Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Harvest Pork Chops

So I've been tromping around the wooded hills here in Humboldt lately, and after harvesting some wild apples, onions, and some laurel leaves, I made a nice pork recipe.  I saw a lot of pig sign in the hills, taking walks every day, that reminded me of my hunting days, several years back.  When I returned home, the wife said she'd be brave enough to try my concoction, so I decided to make it tonight.  Up in the hills, I had fresh laurel leaves, or what most folks know as "bay", and that has a very different flavor than the dried "bay" leaves.  However, there's no loss of flavor in the dish, simply a different one, when using dried "bay".  The apples, onions, and peppers all combine to make a delicious medley of flavors that the pork chops only compliment.  

The trick to this meal is that it can mostly be done ahead of time and the total prep time, in terms of work hours, is less than 30 minutes.  And it yields a great end result!

The brine is the key in this dish.  It can be used for the chops, a loin roast, chicken thighs, a turkey, etc.  When one figures out that its uses, and subsequently its variations, are endless, then one truly becomes "Lucky".  It can be made, and used, days ahead of time or used for as little as 2 hrs, if necessary. - justin

Osker: Lucky

  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp herbs De Provence
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 2 bay (or fresh laurel) leaves
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4 large, bone-in pork chops, approx 3 lbs
Bring all ingredients, except the pork, to a boil and reduce to a simmer for five minutes, to allow flavors to incorporate.  After five minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Place pork chops and brine in a Ziploc bag or air-tight container and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

  • 2 cups chopped red bell pepper, deseeded
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped green apples (I used Granny Smiths)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 large, bone-in pork chops, approx 3 lb, brined
  • 2 tsp Dry Meat Rub
In a 13x9 baking dish, combine the chopped bell pepper, onion, apple, olive oil,  salt, and black pepper and toss thoroughly.  Place the brined chops on top of the veggies and apples, spacing them evenly apart.  Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of Dry Meat Rub on each side of each chop. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until an internal temp of 145 is reached, or approximately 45 minutes.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and allow meat to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Prep time: 4-6 hrs
Cook time: 1 hr
Servings: 4-6
Difficulty: Easy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Molasses Spice Cookies

I'd just had a craving for something pumpkin.  I'd had a can of pumpkin just hanging around.  And I love molasses as a sweetener.  So I thought I'd give it a shot.  I'm not into baking a whole lot - it's not that I can't, it just doesn't interest me as much as cooking does.  With cooking, it's pretty easy to experiment and not mess things up.  I don't know quite enough about baking to experiment successfully all the time.  Like the other day, I thought I'd make some blondies with chocolate chips in 'em.  I had a pretty quick, basic brownie recipe that I'd used before and I thought, "Oh, I'll just discard the cocoa powder, make it the same, no problem."  What I didn't think about until they were half way done baking was that it was 1/2 a cup of dry ingredients I just tossed.  And... my blondies came out like chocolate chip cookie soaked in butter for a day.  However... the Pumpkin Molasses Spice Cookie experiment came out awesome!  I'd make these again any day.  I went a little heavy on the spices, because I really like to taste the spice in spiced cookies... if you're not into spice, I guess you could probably just decrease the quantities.

Pumpkin... Halloween... naturally, it brought me to a toss up between The Cramps and The Damned.  But these spicy cookies had way more drive, like The Damned, and so I went with them.  Everyone who knows The Damned knows "New Rose".  Maybe it's just me, but I never get tired of this song, no matter how much I hear it.  It's one of those wake-me-up-in-the-morning songs for me. -jen

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temp
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup 100% maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin pure (100% pumpkin)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup coarse sugar, for rolling
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy.  Add the brown sugar, molasses and pumpkin until combined.  Scrape the sides and add the egg, beating until combined.  Slow mixer speed and add the dry ingredients, 1/3 of it at a time, combining well before additions.  Do not over-mix dough.  Dough will be soft and wet.

