Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Roasted Lamb Gyros

I guess typically you’re supposed to enjoy a nice roast lamb with some potatoes and vegetables, and use the leftovers for gyros. However, I just went from point A to point C because gyros are amazing. Lamb recipe from: http://www.closetcooking.com/2012/04/greek-style-roast-leg-of-lamb-with.html

1 boneless leg of lamb (~3.5 lbs)
4 cloves garlic, sliced into slivers

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450°F

Pierce the lamb with a paring knife all over and stuff in the garlic slivers. Season all around with salt and pepper.

Combine all the ingredients of the marinade in a bowl, zesting the whole lemon and adding it to the bowl along with all the juice. Stir to combine. Place lamb on roasting rack and apply rub.

Cover the roasting dish with foil, and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours, until the meat reaches 115°F. Remove the foil, drop the oven to 350°F, and let the meat brown, pulling it at 135°F. Let the meat rest before carving.

1 clove garlic
¼ very large cucumber, peeled and seeded
1.5 cups greek yogurt
½ tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the garlic clove, still in its sleeve, onto a cast iron skillet and cook over medium for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally until blackened in spots. Remove and let cool.

Dice the cucumber and place in a strainer set on top of a bowl. Salt the cucumber and let sit for ½ an hour.
Remove the husk from the cooled garlic, dice it and add to a bowl, along with yogurt, dill, parsley and lemon juice. Once the cucumber has had its water drawn out, add it as well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter lettuce
Roasted Lamb

Take your pita and put everything else on/inside it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Halibut with Tamarind-Chili Sauce

This recipe is adapted lightly from Rick Bayless: http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=376
I used mulato and panca peppers, because they were in my pantry. Mulatos are closely related to ancho chili peppers (both come from dried poblanos – not sure what the differences are to tell you the truth, but I can say that the mulatos were slightly smaller than anchos). Panca peppers (aji panca) are a Peruvian pepper with a fruity flavor. This sauce sort of reminds me of a mole, with the way the chili flavors play against the cinnamon and sugar (especially so with the toasted almonds).

Serves 3

Tamarind-Chili Sauce:
¼ lb. fresh tamarind pods, outer shell and strings removed
1 ounce dried mulato pepper (about 4)
1 ounce dried aji panca (about 3)
5-6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 inch piece cinnamon stick (Mexican canela), broken into pieces
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup raisins
2 tbsp. brown sugar

Rest of the dish:
3 halibut filets
Large shallot
1 yellow squash
Handful of sliced almonds, toasted

Make the sauce:
Add the deshelled and de-stringed tamarind to a bowl along with 1 cup hot water. Soak until softened, 30 minutes. Ignore the fact that it looks like poop.

Insert Caddyshack reference here.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chilis and cut/rip into strips. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and toast the chilis, about 30 seconds per side, until they start to smell fragrant. Add to a bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes, until softened.

While the tamarind and chilis are soaking, roast the garlic on the same skillet you used for the chilis. They should blacken in places. This should take around 15 minutes (turn the garlic occasionally). Peel the cloves and add them to the jar of a blender

Add the cinnamon, oregano and black pepper to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Add to your blender jar.

Add ¼ cup raisins to the blender jar.

Drain the chilis and discard the soaking liquid. Add the peppers to the blender jar.

Squeeze the tamarind between your hands to separate the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds and add the pulp to the blender, along with the soaking liquid. Add another ½ cup water and 1 teaspoon of salt to the blender mixture. Blend to a smooth puree. If you have a diesel blender, you can get away without straining. Otherwise, strain the mixture into a bowl.

Place a medium saucepot on the stove over medium, and add 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the sauce and boil for 5 minutes, to reduce to the consistency of tomato paste.

Marinate and cook: 
Add half the mixture to a Ziploc bag, along with the fish filets, and marinate for at least 1 hour. 

 Add ¼ cup or so of water to the remaining sauce to give it the consistency of light cream soup.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the fish has been marinated, remove and wash off excess marinade. Pat dry and salt on all sides. Heat a skillet over medium high, and sear the fish for 2 minutes per side. Brush the top with the tamarind-chili sauce and transfer to the oven, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish reaches an internal temp of 140-145°F.

For the squash:

Slice the shallots and the squash. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil, and cook the shallots and squash for 6 to 7 minutes, salting along the way, until softened and lightly colored.

Serve the fish over the squash. Garnish with toasted almonds, parsley and a side of the sauce.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beer Can Chicken on the Smoker

This was my second attempt at using a smoker (specifically an 18.5” Weber Smokey Mountain), and it was a really simple cook. All you have to do is leave the water pan dry (line with foil for easy cleanup) to allow for more heat (a full water pan will act as a heat sink) and leave the vents wide open for the duration. Cooking a chicken on the smoker gives some great flavor to the meat, however the skin doesn’t get that great crispiness you would get by, say, roasting the bird in the oven at higher temperatures.

