs cooked on the grill. I make them differently depending on the meat I’m using. When I opt for chicken or pork, I separate the veggies from the protein so that I can cook the meat all the way through and not over-cook the veggies in the process. I don’t worry about that when I make beef kabobs. I like my steak rare to medium-rare which is the perfect amount of time to make the veggies al denté, or a little bit crunchy.

For this recipe, I use a New York Strip steak for the meat along with red peppers, red onion and mushrooms. I brush on teriyaki sauce for a marinade and season it with salt and pepper. After a nice sear on the grill, the end result is juicy chunks of steak with a nice variety of vegetables – served all together on a stick!

BEHIND THIS BITE
Teriyaki Beef Kabobs

In my 12-plus years living in New York City I devoured a lot of street cart food – it’s as convenient as fast food is in the Midwest. My first apartment was near the 36th Ave. Stop on the N train in Astoria. Right underneath the stop (the N train is elevated in Queens) was a small Irish bar named McGrath's that was in business for more than 80 years, but closed in the summer of 2001.

I used to stop there for beers on my way home before it closed its doors. Every Friday and Saturday night an Eastern European man would set up his Kabob cart just outside the bar near the stairs to the train. He didn’t have much variety. Just an all-beef kabob with a piece of toasted bread, which really hit the spot after a few cold ones.

I’ll never forget being at McGraths one night when I noticed one of the regular patrons facing the corner and crunched over. She was a rather large lady and her body language seem to indicate something was wrong and she didn't want anyone to notice. I approached her to see if everything was ok, when she turned from her hidden spot in the corner I noticed she was chewing a mouthful of something with an empty kabob stick in one hand and a toasted piece of bread in the other. She nodded to indicate everything was ok and seemed a little embarrassed.

I had interrupted her clandestine swaray with a beef kabob from the snack peddler beneath the train stop!

I felt as though I had accidentally walked in on a roomate having sex — Which is comparable to the rush one would get from a grilled beef kabob after a few pints of beer near the 36th street stop in Astoria.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Teriyaki Beef Kabobs

Serves 2; 30 minutes
1 lb New York Strip, steak cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz Baby bella mushrooms
1/2 Red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 C Tyriaki sauce
8 Skewers

Assemble and grill
Alternately place onion, peppers, mushroom and steak on skewers. Brush with teriyaki sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste. Let marinate 20 minutes then cook to desired doneness on a prepared grill. Rest 10 minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Easy Skillet Baked Beans


Printable version
When cooking outside most people think of a cut of meat being seared over flames, but there are a number of side dishes that can be made with a skillet on a grill or fire as well. One such dish is baked beans, which can be baked, but more often is a dish of beans that are stewed in a sauce. The Native Americans used to prepare them with maple sugar and bear fat in a pit lined with hot stones. Early colonists replaced the pit with a pot, the bear fat with hog fat and the dish evolved into the baked beans that we have today, according to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.

For this recipe, I make a version of baked beans that isn’t baked at all. The entire dish can be prepared in a skillet on a stove top or grill. It features canned cannellini beans, bacon and diced tomatoes that are held together by a mixture of common sauces and heated through. The dish comes together quickly and is a perfect compliment to grilled meat on a warm summer night out on the patio.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Easy Skillet Baked Beans

During the summer most of my recipes evolve around the grill – mostly sauces and rubs for different cuts of meat that are cooked over a fire. Sprinkled in with all the grill-centric recipes are sides that go with such creations — Baked beans is one of those sides.

This recipe is super simple and is intended to be made in a cast iron skillet over the flames, right next to the protein as it sears on the grill grates. Baked beans are really an ideal side dish at a barbecue because the beans are cooked in a saucy bath that is much like barbecue sauce in the first place – in fact, this recipe actually has barbecue sauce as one of the ingredients.

I had been contemplating a baked beans recipe for some time and I’m glad I’ve finally got down to publishing one — right in time for the hottest part of summer in Indiana.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Easy Skillet Baked Beans

Serves 4; 25 minutes
4 strips Bacon diced
1 C Red onion diced
2 Jalapenos seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1/4 C Brown sugar
1/4 C Barbecue sauce
1/4 C Mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 can Tomatoes diced
2 cans Cannellini beans
drained, rinsed

Sauté bacon, vegetables
In a skillet over medium-high heat render bacon until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add onion and jalapeno, cook until soft 4 to 5 minutes, add garlic cook 1 minutes more.

Make sauce, finish

Stir in brown sugar, barbecue sauce, mustard and worsestershire to mixture, bring to a simmer, stirring often. 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in tomatoes and beans, heat mixture through stirring often. 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Grilled Asparagus Attempt 1


Yesterday, I attempted to document one of my go-to favorites – grilled asparagus. Any time I'm cooking a bunch of stuff on the grill at a gathering I grab a bundle, toss them in oil, salt and pepper and sear them lightly on the grill. I put them out first for people to snack on as I'm preparing more complex stuff and they're always a hit. I cook them just enough to brighten up the green color and soften them slightly. There is still lots of crunch left in the final product and they can be eaten like pretzel sticks.

