Thursday, July 30, 2009

Argentinean inspired spicy Sunday dinner

Ok so Kyle wanted Mexican, but then he said he wanted Chimichurri sauce, which I tried to explain to him was from Argentina. (I then came to learn that it is a regionalization of the name Jimmy McCurry, an Irishman who invented the sauce in Argentina).
Anyways, due to the aging spears in our fridge, I tried to look up a traditional asparagus recipe from Argentina, but even though they grow the stuff there, it’s difficult to find a recipe not written in Spanish. I found one that called for Leche de Tigre. Anyone know any lactating tigers? A little more internet research and I discovered that Leche de Tigre is essentially the juice from a ceviche. Deciding that it was too involved to make a ceviche simply to use the juice and discard the lovely fish, I swapped Leche de Tigre for lime juice. It also called for quenelles of sweet potato. I’m not sure how quenelles of sweet potato would hold their shape in a salad…. And Rocoto which is a pepper that I don’t think exists in this country. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, I say that a recipe filled with imaginary ingredients is the mother of invention.
So the menu came down to:
Citrus Marinated Steak with Chimichurri sauce,
Spicy roasted corn, asparagus and sweet potato salad
And ‘green’ potatoes with zucchini
We also had cornmeal and sausage stuffed jalepeno boats, but I’m not sure there’s room here for that recipe. Maybe some other time; if I ever make it using chickpea flour (which I have been searching for)
In the past, I haven’t been too effective at writing down recipes and quantities, but will try to be better, I just don’t really use exact quantities in real life….
For the chimichurri sauce, Kyle followed the recipe to the letter, so instead of writing it all out here, I will simply link to it. Chimichurri is a herb sauce of parsley, cilantro, vinegar, and more that is often served over grilled meat.

We started out with a very large cheap steak and marinated it for about 5 -7 hours in orange juice, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. I’m not sure of the exact ratio of ingredients, the marinade was Kyle’s creation.

So while that was brewing in the frigo, I chopped 1 small / medium sweet potato into half inch cubes and about 13 healthy size (not spindly, not fat) asparagus into 1.5 inch lengths. (This was after snapping off their woody ends of course).

The sweet potatoes were boiled for about 8 minutes until completely cooked, but not mushy. Then drained and immediately transferred to a bowl where they took up residence with the juice of one lime. While the potatoes are still hot and damp like that, they really suck up the lime flavour. Ultimately, 2 ½ limes will go into the mixture, but added each time a new cooked vegetable goes in.

I spread out an even coating of frozen corn onto disposable baking sheet. The quantity is up to you, depending on how much you like corn. It was left out on the counter to thaw, and then to dry a little bit. It then went into the oven under the broiler for about 20 minutes. But it is definitely something that you need to watch. Once it starts to brown on the top it should be turned in the oven. And then when some of the kernels get black and charred, the really dead ones should be removed and the whole thing stirred a little bit to get the ones hiding underneath to the top and put back in for another 5 minutes or so. But really, watch it because it can be blackened beyond repair faster than you think!

That too is added to the bowl with the juice of another lime. Also in the mix is half a clove of garlic, minced and a scotch bonnet pepper, minced.

This here be Scotch Bonnet. Fear ye the scotch bonnet! My fingernails have been hurting for 2 days from cutting the scotch bonnet. So if you have sensitive hands, wear gloves when cutting. If you have sensitive palates and bellies, opt for a milder chilli.

Finally the asparagus was boiled for about 4 minutes; to the point where it is still nice and green (not flaccid and olive drab) but tender. Drained, and shocked in cold water, either an ice bath or under cold running water. It was added to the mix along with some (about ½ a teaspoon) chopped lime zest, the juice of ½ a lime, and salt to taste. Mix it up and put it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

While Olive slumbers

And Sidney stares

For the potatoes, I chopped about 2 lbs of potatoes into large chunks and cooked them in boiling water for about 10 minutes until tender but not mushy.

Then, in a dry non-stick pan char an onion (halved), 8 garlic cloves with the skins still on, and 8 tomatillos. I used canned tomatillos, the ones in the back yard are pea sized – not full grown yet. The canned ones will char, but they also have the tendency to pop and sizzle in a sickly foam. If you have access to fresh tomatillos, use them, but the canned will work just fine. You can also use tart tomatoes if you can’t find tomatillos at all.

