Lazy Braisin’ Beef

0
IMG_0011

Super easy braised beef is perfect for rainy days…or hey, any day will do!

So, it’s a rainy day.  And a bit chilly.  And The Hubs is working on something in the office. I won’t say I’m bored, but I’m in need of something to hold my attention for a little while.  In addition, I guess the Holidays had me thinking about my Grandma (Memaw). I can remember her and my Aunt Liney flying out to Oregon as a surprise after Ken and I moved there and fixing a seriously beefy casserole one night. It was super simple:  A mixture of ground beef, Lipton’s onion soup mix, tomatoes, and pasta. I’m pretty sure it was a food-child of the 50’s when dinners where often a conglomeration of various quick, fairly processed foods. I don’t care. It was seriously addictive.  There’s no way it should have been, but it was. Something about the super beefiness, the tang of tomato, and the caramelized flavor from dehydrated onions in the soup mix. That casserole was the inspiration for this super easy, ‘Lazy Man’s’ braised beef. It takes about 2 seconds to throw together and then a few hours of no-touch time in the oven. You do need a little patience, but not a whole lot more.

IMG_9351

All you need is a little patience!

When it’s done, throw it in a bowl or pair it with creamy corn grits for a super treat.  It’s seriously beefy, hits the spot, and sticks with you.

 

Lazy Man’s Braised Beef

  • 3-4 pound,well-marbled chuck
  • One 32 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Gel Beef bouillon (Organic Beef Better-Than-Bouillon)
  • 2 TBSP dehydrated onions (in spice section)

Place your chuck in a pan large enough to hold it with a tad of extra room. Add 1/2 of can of tomatoes. Add enough water proportionately mixed with beef bouillon (read container) to come half way up beef sides. Sprinkle dehydrated onions on top.

IMG_9994

It’s as easy as throwing everything in a pot and waiting!

Place lid and place in 275 degree preheated oven until tender but not stringy. I find this takes somewhere around three hours. If it’s not like butter with fat and connective tissue dissolved, return to oven and check every thirty minutes or so.

IMG_0002

Look at that good business….like budda!

Once super soft, pull out the meat and reserve on the side. Place the pan with juices and tomatoes over medium high heat. Add remainder of tomatoes. Bring to gentle boil and reduce by half until flavors are intensified. Adjust seasoning if necessary (salt, pepper, bouillon addition).  Reduce heat to low. Once the beef cools to the touch, pull apart into chunks and submerge in the au jus.

IMG_9999

Pull that beef into chunks and get ready to feast!

Feel free to add sautéed mushrooms and/or serve over creamy corn grits (don’t knock it ’till you try it!).  I’m pretty certain Memaw would’ve been proud!

IMG_0011

Get it!

 

 

 

Practicin’ for St. Patty’s (or better Corned Beef)!

0
IMG_0019

Practicin’ for St. Patty’s!

 

St. Patty’s is a big deal in our house. It’s the beginning of Spring, a good excuse to come out from under the winter weather (yes, the whole two months of it!), and to celebrate with good friends.  And then there’s Corned Beef. I’ve always loved Corned Beef.  That being said, Good Lord bless me, I’ve usually had the type you’re familiar with:  Boiled to bejesus and somewhere close to rubbery. In fact, I’ll never forget my friend  Jennifer looking at me a bit exasperatedly and saying, “um, but it’s pickled meat!”.  Indeed, it is. It’s actually pickled beef brisket.  Although I’m in no way close to starting the project from scratch and pickling my own fresh brisket, I’m down with creating a much better Corned Beef than I’ve had in the past.  After all, it’s well past ‘Half Way to St. Patty’s Day’ and I’m just gettin’ on it!

Note:  This Corned Beef isn’t watery, or blubbery, or chewy.  It has tons of flavor and is soft like butter. However, it can’t be done in a hurry. It’s like any other tough meat…low and slow is the way to go. I actually used a ‘Texas Crutch” about half way through cooking when it seemed the meat chunk was just stalling at the tough stage. Think about how long it takes to cook a brisket…it’s pickled cousin isn’t much better. Good news…do a big enough batch at a time and you can have corned beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, and homemade corned beef hash.