Spread out two large sheets of plastic wrap and divide the dough in half, one half on each sheet.  Fold up tight and freeze for 30-45 minutes, until firm, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Place sugar into shallow dish.  Roll dough into 1.5-2" diameter balls.  Roll balls into sugar to coat, and place onto cookie sheet, 2-3" apart.  Using the bottom of a glass, press dough balls into 1/4-1/2" thick cookies.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes until tops feel set and edges are starting to brown.  Remove from oven and slide parchment paper and cookies onto a cooling rack for about 5 minutes.

Makes 30-35 cookies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thai Spring Rolls with Asian BBQ Chicken

A few weeks ago, we went to try a new restaurant in town and got their spring rolls as an appetizer.  After that, I was craving them like crazy.  We'd made them before, I knew how simple they were, but I couldn't remember why the hell we didn't eat these largely phallic delicious, nutritious goodies more often!  (Perhaps because I like to mention to my hetero life mate how phallic they are?  Could be.)

I almost feel guilty even posting this as a recipe (especially without a peanut sauce recipe), because there's really nothing to it, it's just baking some chicken, chopping up veggies, cooking some noodles, and rolling them up.  But I don't know many people who make spring rolls at home... and maybe it's because they didn't know how easy they were. 

A note about the peanut sauce: I can't really post a recipe for it, simply because I used a random recipe I found online for a non-cook peanut sauce, and it came out like peanut butter with garlic in it.  So, rather than tossing it, I thought I'd try to save it... I threw it in a pot, put it on the stove, added more coconut milk, more soy sauce, more fish oil, some rice vinegar, and more garlic.  However, in my haste to not waste almost a whole jar of peanut butter, I didn't write down what I added.  It actually came out pretty tasty, but I can't even begin to guess at measurements.  So... you could go to your local Asian store and buy a peanut sauce, or you could find a recipe on line to make one.  I'll have to find a different way of making one and post it later.

I think I posted a Fugazi song a few recipes back, but I heard their song "Ex-Spectator" the other day and had forgotten how much I loved it.  And... you could make these spring rolls with tofu or just veggies, so it could very easily and deliciously be a vegetarian dish that even Ian MacKaye could love. -jen

  • 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
  • 3 tablespoons Hoisen sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons Thai peanut sauce
  • bean thread (or cellophane) noodles
  • rice paper wrappers
  • butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped into matchsticks
  • whole basil leaves
  • whole mint leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (this helps clean up tremendously.)  Peel the skin back from the chicken thighs and place a tablespoon of Hoisen on the chicken, coating the top of it (this gives it that barbecue taste).  Place skin back over the chicken.  Sprinkle each thigh with a tablespoon of soy sauce, and then rub a tablespoon of peanut sauce over each chicken skin.  Bake on lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, until inner temp reaches 160 or until juices run clear.  Allow to cool.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard, then take the meat off the bone and place meat into a food processor.  Grind the meat until it is finely chopped (but don't process it too much or it'll turn into a paste!)  It should be about the same consistency as canned tuna or chicken.  Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package (usually at a boil for 12-15 minutes, until clear and al dente).  Drain and set aside.

Prepare rice paper one at a time.  Take a large dinner plate or pie plate and add hot water.  Press the dry wrapper into the water and using your finger tips, gently move the wrap back and forth a little until it reaches an edible pliability (about 30 seconds).  Carefully, so as not to tear the wrap, remove it from the water and lay on counter top, cutting board, or even a kitchen towel.  Wrapper will be wet, but dries quickly.

Arrange your vegetables in your wrap.  I found the best way was to put two layers of lettuce on the bottom, being sure that you leave about 1" of wrapper on each side (like you would for a burrito, so you can tuck the ends in).  Add a layer of the basil and mint leaves.  Then your chopped scallions, followed by the cucumber matchsticks and the shredded carrot.  Take a handful of noodles and shape them to fit over your vegetables.  Then mold 3-4 tablespoons of the ground chicken on top of the noodles.

Pull the bottom of the wrapper tightly (but carefully!) over your filling, give it a roll, tuck in the left and right sides, and finish rolling.

You'll want to place a damp paper towel over your finished rolls as you make them.  And I found a good way to store them is by wrapping them in damp paper towels and putting them in a Ziploc bag.