They're simple and delicious!

So simple in fact, that I have avoided documenting them because there isn't much to document. As I shot the asparagus I knew that this was going to need much more planning than I had prepared for. The photos turned out ok but nothing I could use for a print recipe infographic. I had never photographed asparagus and I learned from my experience yesterday that this vegetable is gonna take some finesse to look good in front of the lens. I did get the shot above, but I was lucky to get that at best.

Rather than wait until I get a better handle on photographing asparagus, I'll give out the recipe – I can't keep it a secret any longer! It's so simple though that I'm not sure if it's a secret or even a recipe, all I know is that this is the way to eat asparagus!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Appetizer, 30 minutes
1 bundle Asparagus
olive oil, salt and pepper

Toss asparagus in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a prepared grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until just starting to soften and green color brightens. Remove from grill, lest rest a few minutes, then serve.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chicken and Cannellini Bean Soup


I made this soup for a gathering of 15 to 20 people. I had some extra bacon and a bundle of kale to get rid of and I knew a yummy soup was the place to put them. I didn't intend on sharing this soup here but after I tasted it I knew I had too. The rich and delicate broth was just to good to keep to myself.

I did something different with this soup that I had never done before. I had a good amount of brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan that the steam from the onion and green pepper couldn't bring off the bottom, so I poured in a quarter cup of white wine. It helped me scrape up the bits for extra flavor, then I let the wine cook out before finishing the soup. Not only did I get the extra flavor from the brown bits but the white wine added a hint of sweetness to the overall flavor and really sent it to the next level. One of the guys at the gathering had three bowls and would have went for more had I not run out. His excuse for eating so much was that he couldn't get enough of the broth.

Mission accomplished!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Chicken and Cannellini Bean Soup

Serves 15 to 20, 1 hour, 30 minutes
3 lbs Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into cubes
6 strips Bacon, diced
2 Sweet onions, diced
2 Green peppers, diced
1/4 C Garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 C White wine
3 can Cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
3 C Kale, shredded, torn
8 C chicken broth

Brown chicken, make base
In a large pot over medium heat brown chicken thighs until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Add bacon and cook until almost crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Add onion, green pepper and Italian seasoning, cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes add garlic and cook 1 minutes more or until fragrant.

Deglaze, finish
Add white wine and scrap all brown bits from bottom of pan. Let simmer until wine cooks out 5 to 6 minutes. Return chicken to pot and add beans, broth and kale to pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook for at least 1 hour. Spoon into bowls and serve.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Asian-Style Chicken Wings


Printable version
I think my favorite charcoal grilled snack or appetizer would have to be chicken wings. I enjoy them fried, but I really love them cooked over the coals for two reasons. First is the grilled flavor – charcoal grilled chicken is probably my favorite meat behind a perfectly cooked ribeye steak. Second is the endless amount of sauces or spice rubs that can be applied to take their flavor to a different level. I rarely make my wings the traditional way, or buffalo style, and douse them in a hot sauce and butter mixture. I like to get creative with the sauce.

For this recipe, the wing coating features the fruity and sweet hoisin sauce, spice from sriracha and the aromatic ginger and garlic that all together provides an Asian-style flavor.       Like most chicken wing recipes, they’re messy! I ate them by myself for lunch, and I’m glad I was alone because the site of it would have given small children nightmares for years to come. I practically needed a fire hose to clean up the delicious mess.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Asian-Style Chicken Wings

It seems that boneless wings are becoming more and more popular at restaurants. They’re easy to devour with no worries of a bone getting in the way and they're just as tasty as traditional bone-in wings with the same type of white meat. For some reason though, I still lean toward the traditional bone-in style wings.

There is something much more interactive about having to pick all the meat from the bones rather than just tossing them back like popcorn. The effort to eat them seems to create a more enjoyable culinary experience for me. I could be crazy, well, in fact, I know I’m crazy – but that is just how I like my wings. Also, when cooking them it’s easy to tell when the wings are finished because the meat will recede a little from the bone making for a nice visual cue announcing the wings are ready to scarf down.

Now, I’m not gonna kick someone out of the kitchen for making boneless wings, I just have a slight preference for the traditional variety.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Asian-Style Chicken Wings

Appetizer for 4, main course for 2; 35 minutes
1 1/2 to 2 lbs Chicken wings
2 tsp Ginger minced
2 tsp Garlic minced
2 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs Honey
1 Tbs Sriracha sauce
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 tsp Rice vinegar

Grill wings
Prepare grill for cooking.
Season wings with salt and pepper to taste, then grill wings until cooked through, turning two or three times during cooking, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove wings from grill and let rest 5 to 10 minutes.