 

Better Corned Beef:

  • Corned Beef Brisket (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  •  A Handful of carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • Seasoning packet that comes with; Or
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 TBSP mustard seeds
    • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
    • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
  • 1 Sierra Nevada Porter
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Get yourself a big ol’ pot. Coarsely chop your cabbage and cut up your carrots and onions (not too small since they’ll be in the pot a while).

IMG_9995

Chop your cabbage coarsely…it’ll stand up better to longer braising times.

Place 1/2 of your coarsely chopped cabbage in the bottom of the pot. pour your spices (packet or otherwise) over the top.  Add 1/2 of your carrots and onions.  Place the Corned Beef brisket on top.

IMG_9997

Add 1/2 of your cabbage, onion, and carrots to the pot. Place your Corned Beef on top.

Add the rest of the cabbage, onions, and carrots.

IMG_9998

Your sweet little 4 pound baby Corned Beef brisket is nestled in a bed of cabbage, onion, and carrots.

Pour in your beer and stock. Place a tight-fitting lid and set pot over a medium-low heat. Start up The Big Lebowski (well, you have to have something to do while you wait!). Braise for around three hours. At this point it should accept a fork easily but not be near falling apart and still give a fair resistance.

Take the brisket, place on a double layer of foil, add about 1/2 cup of the braising liquid, and wrap tightly.  Place in a 275 degree oven until a fork slides in like butter (about 1.5 hours). I have no other way to describe this other than the fork truly slides in like a a hot knife through butter. In the smoking arena, I’ve found this usually equates to between 195 and 205 degrees. Pull your little package out of the oven and let it rest for about 30 minutes on the counter. Then unwrap and slice across the grain.

IMG_0008

Mmmmmm…pickled brisket never tasted so good! God bless the Irish!

 

IMG_0019

Serve it up with some of your cabbage and carrots and a little bit of broth. Get crazy and add some masked potatoes or for a Southern flair, some creamy stone ground corn grits.

For a super, duper treat…fry up an egg over easy and eat your leftovers in the morning!

IMG_0023

Corned Beef is a great friend for eggs over easy. Better yet? Add some tasty potatoes for a homemade Corned Beef hash (no one should EVER eat that weird stuff out of a can). Breakfast never looked so good!

 

 

 

 

Grilled Ribeye with Blue Cheese and Mushroom-Sherry Cream Sauce

1
IMG_9506

Grilled ribeye with mushroom-sherry cream sauce. Seriously. Good. Eats.

It was a long work week and I was in the mood to don some flip flops, enjoy the good weather, sip a little vino, and chat with The Hubbs. Not to mention I had an itchin’ to bust out the charcoal Weber my brother and his family gave me for my birthday.  I mean, who doesn’t like to play with their new toys??  As the proverbial “They” say, it really is all about the simple things. So The Hubbs stopped to pick up some ribeyes and we were on our way to Good Times.

Although I love a good ol’, simple charred ribeye (seriously, that charred fat!), I was looking  for a little something more. Luckily The Hubbs picked up some mushrooms and blue cheese I keep a stock of cream and sherry on hand. Although this recipe might seem like work, don’t let it fool you. It’s perfect for sippin’ and is worth every minute!

 

Grilled Ribeye with Blue Cheese and Mushroom-Sherry Cream Sauce

  • 2 Ribeyes, well marbled, 2 inches thick
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Blue Cheese
  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 2 TBSP oil (we used beef tallow)
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onions
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
IMG_9480

Season your steaks. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Salt and pepper the steaks. Let sit 1 hour at room temperature. Prepare your grill.

IMG_9495

Soak your dried porcini mushrooms in just enough hot water to cover.

Soak your dried mushrooms in just enough hot water to cover.

Cook your mushrooms. Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 TBSP fat to pan over medium heat. Sweat the onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Remove dried mushrooms from liquid and squeeze over pan. Dice and add to pan. Add sherry and deglaze pan. Add cream slowly while stirring. Add the reserved cooked mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until reduced by half and sauce coats the back of a spoon.

IMG_9486

Get your charcoal ready!

Light 6 quarts of charcoal in a charcoal chimney.  When the top briquettes are half covered with ash, spread 2/3 of charcoal over grate with bottom vents completely open. Spread remaining charcoal over 1/2 of grate. Heat grill about 5 minutes with lid on. Remove lid, pat ribeyes dry with paper towels (they won’t char up otherwise), and place ribeyes over the hot side of the grill (the side with more charcoal).  Cook uncovered until well browned on each side, 2-3 minutes per side.  Move steaks to cooler side of grill and cook until meat registers 115 degrees for rare or 120 degrees for medium-rare (I think ribeyes are better at medium-rare). Remove steaks, loosely tent with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.

