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gord1

I want to write.  I have a ton to say.  I want to give you a ton of information about factory farming and how horribly we treat farm animals.  I want to tell you not to eat any pork from an animal that was raised in a metal pen, 7 feet long by 2 feet wide that never sees the light or stands on dirt.  I want to share all the information that I’ve read, but I can’t write well and I don’t have much time.

If you are interested in what gives me nightmares and what has driven me to spend as much as 100 percent more for humanley raised meats for my restaurant and my home here are a few links to check out:

Humane Society of the US

Food and Water Watch

Sustainable Table

Righteous PorkChop

If you live in Reno please check out slowfoodreno.com and come to one of our meetings and say hello.  I can’t write well, but I can talk! 🙂

As for this recipe, it rocks.  If you want to cook Mexican food, pick up a Rick Bayless book.  I have three now and every recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a ton) is awesome.

This recipe looks hard but it’s not!  I did it for dinner after work.

Gorditas with Classic Shredded Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 small white onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2-inch for frying
  • 1 (28-ounce) can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped or 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and very finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh, smooth-ground corn masa for tortillas or 1 3/4 cups powdered masa harina mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking power
  • About 1/3 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other dry grating cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan
  • About 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions, and half of the garlic and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or 2 forks. Don’t worry that there are bits of onion and garlic mixed with the meat.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set it over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and chiles and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shredded meat and simmer for a few more minutes, then taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a well-seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Knead the masa (fresh or reconstituted) to make it pliable, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a soft-cookie-dough consistency. Knead in the flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out. Line a tortilla press with 2 pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (to be on the safe side, cut them from a food storage bag; the thicker plastic usually works better for beginners). Gently press out a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4 inches in diameter (it’ll be about 1/4 inch thick). You’ve now made a gordita, which is what you call a fat tortilla. Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the fingers of 1 hand, and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. In one flowing movement, roll the gordita off your hand and onto the heated griddle or skillet. Bake for about 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for another 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove to a plate. Continue pressing and griddle-baking the remaining gorditas in the same manner.

When you’re ready to serve, warm the shredded beef. Rinse the remaining onions in a small strainer under cold water and shake to remove the excess moisture. Have the cheese and cilantro at the ready.

In a deep heavy medium skillet or saucepan, heat 1/2-inch of oil over medium to medium-high until the oil is hot enough to make the edge of a gordita sizzle sharply, about 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. One by one, fry the gorditas, turning them after they’ve been in the oil for about 15 seconds, until they’re nicely crisp but not hard, about 45 seconds total. When they’re ready, most will have puffed up a little, like pita bread. Drain on paper towels.

Once they all are fried, use a small knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around its circumference, opening a pocket. As you cut them, fill each gordita with about 1/4-cup shredded meat and a sprinkling of the onions, grated cheese, and cilantro.

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No picture, no story. I just wanted to get this down so I can remember it for the future.  It was excellent!

Melted Cheese Casserole with Mexican Sausage and Roasted Chiles (adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium fresh poblano chiles or fresh pasilla chiles
  • 8 ounces Chorizo Sausage
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces Mexican melting cheese such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro & sour cream optional

Roast the pablanos over an open flame, turning regularly until the skin is evenly blackened and blistered, about 5 minutes.  Be careful no to char the flesh, only the skin.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes.  Rub off the blackened skin, then pull or cut out the stems and the seed pods.  Tear the chiles open and quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds and bits of skin.  Cut into 1/4 inch wide strips about 2 inches long.

Heat the oven to 350.  In a medium skillet, cook the chorizo over medium heat,stirring to break up any clumps, until half-cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is richly golden and the chorizo is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the poblano strips, taste and season with salt if necessary.  Transfer the mixture to a 9 or 10 inch shallow baking dish.

Very lightly dampen a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the tortillas in the towel, then in foil, sealing the edges tightly. Place in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes.

When the timer goes off, stir the cheese into the warm chirizo.  Set in the oven alongside the tortillas and bake until the cheese is just melted. Sprinkle with the crumbled oregano and serve with the sour cream, tortillas and cilantro.

