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Archive for June, 2011

Let’s be honest here…is there anything more fun that getting up at the crack of dawn, driving down to Mt Vernon with your younger bro, picking up a 16 foot truck, driving it to Carbondale, spending the weekend going through boxes and boxes of storage while trying to convince your step-father that he doesn’t really need all of those Oriental Rugs, driving the truck back to Chicago loaded up with furniture and dishes, and unloading everything into an empty garage? Obviously, this is a facetious question. There is one saving grace to the whole journey though…17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro! If you are a fan of slow smoked, meaty swine lollipops like myself then this is your Mecca! Ode to Mike Mills and his grandma’s BBQ recipes!

Mike Mills has won numerous Memphis-in-May BBQ contests and is now a judge since no one seems able to beat his ribs. I blogged a while back about one of the outposts he opened up in Vegas, but this is the real deal. This is the place that happy dreams are made of. I’d walk on my hands and knees in 5 feet of snow all the way to 17th Street just to get a taste of these ribs!

Since I’m not a huge man (except where it counts!) my mom and I split a full rack but got extra sides. She loves their sweet potatoes baked with butter and cinnamon. Really, who wouldn’t? I love his BBQ baked beans. Again, who wouldn’t?

We also got some slaw to help push the meal through our entrails as well as some french fries to give me my carbs. Dr Atkins is an idiot! A meal without carbs is no meal at all.

It’s hard to tell from my phone pic, but just look at how juicy, pink, and tender that meat-stick is! It’s things like this that makes me proud to be an atheist with no nonsensical dietary laws written 3,000 years ago to live my life by. We are but animals, why deprive us of life’s simple pleasures like being atop the food-chain with the ability to season, sauce, and smoke? Ah, the philosophy of ribs, truly a religion worthwhile!

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Yuki had requested beef for dinner last night. Who am I to argue with that kind of insightful reasoning? It was a nice night to grill before the brief storm hit, so I picked up my favorite piece of beef to grill…skirt steak. I made an Asian flavored dinner out of it with miso soup, white rice, and quick pickles.

I marinated a 1lb steak for about 1.5 hours at room temperature. The marinade made by mixing together 3 cloves garlic grated, 1 tablespoon ginger grated, 6 green onions thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup of soy sauce. After mixing together the marinade, I let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before covering the steak in it. I covered everything in plastic wrap and then let it sit while I prepared the rest of dinner.

One of the pickles I made was a Korean-style daikon sangchae. Instead of using Korean chili I used Japanese shichimi togarashi instead though. I used about 8oz daikon cut into thin match-sticks, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl and then stirred the daikon in. I covered the bowl with wrap and left it in the fridge until dinner time.

The other pickle I made was a Korean cucumber namul. I used 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 3 mini cucumbers thinly sliced on my mandolin, 1 green onion thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon canola oil.

I laid the cucumber slices in a colander, sprinkled them with salt, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then I gave them a good rinse and squeezed out the excess liquid.

In a hot skillet I poured in the canola oil and then quickly stir-fried the garlic, green onion, and cucumbers, only for about 45 seconds to a minute. I removed the skillet from the heat and then added the sesame oil and sesame seeds. I tossed to blend really well and then set the cucumber aside on a plate.

Then I made miso soup using about 3 cups of water, 5 shiitake sliced, 1/2 onion thinly sliced, a bunch of salted wakame rinsed and soaked in water for about 15 minutes or so, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, and about 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

I boiled everything together except for the wakame and miso for about 15 minutes. Then I mixed in the miso. I laid the wakame in the bowls and ladled the soup right on top.

All that was left for me to do was to grill up that skirt steak. My grill does skirt steak really well on high heat with the steak on the top rack for about 7-8 minutes per side. That gives the steak nice carmelization and grill marks while keeping the meat nice and juicy. I let it rest for about 7 minutes before slicing it up. Time to chow down!

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I had a bunch of tarragon left from my braised lamb shanks that I wanted to use up with some chicken. Most of the recipes I’ve seen with tarragon involve a cream sauce. That’s all well and good on a cold day, but what does that do for me on a hot, sweltering, humid day? I thought it’d be best to toss it into a marinade and slap the meat on the grill. So, that’s what I did.

First things first though, I made a very simple corn soup. This soup is so simple I didn’t even use garlic! I simply stripped the kernels off of 3 ears and threw them, along with the naked ears, into a pot with 2 cups of water. I brought it up to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then, I turned off the heat and let it come to room temperature. That gave me time to mix together the marinade and get the chicken ready.

Jumping ahead, once the soup was cool, I tossed the naked ears and poured everything else into my blender and pureed it all up. I poured it back into the pot and slowing brought it back up to a slow simmer. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then garnished it with some chopped up tarragon.

For the marinade I mixed together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic minced, about 3 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, and 2 large chicken breasts that I separated the tender strip from the large piece (I did this for two reasons, the breasts were huge and I wanted some meat for lunch the next day). I covered it all with plastic and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. I took it out and let it sit for about another hour while it came back to room temperature.