Heat your oven’s broiler to high. Sprinkle steaks with desired amount of blue cheese and place under the broiler for a minute or two to melt (to avoid cooking your steak at this point, make sure the rack is as close to the element as possible).  Watch closely so you don’t burn them–it can happen quickly!

IMG_9503

Mmmmmm. Melty blue cheese.

Plate your steaks and serve with your awesome mushroom-sherry cream sauce. Serve with your favorite veggie. Since the grill was fired up, we paired the steaks with grilled zucchini and yellow squash drizzled with chive oil. Seriously delightful. The wine, conversation, and R & R wasn’t half bad either!

IMG_9506

Serve with mushroom-sherry cream sauce. Prepare for utter silence at the table!

Helluva Good Smoked Chicken

1

IMG_8949

Ok, so most people who know me have figured out I’m not a huge fan of chicken (except Dad’s BBQ chicken thighs!). Maybe it’s naturally a little bland or maybe I’ve just had a lot of poorly cooked chicken–but it doesn’t generally reach the top of the list in my kitchen as fav things to eat.  Enter the smoker. That little beauty forever changed the way I look at chicken! That thing turns what I know as bland-blech-where’s-the-sauce chicken into get-outta-my-way-or-you’ll-draw-back-a-nub chicken. It’s super easy (some prep is required) and you can throw some pork or beef on the smoker at the same time and have a feastival-o-meat! Any leftover (yea, right!) can be used in smoked chicken salad, chicken chili, smoked chicken Alfredo, or just on top of a salad. Using the leftover bones in making stock gives a subtle smoky flavor that works well for soups, stews, or as a braising liquid. Shove aside your loathing of chicken and let’s get to it!

  • 1 or 2 quality chickens
  • Sweet Tea Molasses Brine
  • Smoker with Pecan, Cherry, or Apple wood chips
  • Adult beverages, good friends, and some time

Rinse your chicken and plunk it down in your brine. For all the ‘no-sugar’ folks, don’t despair…the brine will be rinsed off and minimal sugar will be infused into the meat (use Blackstrap molasses if you’d like the least amount of sugar).

IMG_8854

Let sit 3 or so hours, or overnight in the fridge. Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well. Fire up your smoker, let it heat, and place your chips. I let the initial billow of smoke burn off so I don’t risk any bitterness. Throw your chickens in, grab your bevvy and friends, relax.  Two chickens usually take about 3 hours, or until the temp is 160 at the thigh (then rest on the counter, tented in foil, for 10 minutes or so for an internal temp of 165).  The skin is crisp, nice and brown, and the meat is super juicy and flavorful.  I promise, there won’t be a word spoken at the dinner table!

IMG_8949

Superb (and Easy!) Boneless Short Ribs

2
IMG_8942

The elusive moist, tender, I-can’t-stop-eating-it, get-back-or-I’ll-stab-your-hand short ribs.

I think I’ve tried short ribs every single time they’re on the menu. Even the ‘bad’ ones were great. Each time I’d come home excitedly to try making them myself. I wouldn’t say they were an epic failure…but they just weren’t as good as I’d had in restaurants (seriously, every time it’s like a war-of-forks when the Hubbs and I try to share!).  Then I met the boneless chuck short rib. These are not just short ribs with the bone removed–they’re a whole different cut entirely. More like a chuck roast cut into fat strips.  Accordingly, they turn out fork tender with the same treatment–low and slow.  There’s not much prep involved–just a bit of a wait time while they cook. And it’s so worth the wait—give ’em a try!

  • Boneless chuck short ribs (I always cook a load–they go fast!)
  • Beef broth to cover about 1/2 way up the ribs
  • a few carrots, onions, and celery; roughly chopped
  • Tomato paste (I used a tablespoon)
  • Bay leaves, rosemary, pepper to taste (salt the juices while reducing)
  • Large saucepan or dutch oven with tight-fitting lid

Sear the bejesus out of your short ribs.  I used beef tallow for it’s high smoke point and got a nice crust going.

IMG_8908

Searing all sides for a good crust adds flavor and seals in juices.

IMG_8909

Man, that’s gonna be good!