Make sauce, toss wings
While wings rest, in a sauce pan over medium heat, saute garlic and ginger in a little olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in hoisin sauce, honey, sriracha, sesame oil and rice vinegar, heat to a simmer then remove. In a bowl, toss the wings and sauce together. Pile on a plate and serve.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Zesty Burger Sauce


Printable version
One way to put a twist on a burger and turn it from good to great is by creating a custom sauce for it. The Big Mac from McDonald’s is one of the most famous burgers in the world and part of its success is the “special sauce” that adorns it.

The majority of the time when I make a sandwich, I grab a salad dressing rather than ketchup or mustard to top it just to ad another layer of flavor. I’ll use ranch dressing on any cold meat sandwich because, to me, ranch is the bacon of the sauce world – it makes everything it’s used on taste better.

For this recipe, I make a custom sauce for burgers or any sandwich made with beef. It features horseradish which provides a spicy, aromatic quality that compliments the bold flavor of the meat. Garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne pepper add zest and spice to the sauce while mayonnaise and sour cream form the base and provide the creaminess. All together, this sauce will take any burger or roast beef sandwich to the next level of yum.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Zesty Burger Sauce

Now that summer is here and the majority of my cooking involves a grill or fire, I’m noticing a pattern. The real creative part of what I have been putting out involves compliments or additions to grilled meat – like this sauce. I make lots of spice rubs, sauces, marinades and side dishes when I’m grilling and for the last couple months that has been the focus of the food I have documented.

I love working the grill, but that is just a small part of making a great plate of food over the fire – a perfectly seasoned and cooked steak doesn’t need anything else to be amazing, which is why the compliments are so important. They must stand up to the meat and this sauce does just that. It was good enough to win the praises of my niece despite the fact that it's spicy. Usually she doesn’t like anything with even a hint of heat, but she liked this enough to eat an entire burger slathered with it.

If you like horsey sauce from Arby’s this is a must try.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Zesty Burger Sauce

Makes 1 cup; 1 hour
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Sour cream
2 Tbs Horseradish
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 tsp Garlic powder
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper

Make sauce, refrigerate
In a bowl mix together mayo, sour cream, horseradish, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Once thoroughly combined, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to meld. Use on burgers or beef sandwiches.

Relay For Life Salsa

Salsa verde and Salsa Rojo
For the last couple of years I have donated my time and food to the Relay For Life cancer walk in Whitley County, Indiana. My cousin Tammy is a cancer survivor and is a big contributor and driving force behind the fundraiser. Last year, I made 25 lbs of pulled pork for the Relay's survivor dinner. It always feels great to contribute to such a good cause.

This year, when Tammy ask me if I wanted to pitch in, she told me they were making a taco bar. I knew instantly what I wanted to contribute – authentic Mexican style taco sauce! I decided to make a salsa verde as well as a salsa roja and I wanted to charcoal grill the vegetables to add further depth to what I think is mandatory for a great taco - GREAT TACO SAUCE!

The night before, I bought the fresh vegetables and took them to the family campground where I crashed for the night. In the morning I woke up, brewed some coffee and fired up the charcoal. I grilled the vegetables and blended everything down in two batches making a quart of each type of salsa - plus a little extra for my own tacos later that night.

Fresh off the grill
I decided to go mild with these batches. I love hot salsa, but I have found the majority of people at large dinner events prefer mild to no spice. It almost disappoints me that so many people are afraid of the heat, but I accept it and make the adjustment when cooking for crowds.

I was really happy with how this salsa turned out, the smoky grill added an extra element of flavor to the salsas and the final product had a smooth and silky consistency. One thing I have been doing the last few times I have made taco sauce is letting it liquify in the blender for a good amount of time. I pulse it at first, then turn it to high and let it go for 5 or 6 minutes, I also add a little water to thin it out, which really makes it nice and easy to spoon onto the tacos!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPES
Salsa roja
4 medium Tomatoes, quartered
4 medium Onion, quatered
6 cloves Garlic
2 Jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
4 Ancho chilis, toasted
1/2 C Cilantro
2 Limes, zest and juice
2 Tbs honey
Water as needed

Salsa verde
10 tomatillos halved
4 medium Onion, quartered
6 cloves Garlic
2 Jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
1/2 C Cilantro
2 Limes, zest and juice
2 Tbs honey
Water as needed

Toss vegetables in a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill until wilted and cooked soft. 8 to 10 minutes, rotating and moving around as needed. Put grilled vegetables in blender along with all other ingredients and blend until liquified, 5 to 6 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.