15 ounces water
4 tablespoons table salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 lemon, halved
2 bay leaves
15 ounces ice

Add some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat and toss in the onion and garlic, sautee for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the water, salt, the herbs, and the bay leaves. Squeeze the lemon halves in, and toss the lemons into the brine. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add in the ice. Make sure the brine isn’t too hot, and transfer to a large bag. Add the chicken and place in a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and give it a turn or two to periodically to make sure the brine comes in contact with all sides of the chicken.

1.5 tablespoons paprika
¾ tablespoon salt
1.5 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1.5 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Remove chicken from brine right before you start the smoker, and pat dry. Brush on a little olive oil and toss on the rub, patting onto all the outer surfaces.

Prep the smoker:
I filled the charcoal chamber of an 18.5” weber smokey mountain halfway with brickets, 1 hunk of hickory, and 2 hunks of cherry. I used the minion method, which is as follows:

Fill the chamber halfway up with charcoal. Take all the charcoal out of the middle, and add it to a chimney starter (should be around ½ the height of the starter. Place 1 hunk of wood in the empty space in the middle of the charcoal chamber, and the other pieces on top of the ring of remaining charcoal. Using a lighter, or the side burner of a propane grill, light the charcoal in the chimney starter, until it starts to turn white, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the burning charcoal into the middle of the charcoal. The heat will slowly spread to the outer ring.

You’ll want to start the smoker about an hour before you plan to put the heat on. We’re shooting for a temperature of 325 to 350°F on the smoker. If you can get it higher, more power to you.

Cook the chicken:

When you’re ready to put the bird on, open up a can of cheap domestic beer, drink about half of it, and poke two holes into the top of the can (in addition to the mouth hole). Place the can in the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken upright on the grill, using it’s legs to stabilize it. Tuck the wings behind the back, to prevent from overcooking (see picture). I also cut off the top of the onion, and placed it in the neck hole to prevent steam from the beer from just shooting out.

With my vents fully open my smoker hovered around 345°F for the first hour or so, then dropped to around 340°F for the second hour. It took exactly two hours to cook a 6 lb. chicken at this temp. I brushed on some bbq sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s) with about half an hour left of cooking time. 

Pull the chicken off the smoker when the thigh registers 165°F, and let rest for ten minutes before carving. I had a hell of a time trying to get the cooked bird off of the beer can, so I ended up carving it upright.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Seafood Gumbo

I’ve been meaning to try some Cajun recipes for a while now, but haven’t had the chance. Gumbo always seemed a little intimidating as well – I thought the dark roux required would be a much longer time commitment, but really as long as you’re near the stove there’s not much to it. This recipe is a mashup of these two:
using the little bit of shrimp I had on hand and what was good/cheap at the fish market.  Typically you see oysters, shrimp, and crab (blue crabs, shell on) in this dish. If you don’t have shellfish stock on hand (this is the first time I’ve ever had it, thanks to some lobsters I had a few months ago), you could substitute chicken stock as well. You’ll probably want to use whole crabs in that instance to impart some additional flavor in the broth; the lump crab meat in this recipe only cooks for a minute.  Also, I used a “seasoning salt” recipe from a bbq book in place of Cajun/Creole seasoning on account of the fact that it’s fairly similar and was already in my pantry.

¼ cup bacon grease (or vegetable oil)
1/3 cup flour

½ large onion, diced
2 “frying peppers” (that’s what the produce store called them; they’re about the size of poblanos) or 1 bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced

1 quart lobster stock (or other shellfish stock)
½ lb. frozen cut okra (not thawed)
1 cup diced tomatoes
Bay leaf
5 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon seasoning salt (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper

1 lb lump crab meat
1 lb bay scallops
2 lb mussels, cleaned
½ lb. shrimp, deveined and deshelled

Green onions
Ground Filé powder

Seasoning Salt:
½ cup salt
¼ cup paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon ground oregano

Melt the bacon grease in a 6 qt. dutch oven, and add the flour. Stir to combine, and continue to stir regularly/frequently for 20 to 25 minutes. You don’t have to be hunched over the pot, spoon in hand for the duration, but stay nearby. The roux should darken to the color of chocolate milk.

About 1 minute into cooking

20 minutes of cooking

Add onion, peppers, celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to incorporate with roux. Add in garlic and cook for another minute.

Add stock, frozen okra, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire, seasoning salt, paprika, smoked paprika, and black pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for half an hour, uncovered. Adjust seasonings. 

Add shrimp, mussels and bay scallops and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the crab meat and cook for another minute. The shrimp should be pink, and the mussels should be open to indicate that they’re cooked.

Serve over rice, and stir in filé powder (add to individual servings, not the whole pot – it will make the gumbo stringy if you try to reheat it with filé in it) and garnish with green onions and parsley.