Remove ribs to a side plate. Saute the carrots, onion, and celery until just tender—or if you have a bit more time, caramelize them a little for extra flavor. Add the tomato paste a cook for a minute or two. Add the ribs in and cover with broth about 1/2 way up.

IMG_8911

Wilt or caramelize your veggies.

IMG_8912

Cover with broth 1/2 way up the sides of the meat.

Add your lid and pop in the oven at 300 degrees with a well-fitting lid (put foil on the edges to help seal up if yours doesn’t seal well). Alternatively you can barely simmer on the stovetop. Cook the ribs until they’re fork tender. You’ll know you’ve got it right when they give with the slightest pressure—the Hubbs says ‘like butter’.  Any fat or connective tissue will have melted. Reduce your juices until they coat the back of a spoon slightly.  No need to strain, just let ’em rip.

IMG_8914

Let ’em go low and slow! Try not to peek too much.

You can eat your ribs at this point–with a bit of your reduced juices–or for super awesome ribs, place them in a single, flat layer in a pan, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.

IMG_8943

For the best ribs, place in a single layer and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Heat the next day by placing under a broiler until just warm. Pour on the reduced juices and go to town. I promise next time you’ll do double or triple batches!

IMG_8942

Go to town! They-re great on their own, with their cooked veggies, with roasted veggies, over risotto, or over creamy grits with their juices.

Enjoy!!

Chive (and other) Oils

1
IMG_8637

Celery soup with chive oil.

Ever wonder what those little green drops are floating in your soup or scattered perfectly around your plate at restaurants? Well, I’ve solved your wonder (I know it just keeps you up at night!). Herb oil. Not the kind where dried herbs are submerged in oil for some time, allowing the oil to take on the subtle flavor of the herb. These are smack-you-in -the-face, pungent, full-flavored oils. I really can’t get enough of them–on salads, over entrees, or drizzled in soup. They last a good long while in the fridge and are super useful. You won’t be sorry you took the time to try them out!

  • 1:1 ratio neutral oil to soft, green dry herb (chive, scallion, parsley, basil)
  • food processor
  • Butter linen or tea towel for draining (or get yourself a bouillon strainer for a less messier option)

Make sure your herbs are dry. Less water=longer shelf life. Roughly chop your herbs.

IMG_8918

Roughly chop your dry, soft herbs.

Place the herbs and oil in the food processor. Whiz until uniform (as close as you can get–try out a Vitamix for great results).

IMG_8919

Place herbs and oil in a food processor or Vitamix.

IMG_8920

Whiz until uniform or as close as you can get.

Place your herb oil in a saucepan and heat gently over low heat until just simmering.

IMG_8928

Place herb oil in a saucepan until you reach a gentle simmer….GENTLE! You don’t want to destroy the aromatic oils.

Strain well.

IMG_8930

A bouillon strainer works well for easy straining with little mess. It can be used for straining stock and yogurt too!

Place in ball jars and mark lids with a wax pencil with type of oil and date.

IMG_8936

Place in ball jars and mark lids with a wax pencil. Make sure to let the oil cool completely before placing the lid.

Let cool completely so there is no water condensation when you close them up. Refrigerate. Some say to use them within the week, but some of mine have lasted months! Trust me, you’ll know by smell and taste when they’re no longer good.

Try ’em on everything! My favorite is as a substitute for faux salad dressings–no more stuff out of a bottle!

Great bonus..you can freeze the drained bits of herb left in tablespoon servings, place in a sturdy ziploc, and use later in soups or mixed with butter over pasta or veggies for a quick meal! No waste!

IMG_8937

Freeze drained herb bits for later use…no waste!

Note:  Scallion oil will have some liquid at the bottom. Just let it settle and pour off the good green stuff so it will last longer! The scallion juice that’s left can be used in soups.

Caveman Meat

1
IMG_8632 2

My reaction after my first attempt at cooking a whole beef tenderloin…not the worst meat I’ve ever tasted, but I was disappointed. Lessons learned.

So I pretty much looked like the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame Lon Chaney after my first attempt at cooking a beef tenderloin (If you must ask how I know about Lon Chaney–>night shift…insomnia…silent movies to avoid waking Grumpy Kevin. There.).  Now, I may not have had that snaggle tooth or that 1/2-of-a-ping-pong-ball eye, but it was pretty damn close.  After spending that much money on a hunk o’ meat, if it doesn’t turn out how ya were dreaming’, you pretty much freak the h-e-double-hockeysticks out!