Skin and stem the charred garlic, as well as the onion and chop them roughly. Puree in a food processor with the tomatillos. Then cut up a small jalepeno and whizz it into the tomatillo mixture.

In a pan, add ½ a cup of chicken or vegetable stock and the tomatillo mixture over med. / high heat. Reduce the mixture for about 5 – 10 minutes, to concentrate the flavour.

Then add ½ a bunch of cilantro and a zucchini cut into large chunks, plus a little more stock, maybe a ¼ cup. I’m really not happy with how the zucchini turned out. It was pale and not cooked very soft. The next time I make this, I will add the zucchini to the dry pan with the onions and garlic to brown them and then add the pureed tomatillos/onion/garlic back into the pan with the zukes to cook some more. I’m convinced that will yield a better result.
Once the zucchinis are soft and cooked to your liking, add a ¼ tsp of cumin, salt to taste, and the other ½ bunch of cilantro chopped finely. Mix thoroughly and combine the zucchini / tomatillo / cilantro mixture with the potatoes in a bowl and stir. It was served somewhere between warm and room temperature.
Let’s check in on Olive.I don’t know what happened to her. Clearly she’s having a seizure.
Remember the steak? After collecting it from its orangey lagoon, we grilled it to medium, salted it and then let it rest for about 5 minutes. (Sorry for the blurry picture, I was frantically wiping away saliva)
DA DADA DAAAAAAAA! We sliced the steak thinly and topped with Chimichurri.
Here is our vaguely Argentinian meal… or whatever, it was good.
Thanks for taking the time to read. If any one has any meal suggestions that they would like to see done, feel free to request. We’ve already had one for Tuna steaks and that’s definitely in the works, I just need to find a source that I don’t have to take out a loan for!
Thanks everyone!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


What to do?
Well, let’s go over said herbs, I’ve got 2 weary chives (not worth saving) a crumbling handful of thyme, a damp saggy pile of basil, a giant slimy bushel of cilantro, and a perfectly healthy bushel of flat leaf parsley. Well clearly this will have to be 2 dishes, I can’t work this all together without overpowering all the other tastes with cilantro. It’s a good thing I have some healthy herbs growing outside.
So supplemented with oregano and thyme from the potted plants, I decided on herby vongole pasta, and a cilantro pesto. The clam pasta was great, but I’m not sure what to do with the pesto except grind some Parmesan cheese into it eat it like soup…
What? Don’t judge me!

Here is the pathetic little pile of herbs that I had. Ordinarily I wouldn't add the basil at the beginning but the basil I had was very strong in flavour so I added it at the beginning

Lets see what I have out back to help us out, the basil is way too juvenile to be harvested.

Oh but the oregano and thyme will do nicely : )

Chop up a yellow onion and metric ton of garlic... or less, whatever.

Into the pan, keep the garlic chopped thick and the onions chopped thin, this way the onions will brown and the garlic won't burn.

I flung a few clams on the floor to see if it would lure the natives out of hiding. Sure enough it worked, but after a few sniffs they decided they weren't interested.
This is the newly famous Olive.

And big giant Sid happened by as well.

2 cans of baby clams and the herbs in the mix.

Adding some vermouth or white wine, you could also use some sort of stock, veg or bird.

It seems an anchovy is trying to escape from the jar. I punished it by adding it to the pan.

Added half a bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped coarsley for added fresh flavour.

Add red pepper flakes and heat on high to soften the parsley a little bit and boil off / concentrate the liquid a little bit.

Mix into the pasta (whole wheat spaghetti, drained, but I retained some of the cooking liquid) and let it mingle for a few minutes to soak up the juice.

Finish it with the juice of half a lemon (Save the other half, we'll use it in the pesto).

Herby Vongole Pasta... TADAAA!

Now to deal with this mess, look how slimy! Oh, you can also see the sad thyme sprigs before they became part of the pasta. So I cut off the parts of the cilantro that hadn't putrefied and washed them.

Added them to the mini food processor with the other half of the bushel of flat leaf parsley.

Add pine nuts

WZZZZ WZZZZZ WZZZZZ Then I added some olive oil, red wine vinegar, and the juice of the other half of that lemon. Now what?

