Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dreams really do come true!

Heaven

It was a quiet Tuesday, until I got a post on Facebook from the New Belgium Brewing company. Nevermind the earthquake we had or the hurricane that was on the way; they started selling Fat Tire beer in Maryland! My favorite beer, that I have traveled far and wide to get, is finally available in my home state.

I first discovered this tasty brew when I was in college. At that time, Fat Tire wasn’t distributed anywhere east of the Mississippi River. From Carbondale Illinois, we would drive to Missouri to get a keg of it for special occasions (birthdays, end of the semester, etc). Other than that, I had to rely on the rare occasion that someone would visit me from where it was sold, and hope they remembered to bring me some. There are several flavors of beer that New Belgium makes, all of which are good, but the toasty amber ale that Fat Tire is rings my beer bells. If you can get it, buy some today (no, I’m not getting paid to say this).

To celebrate the new arrival I decided to combine two of my favorite things: beer and cheese. Home made soft pretzel bites and beer cheese dip to be exact. Obviously, this snack is good for just about any situation, such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just be sure to have a cold frosty one to wash it all down with.

Home made soft pretzels (adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside. 

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

 In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Cut dough into 1 inch pieces and place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 10 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Fat Tire cheese dip, aka: Heaven

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 8 oz block of sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Fat Tire beer (or another amber ale)
  • 1 1/2 Tbls prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp salt

In a bowl microwave cream cheese for 45 seconds or until extremely soft and smooth. Stir in beer, horseradish, garlic, chipotle and salt. Microwave again for 45 seconds and gradually stir in the shredded cheese a little bit at a time. Microwave again as necessary to just barely melt the cheese and make the sauce smooth.


Wanna See my Mussels?

No, this isn’t a ticket to the “gun show”… This is one of those dishes that you usually see in upscale restaurants.  But you can make this at home, cheap and easy.

The first time I had mussels was at a little French restaurant in Bethesda, MD. The salty and meaty taste of the mussels themselves, along with sopping up an entire loaf of French bread in the broth almost made my appetite for the main course go away (almost). Per usual, I decided I could make these at home for a lot less money, and just as tasty! You can serve these as an appetizer, or main course, setting the big pot you cooked them in at the center of the table and fighting over space to sop your bread in.

The most challenging part of cooking mussels is, well, buying them. This is one item that I will go the extra mile to find as fresh as possible. You may see them in plastic net bags at your regular grocery store, which I usually find many of them broken or dead. If you have a seafood counter with a guy nice enough to pick them out by hand, that is your best bet. Always cook them the same day you buy them and if you aren’t cooking them right away, put them in a bowl with a damp towel over them in the fridge. Regardless, DO NOT leave them in a plastic bag or you will kill ‘em all (that is only good if you’re listening to Metallica). You can usually pick out the dead ones by their hollow sound when you tap them on the counter. Also, if they are slightly open, they should clam up when you tap on them. Before cooking, scrub them under running water and pull the little “beards” off. If any don’t open while cooking, discard those too. The good news is that these little buggers are only about 4 bucks a pound! I usually cook around 2 lbs for an entrée for two, or appetizer for four people. The most expensive part of this will be the wine you cook them in (if you buy “cooking wine” I will haunt you every time you do it). Just get wine that is good to drink too, please!

A steamy bowl of goodness

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Recipe for steamed mussels: For 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer.
Shopping list:
2 lbs mussels, debearded and scrubbed clean
2 Tbs unsalted REAL butter
1/2 Cup minced shallots
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 Cup dry white wine (whatever you're drinkin')
1 Cup Italian parsley chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 Cup cream
Sea salt and pepper to taste 

No silly little forks needed!

In a large dutch oven, melt butter and saute shallots until soft over medium heat, add garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Throw in the mussels, wine, cream and parsley and once it starts to steam up, put a lid on it  (a clear lid is great to see as they open up). Check them after about four minutes and take the mussels out as they open and place in a bowl. If after 9 minutes any are still closed, throw them away. Maintain heat for a high simmer until your sauce reduces a little bit (about 5 minutes). Taste it as you go and don’t add salt until the very end (the mussels are salty and reducing the liquid will also make it saltier).
Take your cooked mussels and any juice they let go along with the broth and pour it all  into a serving bowl (or the pot you cooked in). Garnish with more parsley and fresh pepper. 