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pot3

I’ve been busy to say the least.  Busy gaining weight, busy eating a ton of food… good and bad, busy trying to learn as much as I can about factory farming, busy trying to start a Slow Food chapter in Reno and busy trying to overhaul the kinds of meat products we are using at Dish.

Let me tell you, it is not easy to source humanely-raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meats.  My normal distributor doesn’t carry any of the brands I was looking for.  Well, wait, they do carry them, but the price is triple what we are paying now for ham, roast beef, turkey, bacon and salami.

So I moved on to our secondary distributor and called them.  They didn’t have anything!  Both of these companies are national and the leaders in their industry, but they carry very few organic and pretty much no humanely-raised options of any kind.  Blah… supply and demand I suppose!

I was starting to really get panicked until I thought of calling another company out of Sacramento that services Reno.  They came through… In fact today we received our first shipment of humanely-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free turkey, ham and salami as well as Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon.  We also are now getting our eggs through  a farm that lets their chickens run around on natural ground with sunlight on their backs!

As for sourcing meats for my home, well that’s a bit more problematic.   None of the supermarkets in town carry anything on the pork side that is even close to humanely raised.  I’ve called quite a few places and have met with everything from laughs to surprise that I would want to buy humanely-raised meats.  What are you supposed to do?

We fortunately have a Whole Foods in town, so I have started to buy anything pork-related from them.  I’ve also looked up all the local farms within 100 miles and have contacted a few of them who raise beef and pigs.  Our plan is to visit each of them to see how they are raising their animals and then put together a group of people to purchase the meat!  I challenge you to do the same thing.  Yes it costs more, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I will just eat half as much meat as I did before!

So the good news is we are starting to make a difference.  Actually based on the amount of meat we use, I would say we are making a huge difference.

So on to Pot Roast.  I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine a few months back and instantly had to make it.  It was super simple, but included a huge amount of caramelized onions.  Since I started cooking I’ve had quite a bit of a problem really caramelizing onions well.  Either I don’t cook them long enough or I burn the crap out of them.  So keep your eyes on them and don’t walk away for long!

This is the perfect weekend night dinner before the temperatures start heading into the 80s and 90s and a steaming pot of meat doesn’t sound so great!

pot21

Super Rad Pot Roast

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb onions
  • 1 – 5 pound, grass fed, boneless beef chuck roast, tied
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • 2 (12-oz) bottles beer
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Pat beef dry and season all over with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide 5- to 6-qt heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown beef on all sides, about 15 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Cook onions with bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt in remaining tablespoon oil in pot, scraping up brown bits from bottom and stirring occasionally, until onions are well browned, about 25 to 35 minutes.  Add beer and vinegar to onions and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Add beef and meat juices from plate and return to a boil.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle. Cut a round of parchment paper the diameter of the inside of pot (near the top).

Cover with parchment round and lid and braise in oven until meat is very tender when pierced in several places with a meat fork, about 4 1/2 hours.

Transfer beef to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered, 20 minutes. Cut off string, then slice meat. Skim off fat from sauce and discard bay leaves.

Serve braised beef with onions and sauce and devour!

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chic1

I have no story tonight, nothing much to say.  I was at work for 12 hours today and wanted something quick and low-calorie.  I located this recipe on epicurious.com a few minutes before leaving the restaurant and made a few changes.  I found the taste to be very good, it was super easy to prepare and I would make it again.  It is nothing special or crazy, just a quick weeknight meal for the four of us.  Enjoy!

Sorry for the picture, I’m trying some new things and it didn’t work out as I would have liked. 😦

Grilled Chicken Breast in Spiced Yogurt (serves six)

  • 2 1/4 cups plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2  tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

Whisk together one cup yogurt, two tablespoons oil, one tablespoon lemon juice, salt, and spices, then add chicken and turn until coated well. Marinate at room temperature 20 to 40 minutes. I marinated it for 20 minutes and would have liked to have left it for another 20 minutes so that the chicken could pick up a bit more flavor.

