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Archive for June, 2008

Pizza has a special place in my heart. I’ve made, warmed up, ordered, picked up, reheated and plain ate a ton of pizza over the past 30+ years. My favorite pizza of all time was the Tombstone pizza that my dad would buy for me in the bars of Blair, Wisconsin. This is where my dad grew up and we would visit my grandfather every few years for vacation.

You see my grandfather was a bit of a bad ass, actually much more of a bad ass than my dad. When I started going back to Wisconsin at the tender age of 12, I was always allowed in the bars. Everyone knew my grandfather and even though he was in his ’70s at the time, they respected and still feared him. They would break the rules, hence I was never bothered in any of the bars, would have full run and, well, occasionally I could have a bit of beer.

Back then my dad, grandfather and I would go fishing all day long, almost every day then many nights we would take a trip to one of the 17 bars in Blair, population 1,100, circa 1980. Between playing pool, sneaking a drink here and there and well, eating pizza, I had the time of my life.

Rivaling my childhood pizza memories was the trip Nancy and I took recently to Italy for our honeymoon. I couldn’t get enough pizza when I was there and I think I ordered some almost every day, 17 days in total. True Italian pizza is in my opinion is the best you can get. Yes I love all types, but the thin crispy crust with a few toppings, it’s simplicity at its best.

Fast forward to present times… Even though I’ve eaten 100s and 100s of pizzas, unbelievably I’ve never grilled one on my barbecue. I’ve thought about it quite a bit, but for some reason, I guess I chickened out. I end up throwing them in the oven. Good but not great!

So this past Sunday I finally worked up the courage to give it a try and let me tell you, it was awesome. I did take a shortcut and used dough I purchased at our local bread shop and I used Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, but the basil was from our garden and I used fresh mozzarella for one of them and shredded mozzarella and pepperoni for the other.

By all means you can make the dough yourself. I’ve done it before and it’s very rewarding. But all you have to do is call the local bread shop. We purchase ours for something like a buck per pound.

This post is for all of us who don’t have a ton of time and want to get some great pizza on the table, after work, without any hassle. Better yet, invite all of your friends over, purchase a bunch of different toppings and throw an awesome party. Your guests will be talking about it all summer long.

Grilled Pizza Margherita or Grilled Pizza Whatever

  • 1 Bottle of TJ’s Pizza Sauce or Homemade Sauce
  • 1 pound of Pizza Dough – Divided then formed into two balls
  • 6 to 8 ounces of Fresh Mozzarella cut into cubes
  • 6 to 8 Fresh Basil Leaves, medium sized
  • Optional – caramelized onions, Pepperoni, Salami, etc, etc.

Set up your grill. If using charcoal then you will want to light about 40 coals. When ready spread them out on one side of the grill so you have a cool side and a hot side. If using a gas grill, light all the burners, close the lid and heat to high. You will then turn the front burner off completely when ready to grill the pizza. This will be your cool zone.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet or cookie sheet. Take one of the balls of dough and using your fingers and hands stretch the dough into a rectangle. I suggest about 13 or so inches long and 9 or so inches wide. Don’t worry about it being perfect, it’s to eat not to hang on a wall. The important thing to figure out is how thick you like your crust, so experiment with this part. It will be fun. Repeat with other ball of dough.

Prepare your ingredients, sauce, cheese and toppings. You want them ready and in reach once your dough hits the grill.

You will want to grill one at a time. Practice makes perfect. Gently lift the dough and drape it over the hot zone of your grill. Depending on the heat of your grill you will leave them there for 1 to 3 minutes. You are looking for nice grill marks a crisp and hardened bottom. If the top starts to bubble don’t worry about it.

Using two spatulas or tongs or a combo turn the dough over and move it to the cool zone on your grill. Working quickly brush the top half with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, apply the sauce, cheese and basil leaves or the other ingredients you are working with. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slide 1/2 of the pizza back over the hot zone close the lid. Every 30 seconds to 60 seconds rotate the pizza and close the lid so that the cheese melts on the top and the crust doesn’t overcook. You are looking for a nice crunchy crust, golden brown, some charring, but not burnt.