For my veggies I sautéed together 5 shiitake sliced, 1 red bell pepper cut into strips, 1 small head of broccoli cut into florets, 3 garlic cloves minced, and 1/4 onion sliced with 2 tablespoons of butter and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.

I first melted the butter. Then I let the garlic go for about 30 seconds before adding the onion and pepper. About 5 minutes later I added the shiitake. 5 more minutes and I threw in the broccoli. I let that all saute together for about 7 more minutes and then poured in the soy sauce. Once the soy had all but evaporated in went about 2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon.

Grilling chicken like this is super easy. I heated the grill up to med-high heat and grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes on each side with the lid closed. That gives really nice grill marks and keeps the chicken nice and juicy.

That’s about all she wrote for this dinner. Oh, we had white rice for our starch.

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The other night Yuki made dinner. We had some bok choy and a daikon that needed to be used up, so Yuki did her magic in the kitchen while I sat back and drank beer. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did prep the veggies for her because I love to use knives!

I cleaned up 3 bok choy, minced 3 garlic cloves, skinned 1 daikon and one carrot, and got out 1 lb of ground chicken thigh. I let her cut the daikon and carrot because I wasn’t sure how she wanted them cut. She was too busy feeding Otis to tell me, so I just let her go at it. After getting everything ready she did ask me to dice 1/2 onion, that didn’t make the pic. She ended up cutting the daikon into half moons and just chopped the carrot.

I’m not exactly sure about some of the measurements, but I think she simmered 1/4 cup fo bonito flakes in about 2 cups of water to make a nice dashi.

In a glass bowl she mixed together the meat with the garlic and onion. She wanted some ginger, but we didn’t have any and I forgot to get some at the store. Mind you, she didn’t request that I get some, but somehow I think it’s my fault, it always is.

After letting the bonito flakes simmer for about 10-15 minutes she added the daikon and carrot. Then, she poured in about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, and a pinch of sugar. Again, just estimates on her measurements, but probably not too far off.

While that was all simmering she cooked up about half of the chicken mixture. Once it was cooked through she mixed in about 1 cup of cooked rice and some black pepper, making sort of a fried rice. That was served as one dish.

She used the rest of the chicken mixture to make meatballs. They were dropped into the dashi after the daikon and carrot had simmered for about 15 minutes and became tender. Once the meatballs were cooked through, about 6 or 7 minutes, she added the bok choy and let it cook for a few minutes.

That was all she wrote, or cooked. It was mighty tasty. I love how she used an empty teabag to simmer the daikon. That way she didn’t have to strain the dashi, she just had to remove the bag. I got the fun job of trying to clean the bag afterwords so we can use it again. I prefer using my knives!

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Yesterday was our 4th Anniversary. Somehow, Yuki’s been able to tolerate being married to me for 4 years. Not sure how, so I’ll just roll with it. With a 7 week old we are not able to go out for fine dining to celebrate. No worries, I prefer to cook anyway. Even though it’s not a pricey cut, I’ve always thought of lamb shanks as being a special occasion piece of meat. If done right, it should be fall-off-the-bone tender with a rich lamb taste uncomparable to any other part of the animal. I’ve never braised a lamb shank before, but since I’ve done my share of braising with other cuts, I knew I’d end up doing it right. For this recipe I made two portions of lamb, but 4 portions of accompanyments.

I used 1/2 bunch of arugula, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, 5 garlic cloves peeled, 1 carrot roughly chopped, 1 rib of celery roughly chopped, 1 leek sliced, 2 lamb shanks that each weighed about 3/4 lb, 1 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced roasted tomatoes.

When I braise large quantities of meat I use  my big Le Cruset stock pot, but I have a skillet that’s large enough for 2 lamb shanks. So, I heated it up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and browned the shanks. That took about 3-4 minutes on each side. Then I set the shanks aside.

I put the carrot, celery, leek, and garlic in and let them sweat down for about 7 minutes. I wanted them to just start carmelizing to add their sweetness to the braising liquid.

Then I poured in the wine and let it reduce by half, scraping up the little burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. That’s where all of the flavor is. Once the wine was boiled down I added the tomatoes. After they came up to a boil I poured in the chicken stock and added the thyme. I seasoned with some salt and pepper and then put the shanks into the liquid. I covered the skillet, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 1.5 hours.

While the shanks were braising I threw together the sides. One was simmered chickpeas. I used a 14oz can of chickpeas, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 rib of celery diced, 1 carrot diced, 1/4 onion diced, 10oz cherry tomatoes, a couple of thyme sprigs, and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

I simply threw it all into a pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Before serving I removed the thyme and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I also made some mashed potatoes. I used 5 yukon gold potatoes skinned and chopped, 3 cloves of garlic skinned, 1/2 cup of milk, and 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan.

