Thursday, February 19, 2015

Homemade Chicken Stock

Printable version
To take soup or other broth based dishes to a different level on the flavor scale, it should should feature a homemade broth or stock, like the recipe featured in this post. The end results can be restaurant quality recipes sure to warm the soul.

I recently found leg quarters on sale for 99 cents a pound. At first I thought of roasting them but by the time they hit the bottom of the shopping cart, I knew a batch of my own chicken stock was in order.

I spent my next day off cooking the quarters down into a yummy liquid then dividing and storing the results. I was left with a gallon of goodness that I portioned into four 1-quart containers. Three of which I froze for use later and the other I used to make a batch classic Mexican red chili sauce.

Mounting the TV

This broth was a great project for a cool winter day and a nice break from the customizing and renovating I have been doing in my new place over the last few months. As much as I have talked about the home improvements in my last few posts, I thought I should share more of them here.

Immediately upon entering my apartment, a focal point jumps out in the living room - a black slate fire place.  Once I started putting the room together I was trying to find the best place for my flat screen TV. After hours of contemplation, one logical place seemed to jump out - right over the fireplace. Otherwise, I would have competing focal points.

I started by building a hollow shelf that would hold my TV components and hide all the wiring inside. Before mounting the shelf, I taped off the area above the slate and painted it flat black to carry the slate color up the wall. I placed the TV over the shelf, then hid all the wiring.

This was my first big project and the end result is an eye catching focal point for my living room.

More on the renovation later, until then, make some yummy broth!

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 4 quarts; 4 to 5 hours
5 lbs Chicken leg, quarters
1 large Onion, quartered
3 stalks Celery, chopped
3 Carrots, chopped
1 turnip, quartered
6 cloves Garlic
4 sprigs Thyme
2 Bay leaves
2 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Peppercorns

Make stock
In a 12 quart pot, place leg quarters, onion, celery, carrot, turnip, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Fill pot with water covering ingredients by an inch or two. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Stir occasionally.

Strain liquid and discard solids. Return liquid to pot and simmer for another hour reducing liquid even further. Skim fat off top with a spoon.

Divide and use or store

Remove pot from heat and let liquid cool for a few minutes. Portion into quart containers, let cool a little more. Skim fat off top with a spoon. Use in a recipe or cover and freeze for up to six months.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Multiple papers publish Super Bowl recipes!

I'm happy to say that 11 Newspapers out of the 17 put together at the Design Center in Munster for Lee Enterprises have used my Super Bowl snacks project. I put it together from recipes that have originally appeared here!

It has been my goal from day 1 at my new job to find a way to get my recipes published at the center. I saw the opportunity with the Super Bowl. Hey, it's where Steve Jobs launched Apple, so I said what the heck, maybe this is the opportunity I've been looking for to take what I do here to a different level.

As a bonus, I got a VIP award from the management, but more important, there are editors at Lee Enterprises that are now well aware of my skill for recipe development and food presentation. I can't wait for the next opportunity to arise.

Eat well, cook often ...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crunchy American Tacos

Printable version
Since I was a young boy my favorite food has been tacos. I would go crazy when I saw that boxed taco kit sitting on the counter as Mom began to prepare dinner. I would gorge myself on them – most kids experience binge eating for the first time with sweets – not me, my first binges were crunchy tacos and fried shrimp!

My taco pallete has been refined over the years but I still have a soft spot for crunchy tacos prepared the “American” way.

Most U.S born eaters know tacos as having a crunchy shell, seasoned meat and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and a taco sauce. The main flavor is contained in the meat. While this kind of taco is delicious, it is far from authentic.

I first learned this taco lesson from the manager at LaBambas, while attending Ball State University. I literally ate there everyday and I think he felt obligated to share some secrets of Mexican cooking with me. Much like a parent would with a child that they are feeding on a daily basis. He told me that authentic Mexican taco’s signature flavor comes from the salsa that it’s garnished with. I came to love this type of taco over the years and have to admit that making a rock star sauce for simple soft corn tortilla tacos is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen.

But today, it is about those boyhood taco feasts my mom used to serve up.

My American taco starts with a crunchy blue corn tortilla which in this case, is a little lighter than the yellow corn tortillas found in kits at most supper markets. For the seasoned meat, I skip the traditional packets found at the store and make a homemade meat mixture complete with a flavorful and fresh mirepoix and a tasty seasoning mix of my own.