Enjoy! Please share ideas for toppings and your pizza grilling experience.

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On Thursday of this past week I had to have a tooth removed. No, it was not because of bad oral hygiene and yes I do brush my teeth two to three times per day and floss fairly regularly. Actually I cracked the tooth some time back and it was not getting better. I had the dentist do a root canal last year, but it never worked. Now I guess I need to figure out if I should get a bridge or implant and what the heck the difference is.

In true fashion of my family, even though I just had a tooth pulled, had a huge piece of gauze in my mouth and I couldn’t feel half of my face, I was thinking about what I should have for dinner. Ice cream sounded really good, yogurt and pudding might do, then Nancy suggested polenta. Wow, great idea actually. I love polenta. It’s a super simple dish and can be spruced up many different ways. In fact one of the favorites in our household is to make a sugo, or meat sauce and serve it on top of creamy polenta with some vegetables on the side.

Meat sauce was out of the question on this occasion, seemed a bit much for my traumatized mouth and I didn’t really have the time or the desire to make something that would take too terribly long. In fact I was having second thoughts as I drove into the parking lot of Whole Foods about the time it would take to prepare proper polenta.

My grandparents on my mothers side are from Sicily and if I’m going to cook Italian food I like to do it right. I’ve never used instant polenta, but I hear it works fine. In fact it might be a good place to start for anyone who wants to get their feet wet. I like the huge level of satisfaction that comes with preparing polenta, standing at the stove and stirring and watching the dish for 30 or 40 minutes. I suppose you could even cook it for 60 minutes on super super low heat, but that is even too much for me. The end result is well worth it. The texture is creamy and smooth, so much more than the instant polenta I have eaten.

Howard McGee says “long cooking at the stove develops the corn flavor by the constant application of higher than boiling heat to the pot bottom and the exposure to air and drying that takes place at the surface.” In his book “On Food and Cooking” he also mentions “busy cooks can develop just as much flavor with less labor by partly covering the pot of just-thickened polenta, putting it into a low over 250 degrees, which heats the bottom and sides in a controlled and even way, and stirring only occasionally.” If you try this, or already have please post a comment and let me know how it works.

The key to making polenta is the pot you use. It must be a high quality, heavy bottomed number or you will have trouble keeping the grains from burning. We have a Le Creuset 5.5 quart round Dutch oven. Yes it was an investment at $200, but it has been worth every penny. In fact we use it almost every day for something.

So here I am, half my mouth is numb and I’m hoping that nobody will recognize me in the store because I can barely talk, mouth full of gauze, and I can’t smile at anyone because when I do only one side of my mouth works. It is scary to say the least. In fact I was looking at myself in the mirror before going into the store and the only way I looked presentable was if I keep my lips securely pressed together. haha. I was fortunate enough to get in and out fast. I picked up some medium ground yellow cornmeal (use medium or coarse), some Gorgonzola cheese from Italy and some heavy cream and I was ready to go.

When I got home I popped one of the pain pills the doctor prescribed and I got to work. It was going to be just Randy and I because Jacob was out with a friend for dinner and Nancy was catering a wedding rehearsal dinner.

Polenta & Gorgonzola (serves 4)

  • 6 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 2/3 cups of medium or coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add salt and bay leaves to 7 cups of cold water in a medium pot and then stir in polenta. Some recipes will have you whisk in the polenta once the water is boiling, forget it, this is easier and you will not have lumps!

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon, until polenta thickens and pulls away from the bottom of the pan, 30 or so minutes. You can walk away for a minute here and there, go to the bathroom, etc. Just make sure it doesn’t burn and stick to the pan. Turn off heat add cream and Gorgonzola and stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Other Possible Ways to Prepare

Instead of using water to cook the polenta, you can substitute a few cups of chicken stock or whole milk. This will make it creamy. If you want to make grilled polenta cook the polenta until it is thicker.