I put the potatoes and garlic into a pot with cold water, brought it up to a boil, and let it boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes were soft. I poured out the water, added the milk and parmesan along with some salt and pepper, and mashed it all together.

With the sides ready to go I finished up the shanks. I removed the shanks and put them into a smaller pan. Then, I strained the braising liquid. I discarded the solids and poured the liquid in the pan with the shanks. I brought it up to a boil and added the tarragon. I let it boil for about 15 minutes. This allowed the tarragon flavors to infuse into the liquid as well as reduce it by half.

Then I plated everything up. After placing the shanks on the plate I removed the tarragon from the liquid. I added the arugula and let it boil down for another 5 minutes. I checked the seasoning and then covered the shank with it.

I have to say, even though this is a time-consuming recipe, it’s absolutely delicious! The meat was extremely tender and flavorful. While eating this Yuki commented that I could charge $40 for this dish. Not sure about that, but it’s definately a $28 dollar dish, at least better than most lamb you get at restaurants. Well worth the effort for a special occasion.

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Since I cooked a few meals for Yuki’s parents when they were in town I thought it was only fair to cook one for my mom last night before she left this morning. Being a woman who could make a meal out just naan, I thought something with Indian curry would be a good idea. She had requested seafood, so I picked up some salmon. It all came together as the dish you see above.

I made the lentils first. I used about 1/3 cup of cilantro chopped up, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1.5 cups brown lentils rinsed, 2 carrots diced, 2 ribs of celery diced, 5 small red potatoes diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes.

I heated my pot up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds until they became very aromatic. After that I added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then added the potatoes. I didn’t want to cook the potatoes too much to keep them from melting in the chicken stock, so I only stirred them around for a few seconds to coat them with the oil. Then I added the can of tomatoes, curry powder, some salt, and pepper. Once the tomato juice started to boil I poured in the chicken stock. When that started to boil I added the lentils. I let it come back up to, you guessed it, a boil and then covered the pot and turned the heat down to med-low. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils were simmering I grilled up the salmon and zucchini. I had a 1.5 pound salmon filet (enough for 5 portions since my brother was also here and I needed a piece for Yuki’s lunch today) and 2 large zucchini. I cut up the salmon into equal portions. I sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise and cut them into 2 inch pieces. I drizzled olive oil, salt, and pepper over everything.

I put the zucchini on the grill, cut-side down, over med-high heat for about 5 minutes. This gave it nice grill marks. Then, I moved it to the top rack flipping it over. I put the salmon on the bottom rack, skin-side down, and turned the heat down to medium. I let it cook for about 7 minutes or so. This really gave the skin a nice crisp while leaving the flesh beautifully medium.

When the lentils were done I removed the lid, re-adjusted the seasoning, and stirred in almost all of the cilantro. I plated everything up and then garnished the entire plate with the rest of the cilantro. With 4 clean plates about 30 minutes later I’ll assume dinner was a success.

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We had some Chinese wonton noodles in the fridge that were starting to get a little dry the other night, so I had to use them up before they became worthless. Yuki requested something with a Chinese black bean sauce. She thought I was going to use the prepared fermented black bean sauce that you can get at any grocery store, but I decided that I wanted to make my own this time. As much as I like the prepared fermented black beans, this sauce turned out fantastic!

To make the sauce I used 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, the rind of 1 orange grated, about 1 inch of ginger grated, 3 garlic cloves grated, 14 ounce can of black beans drained and rinsed, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of peanut oil.

I heated up a pan and then poured in the peanut oil. I added the ginger and beans and let them cook down for about 1 minute. Then, I added everything else. I made sure it was all mixed thoroughly and let it cook down for about 2 more minutes. I covered the pan and set it aside off the heat while I got everything else ready.

For the rest of the dish I used 1 carrot diced, 4 shiitake diced, 2 Japanese eggplants diced, 1 bunch of green onions sliced, about 3 tablespoons of cilantro chopped, 1 pound of bay scallops, and 4 portions of Chinese wonton noodles.

While my water was boiling for the noodles I heated up my large skillet and poured in another tablespoon of peanut oil. I sautéed the carrot, green onions, and shiitake for about 3 minutes and then added the eggplant. I let the eggplant go for another 3 minutes. At this point my water was boiling so I dropped the noodles in. They weren’t dry noodles, so they only needed 2 minutes. I drained them, setting aside 1/2 cup of the water, and then rinsed them with cold water. After that I dumped my scallops into the skillet and let them cook for about 5 minutes allowing them to release their liquid. Then, I added the black bean sauce in and a little of the noodle water to keep it from getting too thick. I added the noodles and cilantro then tossed it around real well. That’s about all, I served it up and we ate it down!

I will say that this was not the best use for this type of noodle. It is a very starchy noodle and they clump together very easily. While the flavor was great, wonton noodles are better served in a noodle soup. An Italian pasta would have worked a little better texture-wise. No complaints though, it was a tasty dish and I will definitely use this black bean recipe for other applications in the future.

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