Serve with a peanut sauce for dipping.  Makes about 8 spring rolls.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Macaroni and Cheese

    We're always trying to make the perfect macaroni and cheese.  This one comes pretty close for our likings.  I think it's the shallots that do the trick.

    I have no connection for this recipe and this song.  But I'm a huge Kinks fan... I wore out my parents' Kinks vinyl more than they did, and I loved this song when the Kinks did it.  But then, one of my favourite bands did a cover, and it was awesome!  Close to the original, just a little bit of their own flare.  I always hope that tomorrow, I'll find better things... and if not, I'll just listen to some Bouncing Souls and eat some mac and cheese

    Drew... this recipe was made with you in mind, bro. -jen

    • 3 tablespoons salt
    • 3 cups dried macaroni
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten
    • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
    • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
    • 2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard
    • 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Srirachi hot sauce
    • 1 pound cheese, shredded (we used 1/2 pound sharp cheddar, 1/4 pound champagne aged cheddar and 1/4 pound mozzarella for a little stringiness)
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

    Fill a large stock pot 3/4 way full of water.  Add 3 tablespoons salt and bring to boil.  Add macaroni and cook 9-12 minutes, until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

    For a creamier, saucier macaroni, preheat your oven's broiler (this only takes about 5 minutes so you could do it later).  For a thicker, more custard-like macaroni and cheese, preheat oven to 350 F.

    Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to generously grease a large baking dish.

    In a small bowl, lightly beat egg and set aside.

    In a large pot (I just use the same one I cooked the macaroni in), melt remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic, stirring frequently until shallots are tender and translucent.  Sprinkle flour into pot and stir, cooking another 3-4 minutes.

    Turn up heat to medium-high and while whisking, pour in milk and vigorously whisk to avoid any flour lumps.  Add mustard, Worcestershire, and Srirachi.  Stir continuously until sauce begins to thicken (if it starts boiling, lower heat to medium.)

    Temper egg by adding a little of the sauce into the bowl of egg, whisking to combine.  Then add all of the egg back into the sauce.  Set aside about 1 cup of the cheese for later.  With the remaining cheese, add a handful at a time to the sauce, waiting to add the next handful until the first one has completely melted.  Once all the cheese is incorporated, remove from heat and taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (Some cheeses are saltier than others, so always taste your sauce first!)

    Pour the drained macaroni into the sauce and stir until combined.  Pour macaroni into the prepared baking dish. 

    For a creamy, saucy macaroni, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place under broiler until cheese is golden brown... only takes a few minutes.

    For a thicker, custard-like macaroni, place in oven for 30 minutes, adding the remaining cheese to the top for the last 10-15 minutes of baking.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

    So we've just started getting some fall weather up here on the North Coast and Jen and I decided that on a cold, rainy day we had to have some cheese soup for dinner.  There's not much better than a hot bowl of some stick-to-your-ribs soup in the winter.  And since the wife spent part of her childhood in Wisconsin we had some comparisons and adaptations to make for the Humboldt version.  Some California cheese, a little chopped, fresh hot pepper, and some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale make this a Nor Cal soup all the way.

    What better to accompany a Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup than some original Wisconsin tunes from an iconic 80's alternative rock group, The Violent Femmes?  Here they celebrate this crazy whacked out country of ours, in a way that only they can, with their hit "American Music"! - justin

    Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup
    • 1/2lb Smoked Polish Sausage (Kielbasa)
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
    • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
    • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh pobalano (or other mild pepper), deseeded and chopped
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 12oz beer (I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 8oz extra sharp Cheddar, shredded
    • 8oz Colby Jack, shredded
    • 1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
    • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
      Dice the Polish Sausage and cook in a skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes, or until cooked through.  Drain off excess fat and set aside.

      Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat and add yellow onion, carrot, celery, green onion, fresh pepper, salt and ground black pepper.  Sweat until translucent, approx 5-7 minutes, and add the flour.  Stir in the flour until all the butter is absorbed and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to avoid burning.  Add the chicken broth and beer and stir to incorporate flour until liquid returns to a boil.  Add the milk to thin out the thickening soup base and then slowly add the cheese in small increments, making sure it melts before adding more.  After the cheese is incorporated, add the yellow mustard and the Worcestershire sauce and stir in the cooked sausage.  Voila!  Serve hot as the soup will thicken further upon cooling.