Why yes, you do need a meat slicer.

Roast beef, cheddar and horseradish mayo

There you are with a little ticket in your hand with the number 962. You look up at the “Now Serving” sign, 843. Yes, you are at the deli counter of pretty much any stupermarket around. You notice that all of those oval shaped meat products (shapes unlike any animal I’ve ever seen, besides my cat)  in the case are somewhere between 9 and 14 dollars a pound. Then you read about sodium, nitrates, nitrites, blah blah blah. What are you doing here!?! Why are you standing in line for something that costs so much and is bad for you? Convenience.  Now trust me, I can relate on many levels of wanting to do things easier, but deli meat isn’t one of them.  With the right tools, you can create your own sandwiches in no time. I’m not saying you need to go buy one of those 10 inch blade chrome model meat slicers. I got mine for 80 bucks, and it works great for cheese (cheaper in block form), slicing vegetables for pizzas or slaw, and raw beef-ribeye for cheese steaks. Other than the slicer, you need a probe thermometer (15 bucks) and a syringe of some sort. The syringe can come in the form of a “flavor injector” from an unmentioned kitchen store for 30 bucks, or a large gauge hypodermic from, say, medical personnel you may know (for free).

Now, I know what you are thinking….Where the HE** am I going to PUT a meat slicer? Well, the bread machine can go. The smoothie machine parked next to a perfectly good blender can go. The 5 boxes of Ho-Hos can go. The margarita machine can go…..no wait, keep that. You get the point. I have figured that my slicer paid for itself within the first couple of months of having it. Just watch out for when beef round roasts go on sale for like 1.99 a pound or when whole turkey breasts are 7 bucks for a 3 pounder. I’m not hanging up whole hog legs in the basement (yet) but if you want ham, it is still cheaper to get it whole than pre-sliced. You can cut it as thick or thin as you want and then freeze it in “however many sandwiches you make a day portions”.

Recipe for: Deli rare roast beef

Shopping List:
2 1/2 - 3 lb Eye of round roast
Vegetable oil
For the brine:
1 Cup low sodium beef broth
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp pepper

This will only hurt for a second

Take the roast out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking so it will come to room temp. In a small saucepan, combine the broth and spices over low heat until the salt dissolves and you can smell the other spices. Using a syringe, pump the brine into the roast in multiple locations. Some of the brine will squirt out in various directions, so you may want to do this in the sink. Dry off the roast with paper towels, rub it with vegetable oil and then season the outside liberally with additional salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic.

Roasting with a probe thermometer

Preheat oven to 500 (if you haven’t cleaned your oven lately, you are about to). Place roast in a rack and bake at 500 for 20 minutes to get a nice crust on the outside. Take the roast out and lower oven temp to 225 leaving the door open to let the high heat out. Wrap the roast tightly in 3 layers of foil, insert a probe thermometer and bake until an internal temp of 120 degrees is reached which will be somewhere around 1 1/2 hours depending on your oven and size of roast. Take the roast out of the oven and leave it wrapped up in the foil and the temp will coast up to around 130 (medium rare). Do not unwrap it until the temp goes below 100 degrees. Put it in the fridge overnight and slice the next day (I know, this is tough).

My favorite sandwich using this roast beef  is a beef and cheddar with horseradish mayo. Just stir in a teaspoon of prepared horseradish into a 1/4 cup of mayo. Spread mayo on 2 pieces of bread, pile roast beef high and throw a couple of slices of thin sliced cheddar on it. Butter the outsides of the sandwich and grill until browned and the cheese melts.

Take that deli counter!


