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 Jalapeños, 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 jalapeño 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.

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!

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 ...

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.

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 ...

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 ...

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.