You can make the polenta into a gratin. Omit the cheese and the cream. After it is done cooking pour it into a buttered baking dish that will give you a layer about 1 inch high. Top with a cup, or more, if you like, of grated Parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and is slightly browned. You can then cut into squares and serve hot or at room temp.

You can grill it, again make sure it is fairly thick when you cook it. Omit the cheese and cream. Pour the polenta onto a board or into a pan. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes, can be longer, then cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. When ready to cook, brush with some olive oil and grill or fry with a little salt and pepper or brown them in a pan after heating up some olive oil.

You can also top the polenta with a meat sauce or a tomato sauce. In fact there are a zillion things you can do. Please share some ideas!

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Wow, what a week. We went out to Mexican food on Friday, Spanish Tortillas on Saturday and Sunday mornings, baby back ribs for dinner on Saturday and slow cooked (6 hours) brisket on Sunday. Monday, left over Brisket. Tuesday I came home from the restaurant and Nancy was baking two pizzas, one with fresh mozzarella and basil from our small garden and one with some pepperoni, mozzarella and cheddar.

I told myself I would eat two small pieces, 5 trips back to the cutting board and 7 pieces later, they were small, I was laying on the carpet with the dog standing over me (I think she was laughing), feeling full, content and well a bit sick! The pizza was good and my willpower was bad!

Holy cow… how am I supposed to not gain poundage like this? For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve lost 45 pounds in the past year. How? Simply less food, watching portions and exercising for 45 minutes each day. Oh and not eating like I did the past four days more than once every three or four weeks. Yes you can have a ton of fun eating and experimenting while still losing weight. I also eat very small meals throughout the day, 300 or 400 calories and then I try and limit my dinner to 600 calories max. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in hearing more. I’ve done quite a bit of research and testing. Maybe too much!

So how do I fix this? I still want a filling meal, in fact I still wanted meat. I need to get out Mark Bittman’s vegetarian book soon. What I came up with is a relatively low fat, turkey burger. I have cooked them multiple times on the stove on on my All Clad grill pan to great reviews and they always come through. They taste good, fill me up and best of all I don’t feel any guilt when I’m done. Both of the kids even like them, though they like my chuck cheeseburgers better.

I decided on Wednesday night that I would try to barbecue them for a change. I’ve been really juiced on the BBQ lately so I thought why not. I was a bit worried about the burgers sticking to the grill so I decided to rub a bit of olive oil on each side which did the trick. Also make sure your grill is oiled! One other important note, don’t let these burgers sit on the counter for long like I suggest for other types of meat. They don’t hold together as well as they get warmer and tend to break on the flip. Lastly, you do not have to put breadcrumbs in your turkey burgers to keep them together. Breadcrumbs are for a meatloaf, not burgers.

Now you will notice one thing in the one particular photo, ahhh, well, yeah there is a version that doesn’t look too low fat, which is the one with the Brioche Bun, yummmm! Yes the bun has more calories than the hamburger and the cheese combined, hahah. Oh well, I guess after the past week I still don’t completely have my willpower back. Whole Foods just opened not far from my house this week, yes I’m so freaking happy, and I couldn’t resist them when Nancy pointed them out to me!

As for the recipe I found it in “Best Light Recipe” last year and have adapted if for the BBQ. They suggest cooking it on the stove, so will include their version and mine. Honestly the Cooks Illustrated books are some of the best cook books you can buy if you want to understand and learn what is going on with the food. Oh and it tastes as good on the stove as the grill!

So next time you have eaten your quota for the week, but still want a good burger, try these out. I promise you, it will be time well spent.

Turkey Burgers on the Grill: Serves 5 (my adapted version)

  • 1 1/4 pounds Ground Turkey 7% fat
  • 5 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Prepare grill for medium high heat. Make sure to oil grill before starting to keep burgers from sticking.

Combine the turkey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, ricotta and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl until mixed well. Divide the mixture between 5 burgers, 3/4 inch thick.

Lightly salt both sides of the burgers and then coat with a small amount of olive oil.

