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wwheat2

We cut open the Applegate Farms, Oven Roasted Turkey Breast on Friday and the consensus was that it tasted like actual turkey and that is was awesome.  We sell a ton of turkey in the restaurant so I was really concerned that we might not like the new product.  With very few antibiotic-free, sustainable and humanely-raised options available in bulk packaging my quest for better meat could have been stopped dead cold.  Fortunately this is not the case!

We will crack open the ham and the salami this week, but I know they taste great because I have purchased them both at Whole Foods in retail packaging!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to offer sustainable, hormone and antibiotic free, humanely-raised meats at Dish.  As far as I can tell there is not another sandwich place in a 200 mile radius doing anything like we are!

We were also excited because we are now using Niman Ranch bacon.  Niman Ranch, though Bill Niman is gone, still has one of the best hog raising standards in the country.  I’m happy to say we are taking a large amount of $$ out of the factory farmed animal side of things and this is only the beginning.

A couple of other notes to put out there.  HBO is running a new documentary called Death on a Factory Farm.  I suggest you take a look at it.  It starts next week

I’ve mentioned before an organization that labels products with the Certified Humane logo.  Here is their up-to-date listing of producers across the US with links to each company’s website!

Okay so on to bread.  I purchased the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes per day last year and I love it.  We have made a ton of bread out of the book and the only time it didn’t turn out perfect was when I forgot how much flour I measured into the bucket and guessed wrong!

I would go out and buy this book if you like bread, you want to make your own and you don’t want to spend hours managing the process.  It’s incredibly easy and the results are great.  In fact when I made the honey whole wheat bread I took a loaf to work and all the employees thought it was great.  No easy task with a bunch of foodies!

So take a look at the below recipe, get the book to get all the exact details!

Oh and you can visit Zoe Francois’ (one of the authors of the book) blog to get more details – http://www.zoebakes.com

wwheat1

No Knead Honey Whole Wheat Bread- (makes 5 one-pound loaves)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
  • 6 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

Warm the water and milk to about 100 degrees. Add the yeast, honey, oil and the salt to the water in a 5 or 6 quart, resealable, lidded plastic food container.  You can pick these up at Resco or Smart and Final or other restaurant type food service places.

Now add all of the flour at once.  Mix with a wooden spoon, stand mixer with a dough hook, or a food processor fitted with a dough hook attachment.  You are done when everything is uniformly moist with no dry areas.  Should take no longer than a few minutes.

Cover with a lid, not airtight and allow to rise until it starts to flatten on the top or begins to collapse.  Should be about two hours.  Do not use mason jars with a lid or anything airtight…it could explode. Put the dough in the refrigerator overnight or for at least three hours.

I tried to make it in a loaf pan and didn’t put enough dough so experiment as you see fit.  I like the free-form loaves the best so I haven’t tried it again in the pan.

On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent it from sticking when you slide it into the oven.

Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a grapefruit size piece of dough.  Hold the dough, flour your hands if you need to.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.  You are forming a round ball of dough. The bottom side will be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during baking. The top will be mostly smooth and cohesive.

Rest the loaf on the pizza peel for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the loaf, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a baking stone place on the middle rack and a empty metal roasting pan or broiler tray for holding water on the shelf below.

Dust the bread with flour and then slice about 1/8 of an inch slashes into the bread.  You can do them in any pattern you see fit.

After the 20-minute preheat, open the oven. Slide the bread onto the stone. Quickly pour 1 cup of hot water into the roasting pan or broiler tray, shut the door and bake for about 60 minutes until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Dot not open the oven or the steam will escape. The steam helps make the crust.

Allow to cool on a wire rack and then eat it!

Store the rest of the dough in your lidded, not airtight, container in the refrigerator up to 14 days!

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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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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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Yes you read it right, Chicken Fried Hamburgers. I found this recipe in Kenny Shopsin’s book, Eat Me. The book is a great read and I recommend that you check it out on Amazon or your favorite local bookstore. There are great stories mixed with recipes from his restaurant in New York.

This past week has been interesting to say the least. We started the week out slow, then got extremely busy and then ended with a crazy catering at a UNR Wolf Pack football game on Saturday. On Tuesday morning we thought the restaurant was going to blow up, burn down or just get sucked into the nether. We were all busy working when we started to smell burning electrical wire. We immediately all started running around the place smelling every piece of equipment. It was a mystery at first and then the power started to flicker on and off.

“Oh crap,” I thought. I’m a pessimist or a realist at best and I was having visions of something burning in the walls. About then one of the employees yelled out that she was pretty sure it was one of the display cases.

We all stuck our noses in the case and agreed something was wrong. Now I started thinking that the brand new compressor I had just recently installed was burning up and I could see the dollar signs mounting. Nancy immediately called our refrigerator guy who asked us a few questions and told us to turn it off after the lunch rush and he would be by at the end of the day. Fortunately when he got there he discovered that it was only the plug thingee where one of the lights plug in. Damage = very little. YAH, this one worked in our favor.

As for the crazy UNR catering. I will tell you this, don’t trust a college student to point you in the right direction and always leave yourself time when you are delivering food. We fortunately gave ourselves more time than we needed, unfortunately we asked many college students for directions. To make a long story short, we rode the elevator up four floors, down three floors, walked halfway around the stadium to the left to only find out that it was a dead end, back to the start, all the way around to the right, dead end again, out the gate, back in the gate, up two stories and then we finally found the skybox. We did get our exercise for the day though!

Okay, on to the recipe. If you like hamburgers and you like grease and you like breading and you want something rich, then this is the way to go. I made the burgers pretty thick, about three quarters of an inch and they took a long time to cook in the oil. Next time, if there is a next time, I will do them a bit smaller than one half of an inch. The outcome was as follows – Nancy ate half and then told me I was crazy. Randy ate one and said they were interesting, but he liked them. Jacob and I ate one and a half each and then proceeded to start frying all kinds of crap while we watched Survivor (24, Survivor, Top Chef and Project Runway are my favorites shows!). If I recall correctly, we deep-fried some popcorn, cheese, peanut butter, bread and a cheese sandwich. Nancy scowled at us from the couch as we stunk up the house.

Chicken-fried Hamburger (makes 6 hamburgers)

Ingredients

  • Peanut Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pounds ground beef (15 to 20 percent fat)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • Hamburger buns
  • Your favorite burger accoutrements

Preheat a deep fryer or a large potful of peanut oil over high heat to 375 degrees. Form the meat into six, five to six ounce patties. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Whisk the eggs and cream together in a shallow bowl. Put the flour in a separate bowl or pie pan. Dredge one of the hamburger patties in the flour and brush off the excess. Dunk the floured patty in the egg and cream mixture, lift, drain and repeat, dumping the patties back in the flour and then back in the egg and cream until you have gone through the process three times.

Carefully place one or two burgers in the oil and repeat with the remaining burgers, being careful not to overcrowd the deep fryer or the pot. Cook the burgers for 4 to 5 minutes until the crust is golden brown. While the burgers are cooking, butter and lightly toast the buns.

Serve them like any other hamburger…don’t forget to take your blood pressure medicine! Devour.

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