Das Best Stuffed Mushrooms

An ode to the Rathskeller

Scope out a giant picnic table, order an insane amount of sausages and kraut, along with a giant beer. Watch out for the mustards that will clear your sinuses in a hot minute. And did I mention the stuffed mushrooms? Damn these things are good! Covered with such gooey, melty cheese and filled with bacon; you could probably stretch a string of cheese from them the length of the table. This is what any Friday night at the Rathskeller’s biergarten in Indianapolis was for me when I lived there for about four years. I would do just about anything for these shrooms now, but…  Being a common sense oriented person, I realized that when I moved to D.C. it would not be very economical to fly or drive 600 miles every time I wanted these mushrooms. So I decided to try my best at recreating them. After much trial and error, these are pretty darn close. Maybe I just need to get one of those giant picnic tables…

A perfect game day snack (as in futbol or football) at your house or on the go. I have pre-made these up to a day ahead and just borrowed the oven wherever the party is.

Shopping list:

30-40 baby portabella mushrooms, stems popped out and rinsed clean
2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese at room temperature
2 shallots diced finely
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 4 ounce package cubed pancetta or 3 slices of good, thick bacon
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano plus extra for garnish
salt to taste
1/2 pound sliced provolone, fresh sliced from the deli is ideal
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (better not come out of a green can)

Das Biergarten!

In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), throw in cream cheese, parmesan, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle, oregano and pepper. Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet over medium low heat, cook pancetta until it browns and the fat renders out. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and toss in the mixing bowl with the rest of your ingredients. Now, with the leftover fat from the pancetta, cook the shallots until barely softened (3 minutes), add in garlic and cook for one more minute. Remove shallots and garlic to a paper towel to get the excess grease out and then add them to the mixing bowl. Stir together well to incorporate the ingredients and taste for saltiness (the pancetta is very salty, so be careful). You can leave this filling as is, in the fridge for a couple of days if you’d like. Pop out stems and clean your mushrooms. Spoon your filling in until it is slightly mounded over the tops of them and place in a baking dish. Once your shrooms are all filled, cover them with overlapping pieces of the provolone (we want the cheese to melt down the sides too!). This would be where I’d stop and take them to a friend’s place. Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then broil until the cheese browns (watch this part VERY carefully, really, don’t leave the oven). Once nicely browned, sprinkle a little extra oregano on top and let cool for 10 minutes. Guten Appetit!


Seasoning Lesson #1

Some of my favorites.

The reason for this post is that I get very frustrated about this subject and I want to help you be healthier, save money and have tastier food. Here we go…

Number one - 90% of the people I know still buy spices and dried herbs at the grocery store. Why is this so bad you might ask? Well, what you are buying in your local grocery store has probably already been sitting on the shelves for 6 months. You should throw out ground spices after 6 months, and whole spices after a year.  The selling price of these seasonings are 3 times the cost of what they are worth!  Then once you take them home, you have to use 3 times the amount to get the flavor you want (not to mention they use fillers and stabilizers).

Number two - Pre-mixed seasonings are, for the most part, a complete rip off. I’m talking about your “Turkey Lurkey Grillin’ Spice” or “Rub It All Over Everything Spice”. I once saw a grilling spice from a certain kitchen store (that will not be mentioned) with a price tag of 16 dollars for 4 ounces of the stuff. What was the first ingredient? Salt. Salt is 4 dollars a pound! So my future to becoming a millionaire is to come up with a spice concoction and have it sold at that very unmentioned kitchen store.

So what is the solution to my rants and raves? Buy spices and herbs from a spice dealer. Reputation is on the line for them; if the product you get is not fresh, you won’t be back. You can also buy the spices you use the most in bulk (not buying a container every time). This saves us money and is earth friendly.  Your route to do this is to find either a local specialty store or buy online. I am fortunate enough to have a Penzey’s store only 2 miles up the road. Penzey’s is neat because you can walk in and “sniff around” and their prices can’t be beat. Penzey’s also has an online business too, which my Mom uses very regularly.

And as far as the pre-mixed conundrum….You know what flavors and spice mixtures you like, so why not make them yourself?  Without the cost, the extra salt, the maltodextrin or silicon dioxide- need I say more?  I am going to give you a recipe for my super secret bbq rub that I use for both brisket and ribs. I hope you use it to win bbq cook offs and then just go ahead and send me the check :) 

In my second seasoning lesson I will discuss grinding, storing, and what kind of spices mingle together with others.