Grill for a total of 9 to 11 minutes depending on desired doneness, turning only once. Instant read thermometer should read 160 degrees to be safe. One minute before taking burgers off be sure to grill your hamburger buns or sourdough English muffins, add cheese to the burgers, close lid and let melt. If using Brioche they will grill fast and can burn pretty quickly so wait until you pull the burgers off, then grill them.

Grilled Asparagus

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Place asparagus on a plate or in a bowl. Drizzle oil over the asparagus and turn spears until they are coated. Sprinkle with salt and turn again.

Grill asparagus for 7 – 10 minutes. I put them on when I first start my burgers, flip them halfway and if they cook before the burgers I move them to the top rack of my grill!

Turkey Burgers Serves 4 (Cooks Illustrated)

  • 1 1/4 pounds Ground Turkey 7% fat
  • 3 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Combine th turkey, ricotta, Worcestershire, mustard, salt and pepper together in a large bowl with your hands until uniformly combined. Do not overwork. Divide the mixture into 4 portions. Light toss one portion from hand to hand to form a ball, then lightly flatten the ball with your fingertips. Make four 1-inch thick patties.

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until smoking. Lay the burgers in the skillet and cook until light brown and crusted, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the burgers and continue to cook until the second side is light brown, 3 to 4 minutes longer.

Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and continue to cook until the burgers are no longer pink in the center and the thickest part registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes longer.

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Baby Back Ribs

In my household both of my stepsons, Randy and Jacob, 20 and 16, will rarely if ever eat leftovers, unless the food is incredible. I cooked baby back ribs on Saturday, 3 racks – about 6 pounds, and they were gone the next day! I would have to say they were the best ribs I’ve had in a long time and we will be making them again without any real changes to the recipe. Well I might use our secret rub next time, though the rub we used was excellent.

Eating ribs brings back a lot of good memories for me, but the best were the times when I would go visit my sister and her husband in San Jose, back in the ’80s. I was in my teens, my brother-in-law Randy would BBQ the ribs and my sister would make real, fried in oil.. super yeah, French Fries… I just loved them.

I found the somewhat adapted recipe for the ribs in “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen. If you like to grill and enjoy back back ribs, I would suggest you make them soon. I would also suggest picking up Mr. Raichlen’s books as there is a ton of good information and so far his recipes work! I know, I know, ribs seem complicated, indirect this, temperature control, adding that, spraying them, huh and what the heck is a rib rack. They are actually much easier than you think and your friends and family will be impressed.

I have been grilling lately with my gas Weber grill, but for this task I went with the Weber Kettle grill. I wanted to cook them on medium heat with wood chips and I wanted them to have some smoke… Gas misses the mark a bit on this one, but if you don’t have a charcoal grill handy, don’t let it stop you.

When shopping look for a package marked either “Baby Back Ribs” or “Lion Ribs” or “Back Ribs”. The meat between the ribs are called “finger meat”. These ribs are cut from higher up on the hog near the backbone where the chops and tenderloin come from which means more tender! Each package should weigh approximately 2 pounds. Below I will list the recipe for the rub and the ribs. It is hard to explain how to prep the ribs so take a look at the YouTube video from Weber that does a great job.

Baby Back Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 4 racks of ribs (about 6 – 8 pounds)
  • 3 cups of wood chips, hickory – Soak 1 hour in apple cider, then drain
  • 6 cups of apple cider, plus additional for spraying the ribs
  • 2 whole lemons, halved
  • 2/3 cup of Basic Barbecue Rub (see recipe below)
  • 3 cups of BBQ sauce (make your own or use a commercial brand)

Place the ribs in a large nonreactive roasting pan. Pour the cider over the ribs. Squeeze the juice from the lemons over the ribs. Turn the ribs over a few times to coat with marinade. If desired let the ribs marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times. I didn’t have time to marinate them for long, so feel free to skip or reduce the time to 10 – 15 minutes. I did, and the results were still amazing.

