Thursday, July 12, 2018

The right wood for smoking meat

I've been smoking meat now for five seasons.  I did my research and considered myself quite skilled.  In the dozens of times I've fired up my smoker (a Weber Smoky Mountain), I've never ruined  any of the meat and have been pleased with the results, as have those who I served.

I bought bags of chipped wood at either Lowes or Home Depot but recently decided to go with wood chunks.  The chunks don't have to be soaked, as the chips do, and they last longer during the smoking process.

Then I discovered a website when I was searching for an online vendor for buying wood chunks in bulk.  Man!  Did I have a lot to learn!  fruitawood.com sells several unique types of wood chunks, ones I can't find locally.  One example is wood from barrels of whiskey from Kentucky distilleries.  This is an excellent choice for beef and pork.  Then there is peach wood, hickory, and apple.

I learned their wood is stored indoors in a climate controlled building, rather than outside.  Storing the chunks outside exposes the wood to bugs, critter feces, and other unpleasant things.  Indoors, in a cool, damp room protects the moisture content, which in turn, means better smoking.

Uh, well, mine have been stored in a big plastic tote in my three season room off my living room.  That means it is hot, really hot, in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter.

There really IS a difference in this wood and the smoked meat.  Check out this website and let me know if you use any of their wood.  I have noticed a big improvement in my meat!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A great, quick barbeque rub

A typical scenario at my house.  I remember to take meat out of the freezer to cook on the grill, but forget to check for an appropriate rub or marinade in the pantry or fridge.  This recipe to the rescue!  This one comes from Steven Raichlen's Barbeque Bible, copyright 2006.  I can mix it up in no time with ingredients I usually have in stock.  It's good on all meat but I particularly like it on steak.

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Thoroughly combine all ingredients together.  Store in a jar, away from heat and light.  The rub will keep for several months.  Makes 1 cup.

I don't have to worry about how long it lasts!  It doesn't last more than a month in my house!


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pasta with Spinach and Apricots

I'm a big fan of the Moosewood cookbooks and own several.  This is a quick and easy, yet very delicious recipe.  You can find it in the The Moosewood Restaurant Table, copyright 2017.  You'll find lots of other tempting recipes you'll want to try in this one!

3/4 cup sliced or chopped dried apricots
3 tablespoons minced garlic
11 oz baby spinach (8 cups packed)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 pound farfalle or other short pasta
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, thinly slice or finely chop the apricots and set them aside in a small bowl.  Mince the garlic and rinse the spinach in a colander.  Crumble the feta cheese and set aside.

When the water is boiling, ladle out enough water to cover the apricots in the bowl.  Stir the pasta into the boiling water and cover the pot so it will quickly return to a boil.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large heavy skillet.  Saute the garlic just until golden.  Add the spinach with any water clinging to the leaves.  Fold the spinach over itself until it is all wilted but still bright green.

When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.  Place the pasta in a serving bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir in the feta and enough of the hot pasta water to make it saucy.

Stir in the spinach mixture and the drained soaked apricots.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Toss everything together.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A 5-star chocolate bundt cake!

Who doesn't like chocolate cake???  I like bundt cakes.  Their shape is eye appealing, given the pan they are baked in, there is just one layer (only one pan to clean!), and the frosting (glaze) is quick and easy to put on the cake.  I have maybe a half dozen bundt cake recipes I've tried and they are all delicious.  This one takes top prize!

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 and prepare bundt pan.

Whisk flour cocoa, baking soda salt.  Mix together the milk and sour cream.

In electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Reduce speed, add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with milk and sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  Bake for 55 minutes.

For the glaze, place chocolate in bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Pour over chocolate.  Let stand 2 minutes.  Add butter and mix until smooth.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.  Pour over cake.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Feta Cheese Patties

This is a recipe I found in a bargain table vegetarian cookbook a number of years back.  I really like it but found, for my tastes, I use a little less onion than the recipe calls for.

2 large carrots
1 large zucchini
1 small onion
2 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
herb sprigs to garnish

Grate the carrots, zucchini, onion, and feta cheese coarsely.

Mix together the flour, cumin seeds, poppy seeds, curry powder and parsley in large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the carrot mixture to the seasoned flour, tossing well to combine.  Stir in the beaten egg.

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet (I prefer cast iron!)  Place heaped tablespoonfuls of the carrot mixture in the pan, flattening slightly with the back of the spoon.  Fry gently for about 2 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm until the mixture is used.