Ingredients for super secret spice rub: Makes plenty for at least 1 roast or a rack of ribs. It is easy to multiply so make extra! 

2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

2 teaspoons toasted onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt (see where I’m coming from)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (buy a good mill, NOW)

1 teaspoon ground chipotle (my personal favorite)

Put it all in a canning jar and shake to mix together.  If the brown sugar is making it too clumpy, stir it up with a knife or ideally, a blade type coffee grinder. Punch holes in the lid to make a giant shaker, and then stack another lid on top of that to seal it up when not in use (thank you Alton Brown). Cover ribs or brisket liberally at least 3 hours before cooking, or up to 3 days if you have the time (trust me, you want to have the time).


Chili and Football, that’s what Dave does…

Stir it up!

The summer is coming to a close, vacations are over and it is now game time! I may not know every player’s name, who won last week, or the ridiculous stats of how many touchdowns the combined Manning brothers have, but I do know one thing… It is time to start cooking chili, and the odds are that a big pot will be stewing alongside beers and friends on any given Sunday at my place.

I can already visualize what the shopping cart looks like, colorful peppers, large quantities of meat along with all of the toppings. I’ve been making this chili for so long that I don’t even open up my notes anymore; practice and good ingredients makes perfect.  If you have been to my place to watch football, you have probably had my chili.

So next time you are having people over to watch Da Bears, Eagles or COLTS, start an hour early and get this together. I guarantee it will be gone by the end of the game, and if not, make chili dogs the next day. On second thought, hide some to make chili dogs anyway…

 

Chili with the fixins'

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shopping list for 1 gallon of chili (about 4 people).
1 Lb Ground beef 80/20 (or if you have a meat grinder coarsely grind 1 lb of  sirloin)
1 Lb Hot breakfast sausage, Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean's works great
1 large yellow onion diced
1 of each: green, yellow and red pepper seeded and diced
1 entire small bottle of green Tabasco, the green is milder than the others, NO substitutions
4-5 cloves garlic minced
1 28 oz can of whole/peeled tomatoes, if you can find San Marzanos, use them
2 16 oz cans of dark red kidney beans drained
1 square of "Bakers" brand UNSWEETENED chocolate, once again, NO substitutions
Salt/Pepper
1 Tbl. Good chili powder (go to penzeys.com) blog post on spices coming soon..
2 tsp. cumin
1-11/2 tsp. ground cayenne, depending on how hot you like it
1-3 mystery ingredients no one will ever know (sorry)                                       
Toppings:  Raw diced onion, shredded cheddar, sour cream, pasta, etc.

In a large stock pot brown the beef and sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spatula as it cooks (add a little vegetable oil if it is sticking real bad). In the meantime, dice all of your peppers and onion and throw them in the pot as you go. Once meat is browned and the veggies have softened, drain off any excess grease using a colander (do not rinse). Return to pot over medium heat and stir in minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic add in the Tabasco, tomatoes (juice and all) and the drained beans. Smash the whole tomatoes with your spatula to get that good juice and pulp out and to get everything else all mixed together. Increase heat to a boil for 5 minutes, bury the square of chocolate in the middle, reduce heat to medium-low and put a lid on it. Ignore for 20 minutes and have a beer.

Remove lid, stir everything up and distribute the now melted chocolate. Add all of the spices listed except salt and pepper. Adjust heat if needed to maintain a slow simmer. Put the lid back on, have another beer and get your toppings ready (chop onion, grate cheese, etc.) another 20 minutes.

Remove lid, stir it up and add pepper to suit your heat level. Salt to taste since depending on the sausage you buy and the tomatoes you use it can be different every time however, 2 teaspoons is usually a good starting point.

By this point, you should be almost full from trying the chili every 5 minutes, not to mention the buzz from the beers. Just put out the bowls along with the condiments, leave the pot on the stove over low heat all day long, and let people make their own bowls as they wish.