      Cinnamon Apple Fritters

      I quit my job yesterday.  Still woke up at 7:30am this morning and didn't really know what to do with myself.  We had apples.  So I got out the deep fryer, emptied the old oil, cleaned it out, filled it with some fresh peanut oil, and in about 10 minutes, whipped up some apple fritters!  Best way to start off the first day into the unknown!  And I had no idea how easy they were!

      Justin put on some Murder City Devils... and it just seemed..... right.  So here they are, singing "Dancin' Shoes".  I couldn't find a good live version, but the song is still awesome.  I love The Murder City Devils. -jen

      P.S.  If anyone has work for me, let me know!

      • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
      • 1/2 cup milk
      • 1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur (or vanilla extract)
      • 1 egg
      • 1 tablespoon baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1-1/2 cups flour
      • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
      • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
      • 1 medium apple, chopped with skin on
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      Preheat 3" oil in skillet or a deep fryer to 325 degrees F.

      In a large bowl, beat cooled butter, milk, amaretto liqueur, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt, flour, and cinnamon.  Add to wet mix until blended.  Fold in lemon zest and apples.

      Carefully drop large spoonfuls of batter into hot oil.  Fry for about 4 minutes (until deep golden brown), turning to cook evenly.  Toss in sugar as soon as they come out of the fryer. 

      Makes about 6 apple fritters.

      Note: These were delicious as is.  But we both thought they might be a little better if the dough itself was slightly sweetened.  So next time I make them, I'm going to try maybe 1/4 cup of brown sugar mixed with the butter before adding the milk, egg, etc.

      Sunday, October 2, 2011

      Death By Chocolate Bacon Brownies

      I'm no philosopher, but I truly believe there are two things that can bring people together in a beautiful, happy way: weed and bacon.  And you could use both in this recipe - it does use 3 sticks of butter, which would be a hell of a lot of bang butter... I'm just sayin'.

      However, this recipe isn't about pot!  It's about the beauty of bacon and rock, and how it connected us with a guy named Mike in a kick ass band called Death By Stereo, whom we soon discovered loved food and punk rock (and bacon!) as much as we do.  We spoke of collaborating on our mutual art forms, but due to the 14 hours distance between us and the expenses, we had to settle for combining ideas instead for THE ULTIMATE AWESOME DESSERT!!!

      It seems like a lot of death in the kitchen... Death By Stereo... Cooking To Die For... but then, six eggs, 3 sticks of butter, and a pound each of bacon and chocolate will probably bring all of us death, so it's apropos. 

      And so without further ado, I present you with an idea brought forth by Mike Cambra, and put into action with a few twists by me... Death By Chocolate Bacon Brownies.  While you salivate over the recipe, you can listen to DBS' "Bet Against Me, You Lose", from their first album. -jen

      Don't forget you can find Cooking To Die For on Facebook too!

      • 3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter
      • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
      • 6 large eggs
      • 1 cup granulated sugar
      • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      • 1+ 2/3 cup flour
      • cooking spray
      • 1 pound bacon
      • 2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
      • chocolate ganache (see recipe below)
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

      In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and bitter sweet chocolate until combined and smooth.  Set aside to cool for a moment.

      In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until combined.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Then fold in flour.  Coat a 9x11 baking dish generously with cooking spray.  Pour in brownie mix and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  Center may be a little gooey still.

      While brownies are baking, cut bacon slices in half length-wise, to create long strips.  Then dice into small 1/2" squares.  Cook in skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crispy (10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally).  For the last two minutes, stir in maple syrup (no need to drain the fat first).  Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon onto a plate (not a napkin, it'll stick).

      After brownies have cooled, sprinkle candied bacon bits over the entire pan of brownies.  If bacon has cooled and clumped, just microwave for 10-15 seconds until it's warm and loose again.  Then cover bacon with chocolate ganache and allow ganache to firm up a little before cutting and serving brownies.

      • 1/2 cup heavy cream
      • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
      • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
      Cook all ingredients over a double boiler until smooth, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.