Drain the ribs, blot them dry with paper towels. Liberally cover both sides of the ribs with the rub, pushing it into the meat. Let the ribs sit in the fridge again for 1 to 2 hours. Oh, yeehaw, I didn’t have time for this either. My dad was patiently waiting for dinner already… I didn’t want to push it. I did let them sit on the counter for a half hour while I got the grill going.

Meanwhile set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. You want the temp in the grill to be 350 degrees. I lit one charcoal starter full, about 40 – 50 briquettes for a large Weber. Once the coals are ready, ashed over, you will place half on each side leaving the middle empty where you can place a drip pan, which can be an aluminum half pan. Hmmm… how do I ever get things to work? I didn’t use a drip pan and didn’t have any problems with flare ups as I had no coals under the meat.

If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 350. You will most likely leave the back burner on high and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape.

I used an oven thermometer, placed through the vent hole, to track the temperature in the grill, again shooting for 350. You can adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. If you see the temperature on the grill going above 350 you can close the vents halfway on the top. If you have the top fully open and the temp starts to fall to below 300 then add another 10 more unlit coals, see below.

When ready to go, toss 1 cup of wood chips on the coals or if using gas, put your smoke pack on top of one of the burners that is producing heat. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Spray the ribs with apple cider every 30 minutes until done. After about an hour add 7 more fresh coals and 1/2 cup of wood chips per side.

Lightly brush the ribs with 1 cup of BBQ sauce 20 minutes before the ribs are done. When the ribs are fully cooked the meat will have shrunk back from the bones 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch and the meat will be tender enough to tear apart with you fingers. Be careful not to overcook.

Transfer the ribs to a platter, let rest for a few minutes, cut as desired and serve with BBQ sauce.

Basic Barbecue Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons of celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Combine with your hands. If you want more spice substitute the sweet paprika with hot paprika!

Notes: I used a rib rack that I purchased at Williams Sonoma so I could fit more ribs on the grill at one time. If you don’t have a rack I would invest in one. They are everywhere! You can pick them up online for anywhere from $16 to $40. The temperature of my grill was a fairly consistent 350 to 370 and it took exactly 1.5 hours to finish the ribs. The rub was also from “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen. I may share the rub we use at the restaurant in the future, but I might have to fire myself if I do. Still thinking about it!

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Potato Education

I had plenty of problems trying to figure out which potatoes to use for baking, salads, oven frys or to make the best mashed potatoes. If you are anything like me you might read it in a recipe and then forget. So I thought it would make sense to put the info down on the blog so I can access it anytime. I’m really excited that I can bookmark the page and search it up from my Blackberry while at the store.

Types of Potatoes

  • Floury Potatoes – These are also know as Baking Potatoes. They contain the most starch, 20 to 22 percent and the most amylose. These potatoes are a dry, mealy texture. They are best used for baking and frying and are the best for mashing. They will absorb the butter the best. The potatoes will not stay together when cooked, so they are also good for thickening soup or a stew. If you want cubes of potato they will not do. Main varieties are Russet and Idaho.
  • Waxy Potatoes – These are also know as Boiling Potatoes. They contain a lower amount of starch, 16 to 18 percent. They also have much lower amounts of amylose. This gives them a firm and waxy texture. New potatoes fall into this group. They are good for roasting or broiling or when you want the potato to hold its shape. Main varieties are Red Bliss, French Fingerling, Red Creamer and White Rose.
  • In Between – They are in between, having more starch than a waxy potato, but less than the mealy types. If you had to say which are they closer to, the answer would be the mealy type. They can be used in place of both types, they just won’t be quite as good at it. Main varieties are Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, Purple Peruvian.

What is this starch stuff and what does it mean – The range of starch in a potato will range from 16 to 22 percent. There are two types of starch, amylose and amylopectin. Amylose molecules separate easily when cooked in the presence of water. This is the reason why Russets are the best choice for mashed potatoes.