Prepare the grill for cooking, medium-high heat.  If using a gas grill, shoot for 400 degrees.

While the grill is heating, whisk together remaining 1 1/4 cups yogurt and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt to taste.

Grill chicken (discard marinade), covered only if using gas grill, on lightly oiled grill rack, turning over at 7 minutes and then cooking for another 7 to 9 minutes.  The chicken is done when the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

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Pork & Hominy Stew – Posole

homblog

Well, Well, Well. I’ve been having quite a few problems writing anything for the blog lately… as you can tell.  I’ve still been cooking and taking pictures, but I just don’t have much energy to write.

As many of you know, I’m not a good writer.  Not only does it take me forever to come up with something to write, but it takes me years to actually write it down.

I’m also a all-or-none person when it comes to my hobbies and I have problems focusing on more than a few things at a time.  In the past year it has worked out like this, in this order:

  • Paintball and Exercising – good simple fun and I was in really good shape
  • Cooking and Exercising – almost perfect, I was eating a ton of food and maintaining my weight
  • Cooking and Blogging – the complete opposite.  I was eating and gaining weight
  • Cooking and Photography – two very time consuming hobbies that require a lifetime to be great at
  • Photography and Work – more work is necessary to pay for these hobbies

So where do we go from here?  I need to somehow find balance with all f this.  Paintball season starts in two months.  I’m really trying to improve my photography skills and I want to cook more.  Oh I need to exercise based on the fact I’ve gained half the weight back from last year already.  Last but not least, probably first, I need to start working on the new business opening, which is going to happen sooner than later.

To complicate things, I can’t just do something for fun.  More often than not I do something for the end result.  Being great, the best, perfect, better than others.  I’m always in search of knowledge, it could be researching World War II or reading about the Iraq war or many other things.  More times than not I pick a cooking subject or a recipe not to eat the food, but to learn the process, taste new foods or practice.  As I recently wrote on my facebook account, “I’m always reaching for something outside of my grasp”.

Any words of advice out there?

Oh and this recipe was great.  I had never tried Hominy before and I found this recipe in epicurious.com.  I didn’t really make any changes with the exception of adding a cornstarch slurry at the end to make it thicker.  It was one of the few almost perfect rated recipes I found on epicurious.com so give it a try!

homblog2

Pork & Hominy Stew (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces or boneless country pork spareribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup diced smoked ham
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 poblano chilies,* seeded, cut into 2×1/4-inch strips
  • 2 cups drained canned hominy (from two 15-ounce cans)
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Mix one and one half tablespoons of the chili powder the salt, and pepper in bowl. Rub spice mixture all over pork.

Saute bacon in large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat until crisp, about five minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Working in batches, add pork to drippings in pot and saute until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion, ham, carrot, and garlic to pot. Cover and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping up browned bits. Add the chilies and stir 1 minute.

Stir in the hominy, tomatoes with juices, beer, broth, marjoram, pork, and remaining two teaspoons chili powder and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer until pork is very tender, about one to one and half hours.

Simmer stew uncovered until liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with reserved bacon and cilantro.

Note: If you want a thicker sauce, which I did, I added a cornstarch slurry and then simmered for another 10 minutes.

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I unfortunately didn’t take a picture of this one.  But it’s rice pudding, how can you go wrong.  I made this on New Year’s Eve and it was a huge success.  I only slightly modified it from the Ina Garten recipe I watched on Food Network that day.

This is not low calorie in any way, shape or form, but it’s worth it.  Next time you want a treat give this one a try.

Perfect Rice Pudding (serves 6)

3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine the rice and salt with one and a half cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed.

Stir in four cups of half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end.

Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for one minute. Off the heat, add the remaining cup of half-and-half, and the vanilla.  Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.

Serve warm or chilled.

