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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!


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.

 
                                                           

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