Which to use

  • Mashed – Use a dry, mealy potatoes and simmer them with their skins on. This will keep water out and make for a more fluffy result.
  • Baked – Use a dry, mealy potato and bake at a low temperature to allow some of the starch in the flesh of the skin to break down into sugar. This gives the potato a rich flavor.
  • Roasted – Use a waxy potato for this job. Cooks Illustrated author Keith Dresser suggest covering the pan with foil for the first half of the roasting time and then removing. This will allow them to steam in their own moisture and become creamy.
  • Boiled – Firm and waxy all the way!

Basic Potato Recipes from Cooks Illustrated

MASHED POTATOES Serves 4

Place 2 pounds scrubbed (and unpeeled) dry, floury potatoes in large saucepan with cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to boil, then simmer over medium-low heat until tender and fully cooked, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and peel potatoes. Mill, rice, or mash potatoes. Stir in 8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, followed by 1 cup warm half-and-half. Season with 11⁄2 teaspoons table salt and ground black pepper to taste.

BAKED POTATOES Serves 4

Place 4 medium dry, floury potatoes directly on middle rack in 350-degree oven. Bake potatoes until skewer glides easily through flesh, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Open immediately and serve with butter and salt.

ROASTED POTATOES Serves 4

Toss 2 pounds firm, waxy potatoes, cut into 3⁄4-inch wedges, with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place potatoes flesh side down on rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. Cook potatoes on middle rack in 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast until sides of potatoes touching pan are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Carefully turn potatoes over and continue to roast until golden brown on the second side, 5 to 10 minutes.

BOILED POTATOES Serves 4

Place 2 pounds scrubbed firm, waxy potatoes in large saucepan with cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to boil, then simmer over medium-low heat until tender, at least 10 minutes for 1-inch potatoes and up to 18 minutes for 21⁄2-inch potatoes. Drain and toss with butter.

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Sunday morning and ready for part two of Spanish Tortilla weekend. My dad is up visiting from California and we’ve been cooking all kinds of things this weekend. Untraditional Spanish Tortilla yesterday morning, baby-back ribs last night, a more traditional Spanish Tortilla this morning and a slow-cooked brisket coming up this afternoon.

Unfortunately he will miss the brisket as he is going to be heading home this morning, but we’ve had a great time sharing stories. As a matter of fact we talked about how often we used to eat Spam on camping trips when I was a kid. My dad and I used to go camping at least five times each year. We would head up into the mountains, find a logging road and head to some remote place where you would never see another soul for the weekend. I think we must have eaten Spam on sandwiches, with eggs and bacon and just plain. Ahh… the good old days, ignorance is bliss. Thinking about this makes me want to pick a day and head out for a nice long weekend of camping and cooking in the woods. Where should I go….

So today I’m very happy to say that we all loved the Spanish Tortilla and the recipe worked out very well. It only took me 40 minutes from start to finish and the recipe was super easy. The dish had a good balance and cooking with the olive oil added a delicate fruity taste.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman.

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 1/4 pounds of potatoes, 3 or 4 medium (i used red-skinned potatoes)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 extra-large or jumbo eggs

Method

Peel and thinly slice potatoes and onions. (I didn’t peel, I like the skins myself so you can skip this if you’d like. If you have a mandoline it makes this step super easy.) Meanwhile, heat the oil in 8 to 10 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. After 3 or 4 minutes drop in a potato slice. When tiny bubbles appear around its edges, add potatoes, onions, a good pinch of salt and a liberal sprinkling of pepper. Gently turn mixture in oil with a wooden spoon, and adjust heat so oil bubbles lazily. You are simmering the potatoes and onions in other words.

Cook, turning the potatoes gently every few minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a small knife, or like me, when you take one out and eat it and it tastes good. Adjust heat so they do not brown. If potatoes begin to break, they are overdone; stop cooking immediately. As potatoes cook, beat eggs with some salt and pepper in a large bowl. I would do a large pinch of kosher salt!

Drain potatoes in a colander, reserving oil. I’ve read about saving the oil and added it to new oil when you make the tortillas next time. Hmm, sounds good. Wipe out skillet and heat over medium flame for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Gently mix warm potatoes with the eggs in another bowl and then add to skillet. As soon as the edges firm up, after a minute or so, reduce heat to medium low and cook 5 minutes.