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hmm1

It’s winter and I’m craving braised foods, casseroles, soups and long-cooked meals.  Actually I’ve been craving this kind of food for months, but I was having a hard time getting the rest of my family to desire a long-cooked braised meat and potatoes when it was 90 degrees outside.  Well that’s not the problem any longer, it’s 30 to 40 degrees around here now.  Exciting!

The other exciting news is that I’m going to take my first college culinary class starting in January.  Most everything I’ve learned in my life, computer programming, photography, how to play golf or tennis has been through reading books, a ton of practice and trial and error.  By myself I can usually increase my skills to the level of advanced amateur pretty quickly, but when things start to get hard, I usually give up and move on to something else.

Well I’ve decided that I’m going to try and take my cooking and culinary knowledge to the next level.  At the same time I’m terrified of going back to college after 20 years.  I’m sure there will be a certain level of boredom at times since I do have pretty good knife skills and I do know how to cook but I really need to learn the basics.  I’m one of those people who often times skips the basics and this limits my abilities in the long run.

Well no pain no gain right?  I’ve been working at the restaurant for almost two years now and I’m cooking quite a few things.  It seems like this is going to be my long-term career so I better make sure I’m good at it. I also figure even if I spend the majority of my time on the business side of the restaurant, the more culinary knowledge I have the better off we are!

So on to Grillades… in Creole parlance, it means thinly sliced beef, sometime veal, braised in a roux-thickened stock and served over buttered grits.  We found a ton of rice in the pantry last month so I decided to serve them over rice instead. This recipe is from Molly Stevens’ book All About Braising, which I highly recommend.  I’ve cooked multiple recipes from this book and all are great!

The roux made from the peanut oil and flour in the drippings of the meat was out of control.  The braising liquid was awesome, thick and rich.  The meat was also perfect.  I will be making this again, over polenta/grits next time!

Grillades & Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of boneless beef steaks (chuck, flat iron or top round) about 1/2″ thick
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped into 3/8″ pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped into 3/8″ pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock

Slice the steaks crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Season all over with salt and pepper.  Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small heavy saucepan, pound the strips to a 1/4-inch thickness.

Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a large deep heavy skillet or a Dutch oven (5 or 6 quarts) over medium-high heat.  Lift a strip of steak with tongs and lower just the tip into the hot fat – if it doesn’t sizzle immediately, wait another 20 to 30 seconds before trying again.  Once the fat is hot, add only as many strips of steak as will fit without crowding and sear them, flipping once, until mahogany-colored in spots and around the edges, two to three minutes per side.  Set aside on a large plate without stacking and continue searing the remaining steaks.

Once all the steak strips are browned, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the skillet.  Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste, which is known as a roux.  Expect to see black specks in the roux left from browning the meat; the roux itself will be dirty beige.  Continue to stir gently but continuously until the roux begins to glisten, about five minutes.

Stir in the onion, green pepper and celery until evenly coated with the roux.  Cook, still over medium-low, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to become limp and fragrant (you’ll smell the bell pepper most), about 20 minutes. The roux will darken from a dirty beige color to more like caramel, and the moisture released from the vegetables will help keep it from scorching.  Don’t stray far from the stove, through, when the roux and vegetables are cooking.  You have to be vigilant about stirring every few minutes so that nothing sticks or scorches.

Stir the garlic, thyme, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne and a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, for another three minutes. Slowly pour in the stock, stirring until smooth, increase the heat to medium and boil for a minute or two, stirring once twice, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of gravy.

Adjust the heat to low and wait for the sauce to slow to a quiet simmer.  Return the steak to the skillet, along with any juices that pooled on the plate, stir to combine the meat with the sauce and the vegetables, and cover tightly.  After about five minutes, check to see that the sauce is only simmering sluggishly – if it is too close to a boil, you’ll wind up with tough steak.  If necessary, lower the heat or place a heat diffuser beneath the pan.  Continue to braise, lifting the lid every 25 minutes or so to stir, until the steaks are fork-tender and the sauce is quite thick, about one hour.

During the last 45 minutes make the rice.

Remove the grillades from the heat and taste for salt, pepper and cayenne.  The sauce should be piquant.  Serve over the rice.

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