Enjoy the pictures and if you have any suggestions for the cilantro pesto, don’t be shy.
So far the front runner is Kyle, Maybe he’ll post a comment and let the world know what it is

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The world’s saltiest short ribs

Oh what a disaster. First off, I have to tell you, I cried. The goal was to try out a ‘cure’ what I estimated would be equal to a dry brine, but it would let me get more spices in contact with the meat. More like more salt in contact with the meat. On the up side, the grilled asparagus and Vidalia onion risotto was highly successful. I ruined, I mean ‘cured’ the short ribs in kosher salt, celery salt, coriander, black pepper, and crushed juniper berries for 24h. Rinsed them, and threw them in the smoker for 2 hours over hickory chips with a water bath of cola and allspice berries. We keep experimenting with different water baths, but I have yet to taste a difference.
The ribs came out beautifully, to the eye. But they were tough and almost inedibly salty. I think we may have made beef bacon…
What is the lesson here? Kyle says that it is not to cure them so long. I don’t disagree, but maybe dry brines are something I leave for another day. I also think that maybe my salt was too fine. I should have used a coarser salt so that it wouldn’t have broken down so easily

Fresh from the cure, it looked so promising. Rinsed and air dried...

The asparagus and onions seasoned, oiled, and ready for the grill

Nothing but the finest generic cola for us.

We floated allspice berries in cola as our water bath... don't know if it did anything

There they go, into the smoker. Hi Kyle!

After the arborio rice gets sautéed in olive oil for a bit, I add the broth about half a cup at a time (home made turkey broth made from a turkey we did in the smoker *drool*)

Stirring until the liquid is absorbed and then add some more broth. Everything is steaming up!
Until all the little rice ladies have softened.
But not mush, Al Dente as they say.

It appears that the veggies are finished with their purgatory on the grill.
Into the risotto they go!

Look how lovely they looked coming out of the smoker. Looks can be so deceiving.

And the final plating, again, prettier than it tasted. Apologies go out to the cow that this came from and to Kyle for having to eat this.
We are not salt deficient this week.

Any thoughts? Suggestions?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The world’s fanciest Hamburger Helper

That’s what he called it, after I had spent hours braising bison ribs, pressing every last drop of braising liquid out of the strainer and hovering over what I thought would be my greatest creation this month: The world’s fanciest hamburger helper. I guess that’s ok, and not entirely inaccurate, just, I wish it had been “meaty ambrosia” or “egg noodles, topped with pure joy” ok maybe that’s a little over the top, but you see my point. Anyways, I had spotted a small package of bison ribs at my supermarket. I knew that there’s no way that was enough for 2 people. I also knew that there’s no way I could pull off those lean ribs as straight up ribs, so I decided to braise them and serve them over egg noodles with the strained braising liquid and parmesan. This is something you will come to learn: there’s never enough cheese in this world…

2 vidalia onions, 2 celery stalks, 3 garlic cloves chopped in the food processor

Seasoned bison ribs waiting for the heat

Into the pan you go my beasties!


Add mushrooms and carrots until browned and then add the vidalia mash
Add the herbs... oooh sweaty! (the herbs are a nice fat bunch of fresh thyme -- stalk on, they'll fall off in the braise; and 2-3 bay leaves)
Return the meat to the pan
Don't forget the white wine and / or vermouth (dry, don't be gross and add the sweet)

ummm... I MAY have forgotten to turn the oven on....

Ok, there we go.

Well, I also kind of forgot to remove 2 pans that were hibernating inside the oven so I needed this nifty device that my uncle Ed made me it allows you to pull out the oven grate, and push it back in without using oven mitts. It works really well for such a simple device.

So once the oven has heated up and you remove the pans that were not supposed to be there, cover the meat / veg and put in the oven for about 2 hours. Remove the meat and strain the vegetables into another vessel

Here is the liquid. I also picked out the mushrooms because I thought it would be nice tossed with the pasta.

Boil up a pot of salted water and cook egg noodles. Toss the noodles with the strained braising liquid, mushrooms and a little bit of cooking liquid from the pasta. Let it sit for a little bit for the pasta to soak up the liquid and...

the parmesan!!!!!!