Insert rubber spatula all around edges of tortilla to make sure it will slide from the pan. The top will still be runny. Carefully slide out onto a plate. Cover with another plate, and holding plates tightly, invert them. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and use the spatula to coax tortilla back in. Cook 5 minutes, then slide from skillet onto a clean plate. Serve warm (not hot), or at room temperature.

Notes: The dish is best cooked over moderate heat. You are not browning the onions in the olive oil. If you have a non-stick skillet of the 9 or 10 inch variety this will work best. Mark’s recipe tells you to flip the tortilla over with the use of a plate. If you don’t want to risk it put it in the oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for the last few minutes to set the eggs on top! Make sure your pan is oven proof though. We have All Clad and they work perfect!

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10:44 on Friday night and I’m starting on my blog for Sunday’s posting. My father made it from California to our house in Nevada today after some adventure. I gave him the wrong directions, a simple left instead of right, and he drove quite a bit out of the way. Fortunately he has a cell phone and I was able to quickly correct my mistake and get him over to the restaurant.

As he sat down for lunch he did mention that he didn’t remember making me sit at the table for hours on end with the cold meatloaf on my plate. (See the meatloaf posting if you haven’t read it yet.) He did remember picking me up by the neck at some point when I was talking back to my mom and being a smart ass though. My dad has always been a bad ass, still is in fact!

I picked up the latest issue of the Donna Hay magazine at Barnes & Noble a few days ago because I noticed a ton of really fun looking recipes. If you have never seen her magazine you should check it out. It is based out of Australia and has the best photography of any food magazine I have ever seen.

I’ve noticed a large amount of interest in my postings on eggs and the baked bacon so I’ve decided that I’m going to focus a fair amount of my research in the next month on egg dishes. Breakfast and otherwise. I need to enjoy as many as I can now, I just turned 40 and will be scheduling a physical soon. I don’t think I have high cholesterol, but you never know. Ignorance is bliss!

For my next addition I’m cooking a Spanish Tortilla, which is simply potatoes, eggs and onions. Its origins are from Spain and basically you cook some potatoes, saute some onion and maybe garlic, place them in a pan, cover them with eggs and cook ’em up. What can go wrong with this equation? I love eggs and potatoes. Sounds pretty good!

I decided to try two recipes, one out of the Donna Hay magazine where the recipe calls for boiled potatoes and the cooking to be done in the oven. The other, Mark Bittman’s, seems to be along the traditional line, with potatoes cooked in oil and the dish finished on the stove.

We’ll start with Donn Hay’s today. Below is the recipe – recipe is in metric so I have converted.

  • 1kg Sebago Potatoes, peeled (2.2 pounds of Russets or other floury potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 x 200g onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 10 eggs
  • 180ml cup pouring cream (3/4 cup half and half)
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper (used kosher, didn’t have sea available)

Preheat oven to 355 degrees. Place potatoes in saucepan of cold water. Bring to boil and cook for 12 minutes or under just tender (this time could be as much as 20 or more minutes depending on the size of the potatoes). Drain, allow to cool completely and thinly slice (easier said than done, the slicing part).

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 9 inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from pan, set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and place on layer of potato over the base. Top with one third of the onion mixture and continue to layer the potato and onion mixture, finishing with a layer of potato. Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a bowl and pour over the potato. Cook the tortilla in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Turn tortilla out and slice to serve. Serves 6.

Notes: The recipe was a bit bland. I’m looking forward to trying the other one tomorrow morning. I would increase the onion by 50% and use heavy cream instead of half and half. I would use at least 2 teaspoons of salt in the eggs as well. The potato water needs to be generously salted, like a handful of kosher salt, says my wife Nancy. Potato and pasta water should taste like sea water. The first time I made this the potato water was not salted, since I was following the recipe.

It was also a long haul to get this out on the table. By the time I peeled the potatoes, boiled them, waited for them to cool so I could cut them and then baked the whole thing we were looking at 2 hours. My dad was super cool about having to wait though, so thanks dad.

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