Serve immediately garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Honey Baked Chicken

My copy of The Dinah Shore Cookbook (copyright 1983) is worn, stained and tattered from many years of use.  There are dozens of recipes there that have become my favorites.  This is one of them.  It is delicious and easy to prepare.

One whole chicken, cut up
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon chutney

Preheat oven to 350.
Place chicken pieces in shallow baking pan, skin side up.
Combine and mix well the remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
Bake for 1 1/4 hours, basting every 15 minutes until chicken is tender and nicely browned.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A marinade for all meats!

I'm a big fan of Steven Raichlen.  He has written numerous cookbooks on barbecue, smoking, and grilling.  It's hard to say which of his books is my favorite.  However, his Barbecue Sauces Rubs and Marinades is a true winner.  He calls this one "The only marinade you'll ever need" and I agree with him.  I have used it quite a few times on chicken and steaks.  This is one you will enjoy.

If you have a large cut of meat, I recommend doubling the recipe.

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)  I leave these out when I make this
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, oregano, dill, and/or cilantro
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Set aside a portion to use for basting prior to marinating.

He recommends using within 2 hours of making.  I have a London Broil cut of meat in the fridge right now that I just poured this over for dinner tomorrow night.  It will go on my Weber Grill.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Baby Back Ribs in the Smoker

Everyone knows how much I love smoking meat in my Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.  Whether it is a brisket, chicken, baby back ribs or a pork butt, it is hard to say which is my favorite or which recipe I like the best.

Take Baby Back Ribs - I have several recipes - and they are all delicious.

Today I have Baby Back Ribs in the smoker and my neighbors are enjoying the aroma as much as I am!  Here is the way I am preparing them this time:

Prepare the smoker.  I use the minion method for charcoal.  I throw in 4 or 5 chunks of apple wood.  Put water in the water bowl.

I rinsed the ribs, cut them in half so they would fit into my smoker.  Next I rubbed mustard all over them, somewhat sparingly.  After that, I put a generous portion of Stuart's Spices (stuartsspices.com) Hog Rub and pressed it into the meat.

Now they are ready to go in the smoker.  I adjusted the vents on the bottom to keep the internal temperature of the smoker at 225 to 250 consistently.  These will probably be done in about 5 hours or so.  After 3 hours of smoking, I began spraying apple juice over them once an hour.

I am a big fan of Stuart's Spices here in Rochester - and they do mail orders for out of town customers.  They make their own spices on site so they are fresher than the ones you buy in the store.  I've found that their mixes for smoking meat are as good or better than my tried and true recipes I use.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Chicken with mixed garden vegetables

This is one of my favorites, a stir fry from my Easy Chinese Stir Fries cookbook by popular Asian cookbook author, Helen Chen.

Aside from the time to chop the vegetables, it really goes together quickly and tastes great.

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 celery stalks, cut on the diagonal into 1/8 inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 pound bok choy, cut into 2 inch chunks (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
2 slices ginger, unpeeled
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and wine.  Add the chicken cubes and mix well.

In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat - heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  Test by dipping a carrot into the oil, it should sizzle.  Add all the vegetables and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add the broth, stir, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and steam until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 2 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables and the juices to a platter.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pan and heat over high heat.  Add the ginger and salt and stir until the ginger sizzles.  Stir up the chicken mixture and add it to the pan.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken turns white and is almost done, 2 to 3 minutes.

Return the vegetables and any juices to the pan, mix thoroughly, and cook until vegetables are heated and chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.  Taste and add more salt, if needed.  Remove and discard the ginger.  Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter.  Serve immediately.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms

This comes from an old cookbook of mine, Fiesta, published by the Junior Women's Club of Pensacola, Florida in 1987.  It is simple to put together and is a real guest pleaser!

4 chicken breasts, boned and halved
salt, pepper, paprika
1/2 cup butter
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sherry (I use any white wine)
1 - 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or bouillon

Sprinkle the chicken with salt pepper, and paprika.  Saute in melted butter until brown, then place in casserole.  Add artichoke hearts.  In the same skillet, saute mushrooms and add to the casserole.  Sprinkle flour into the remaining butter in skillet.  Mix slowly while adding wine and bouillon.  Pour over chicken casserole.  Cover and bake in 375 oven for 45 minutes.