When it was all said and done I binged on these like I did as 12 year-old – and it didn’t take long to inhale half the batch!

Crunchy American Tacos

As 2015 begins I can’t help but think about the year that has just passed. It has been a year of great change for me, with my move to the Chicago area – something I never imagined myself doing even six months ago. I haven’t blogged as much since my move, much of that has to do to with the transition of settling into a new place and finding the right kind of time to produce these post. My motivation seems to be more toward creating a kick-ass living space with everything custom built rather than custom built recipe-blog posts.

There is a great irony here though.

I haven’t produced as many post since starting my new job, but I have been cooking far more than I was before I started it. I’m still documenting my creations, I have just found it hard to put in the time that it takes to created a recipe infographic. In my free time, I’m still opting to work on a building project rather than tinker on my computer. Soon though, I will run out of major construction and will inevitably turn my attention here again. I already have a back-log of several creations that I have documented since I have had my photography studio up and running.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings, with my cooking, new job and new place to live. I feel as though this new adventure is really starting to take off and I hope to be blessed with the things necessary to keep it moving forward.

Happy New Year.

Eat well, cook often ...

Crunchy American Tacos

Serves 4; 30 minutes
1 lb Ground chicken
1/2 C Onion diced
1/2 C Poblano pepper diced
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp Garlic minced
12 Crunchy blue corn tortillas
1 C Lettuce shredded
1/2 C Taco sauce

Brown chicken
In a skillet over medium high heat sear chicken until just cooked through in a little oil. 7 to 8 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Saute and toast
Add onions and poblano pepper to skillet, season with salt and pepper, chili podwer, cumin and mexican oragano. Let mixture cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, cook one minute more or until fragrant.

Return chickech to skillet and mix in thouroughly, cook until heated through. Take meat mixture and spoon into crunchy blue corn tortillas, top with cheese, lettuce and taco sauce, then serve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Smoky Chipotle Turkey Chili

Printable version
For the past three Thanksgivings, I have cooked a turkey or turkey breast and traditional sides with my culinary twist applied to publish here. This year, I’m doing something different for the more progressive culinary crowd.

For a main course I have created a smoky chipotle turkey chili!

To enhance the smokiness of the dish I start with diced bacon so that the flavorful renderings can be used to saute the aromatics. I removed the bacon after its cooked and use it as a garnish for the final dish.

Turkey is the star but it really just acts as a canvas for the flavors to stand upon in this recipe. I use a whole can of chipotle chiles in adobe, that I deseed and mince, with cumin and Mexican oregano for the main spice, but to enhance the smoke even further and compliment the chipotle, I add smoked ham hocks to the pot. After a long simmer that reduces the liquid and melds the flavors  – a silky, smoky and meaty chili emerges that can stand tall in any Thanksgiving spread.

My new blog work station.

I’m Back!!!!!!!

After relocating my life 120 miles to the west, I’m finally settled enough to start bloggin' again. I still have a man cave to build and a couple of other projects that will take time away that would other wise be applied here, but I’m finally settled enough to document some of my culinary creations.

I had to convert half of my dinning room into a kitchen work space and food photography studio to do it. I’ve also had to get used to a new place of employment and just move into a new home in general. In the process, I confirmed what I had thought five years ago.

Moving sucks.

Whether it’s across the street or across the country. Having to physically move every thing you own form couches to paper clips is a massive pain in the ass. But, it’s also a new beginning once all of the boxes are in place, which for me has been pretty exciting.

I had to down size significantly when I left New York, so there has been lots of stuff that had to be built or purchased in general just to have a spot to come home to watch TV without a mess in front of me. Now, I can finally do that as well as create a post like this.

I’m happy to have the blogging stuff checked off the list, but what I’m looking forward to most as part of the move is unpacking and displaying my ridiculous Star Wars collection. I just have to build the shelving to house the collectibles as well as the 80 some boxes of books that fill half my bed room!

Yep. I’m a pack rat. Which makes moving even worse!

Eat well, cook often ...

Just a small part of the Star Wars collection!