 
                                                           

No time to cook? Try this.

Yes, it even happens to me. A late day at work or just a lack of inspiration to come up with something new. This is my weeknight go to meal that can be made in about 20 minutes.  Dressing it up with fresh herbs and serving a salad on the side makes this a healthy and easy alternative that anyone can pull off looking like a hero. Coming from a person that makes his own pasta 95% of the time, I don’t have a problem buying the fresh pasta that any major grocer now carries for occasions like these. Your options to pick from are enormous, from meat and cheese ravioli to chicken tortellini, whatever your tastebuds desire.

The easiest dinner ever.

Tortellini Soup: Serves 3-4
1 48oz box of low sodium chicken broth
1 9oz package of fresh store bought tortellini
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
2 Tbl fresh grated parmesan
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
Fresh oregano or basil for garnish

Method:
Bring chicken broth to a boil in a covered pot. Add salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Boil pasta with the lid on according to directions on the packaged pasta, about 6 minutes. The chicken broth will foam up while boiling so turn down the heat to maintain a high simmer and prevent making a mess. Ladle into bowls, top with parmesan and fresh herbs.
Serve with a salad on the side. Take leftovers to work the next day for lunch!


Linguini alle vongole

Cutting linguini on a chitarra

A classic, if you are going to cook Italian, clams linguini is a good place to start.  The flavors of clams linguini are simple to put together, yet complex when they are together and even better when the so called “balance” is achieved. You can screw it up easily, but as soon as you get it right, you will know. I first started making this dish with my chitarra, which is a wooden frame that has guitar strings stretched across it to cut out fresh linguini. With my recipe, I give you the option to use fresh pasta and fresh clams, or canned clams and boxed pasta. I’m sure you know which will be better, but convenience is an issue as we all have day jobs too.

Clams linguini

Ingredients: Serves 4
6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 ½ Teaspoons Dried red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
8 minced anchovy filets or 1 ½ Tablespoons anchovy paste
½ Cup clam juice
1 Cup dry white wine (I like pinot grigio)
½ Cup roughly chopped, fresh flat leaf “Italian” parsley + extra for garnish
Zest of 2 lemons (reserving some for garnish)
½ Teaspoon kosher salt
1 10oz can whole baby clams (drained)
Parmesan Reggiano for garnish
1 big pot of salted water- reserving about ½ cup after pasta is cooked in it
Either one batch of fresh linguini or a 1 lb box of dried linguini (you know which one will be better).

The recipe differs whether you are using fresh or canned clams. Instructions for the fresh clammys are at the bottom. Read the entire recipe before starting as the preparation of this recipe is the best way to get it right…

1. Get the water boiling.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and red pepper flakes.
3. Once the oil is hot, add anchovies and garlic. Stir constantly until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Do NOT burn the garlic.
4. Add the clam juice and wine. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to simmer until reduced by half (about 7-8 minutes). Meanwhile, if you are using dried linguini drop it in the boiling water now. If using fresh, you want to only cook it for about 2 minutes and should wait until the wine is almost done reducing before boiling it.
5. Once pasta is al dente (slightly undercooked), and the wine has reduced, use tongs to add the cooked pasta to the sauté pan along with the lemon zest, clams, parsley and ½ cup of the water you cooked the pasta in.
6. Finish cooking the pasta by tossing with the tongs until the sauce slightly thickens and the pasta gets coated with sauce. If it seems dry, add more of the pasta water to “loosen” it up.
7. Garnish with extra parsley, lemon zest and lots of grated parmesan.

If you want to use fresh clams, before you start above:
Bring 1 ½ cups of white wine and a handful of parsley to a boil in a sauté pan. Add 2 dozen clams that have been cleaned and close when tapped (still living). Once they open, pull them out of the sauté and put them in a bowl. I will not give a time for how long they take as it varies from the type of clam and the pan used, etc. If any don’t open, discard them. Shuck clams and their juices into the bowl. Add shucked clams, ½ cup of the wine you cooked them in, and whatever juice that is in the bowl into the sauté in place of the canned clams and bottled juice from above.


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