Serves 4 to 6; 3 hours
4 strips Bacon, diced
3 lbs Turkey ground
2 C Red onion, diced
2 JalapeƱos, diced, seeded
2 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Mexican oregano
2 Tbs Garlic, minced
1 can Chipoltes in adobe, minced (7.5 oz)
1 can Crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
4 C Water
1 lb Smoked ham hocks

Render bacon, brown turkey
In a 6-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat cook bacon until crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add turkey to pot, sear until just cooked through stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Create flavor base
Add onions and jalapeƱo to pot, saute until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chipotle, cumin, Mexican oregano and garlic, let cook 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Make chili
Stir in crushed tomato, water and browned turkey. Add ham hocks. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, reducing mixture by one-third. If necessary add more water. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat, discard ham hocks and serve. Garnish with reserved bacon bits.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Getting settled in a New Place

The view from the balcony at my new apartment.

I have relocated to Merrillville, Indiana, just outside of Chicago!

I started a new full-time job as a designer for Lee Enterprises at their newspaper design hub located in the building that houses The Times of Munster, a Lee publication. After 218 weekly-visual-food-columns and more than 300 recipes documented, I felt that it was time to return to a full-time journalism gig. I wasn't planning on it, in fact, I had thought that my days in a newsroom were over. But, as the details of the job emerged, so did my interest. After much thought, I decided to give it a shot.

I hope to use my food talents at my new place of employment and I'm sure that will happen in some way, shape or form once I've built good relationships with editors and find the right opportunities to showcase my skills. As I get up to speed with the new job I find myself pretty excited about having to get my hands dirty assembling news and information on a daily basis again.

My food creations have re-ignited my passion for news design and information graphics. To me, the last four years was like getting a masters or phd in visual storytelling and I'm looking forward to see how I can apply some of what I have learned to my new job.

I'm happy to finally be settling into my new place and finding other things to do besides stuff related to moving in.

I've been cooking a lot in my new kitchen and I'm in the process of turning my dinning room into a food photography studio like the one at my old place – only this one will be much nicer and better organized. (Not to mention the new studio has running water! No more filling a tub with dirty dishes and hauling them down a flight of steps to be cleaned. Wahooo!)

Also, I have a gorgeous balcony that faces North (the view from which is pictured above, and will be the perfect place for using natural sunlight to illuminate my styled food shots and hopefully add another dimension to my photography in general.

Thought it was time for an update, look for more recipes here in the very near future.

Eat well, cook often ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relocation Underway!

Big changes are coming for Behind the Bites. A big move and a new adventure awaits! Details coming soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Printable version
I was out grocery shopping recently and was looking for a bargain at the meat case. The best deal I could find was on bone-in pork shoulder. Considering that it’s July, I was hoping for something a little more grill-friendly and not so chewy, but I decided to go with it. A large cut can easily feed an entire family, or in my case provide a couple of different meals for during the week.

I used a simple homemade spice rub for seasoning but I could have just as easily used a pre-made rub found in any super market. I then seared the roast in a hot cast iron pan to create a flavorful crust on all sides. After that, I did the easiest thing possible in the world of culinary arts — Placed it in a slow cooker, walked away for hours then returned to find fork tender meat ready to be devoured.

It’s not as sexy as preparing it on a grill or smoking it in a barbecue pit but the end result is tender and juicy meat that can easily be used for sandwiches, nachos or just eaten by itself.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I had a number of different dishes in mind to make with shredded pork as the star. I had provisions to make sandwiches, tacos, burritos and nachos — I could have even made shredded pork egg rolls.

As I mulled my options over, one thing never changed – how I was going to cook the meat, and when push came to shove, I skipped all the foofoo and just went with the basic technique of making shredded pork to present here. I’m glad I did, because from this recipe I, or anyone that makes it, can take the pork and use it any way they choose.

Eventually, I made nachos and sandwiches with this batch. The nachos were tasty and different - it was the first time I had eaten shredded pork nachos and I can say with certainty it won’t be the last time I have them either, but I don’t want to say much about that – I’ll share the pork nacho recipe with my next post.

Eat well, cook often ...

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Serves 6; 4 to 8 hours
4 lb Pork Shoulder Roast
1/2 C Spice rub for pork
1 large Onion
1/2 C Water

Season, sear
Season roast on all sides with spice rub, work in with hand if necessary. Let roast marinate for at least 20 minutes. In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, sear roast until a crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Cook, shred
Place roast in a slow cooker on top of a bed of sliced onions and a half cup of water. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 3 to 4 hours, or until roast tears apart with fork. Remove from slow cooker and shred meat, then serve.