So, what happened you innocently ask?  Well, I followed the advice of the interwebs instead of my gut.  I mean, tenderloin is a b-e-a-u-tiful piece of meat. Seriously, it smelled better than most steaks while it was completely raw!  It smelled so good the dogs were doing the “dancing circus bear’ next to the counter. You know, where they stand up on their back legs, front arms just a danglin’, dancing around on their back feet to avoid falling over, head turned up, nose in the air. Yeah that. Anyway, I digress.  A good tenderloin is beautiful.  I knew in my heart-of-hearts that I should’ve have honored that beauty and let it shine by treating it simply. But oooohhhhh nooooo–I had to get all cray cray.  Good  God, it was like dressing up a sweet, little, innocent bride in a 1980’s hairmetal Kiss costume. I mean, brides are beautiful, Kiss is awesome….so, ipso facto…brides in Kiss costumes should be magnificent. Not so, people. You might stare in wonder, but not the good kind. I made the same mistake by marrying beef tenderloin and an herbal brine. The horror. The travesty. Mea culpa.  Thank goodness there was plenty o’ wine before we ate.

I was so peeved, I tried again the next weekend. We went to Dad’s, invited Tom and Cindy over again, and got to it.  This time we went to the opposite end of the spectrum…almost nothing.  A little salt, a little pepper, a bit o’ spice, some oil, and fire.  What a difference! It was meat like caveman must’ve eaten…a bit of a crust on the outside, medium rare on the interior, perfect.  There was almost absolute silence at the table as we ate. Enough silence for me to say a short prayer of thanks to my Caveman Homies for their genius in discovering and propagating fire and deciding to hang meat over it (my schooling as an anthropologist kicks in at the weirdest times).

Let’s get to it people. You’ll want to try this pronto.

  • 1/2 beef tenderloin (about 3-4 lbs), whole, trimmed (I left on the ‘wing’ meat)
  • 1 TBSP Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Fennel Seed (or use  a sprinkling of the elusive Fennel Pollen on the finished product)
  • cheap azz coffee grinder ($10 Mr. Coffee will do fine)
IMG_8538

Pre-trimming.

IMG_8540

Post-trimming, pre-trussing. I was so preoccupied with the grill that I didn’t get any trussing pics. The link to the video will help with that!

Now, process your spices in your coffee grinder (dedicate this for spices–it’s a WHOLE lot better than a mortar and pestle) until they’re dust. Put a light coating of oil on your tenderloin so your herbs stick.  Evenly coat your trimmed tenderloin in your spice dust, salt, and pepper. Truss your tenderloin.

Now, go get that grill as hot as you can get it, on one side ONLY (I used a gas grill). If you walk away after heating the grill continuing to be the proud owner of eyebrows, I will be disappointed.  Throw your tenderloin on and sear it on all sides. This doesn’t take long.  A minute or so per side. Then move the loin off heat–or onto indirect heat.  Let it rest there until the internal temp reaches about 90 degrees (about 15-20 minutes for mine).  Then pop it back over to the direct heat to finish until the internal temp reaches 110.  This doesn’t take long and really made a good crust on the outside.  Now, don’t freak out about the 110 degrees.  I can only say that when I cooked the first one to the recommended 135 to achieve medium rare after standing, that thing was much too done.  I went by the ‘squish factor’ on this one which happened to be about 110 degrees.

Remove the roast and loosely cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes (don’t cut it to soon!).

IMG_8624

Post-resting. Look at that crust! My caveman forefathers would be proud!

Slice and enjoy.

IMG_8625

Just what I was looking for! Man was it good!

I think it’s particularly good with a little horseradish sauce.  We make our sauce with sour cream, mayo, horseradish, cream, salt, pepper, garlic, and green onions.  I’ll be sure to add that recipe when we grill up another one.  Now go get down with your caveman roots and enjoy!

 

Weeknight Chicken Thigh Piccata

0
IMG_8615

A chicken piccata so easy you can enjoy it on the busiest weeknight!

No great story about this one. Weeknight. Tired. Hungry. That about does it. I won’t lie, I probably eat way to much pork and beef.  So, it was an odd thing that I was craving chicken (umm…that NEVER happens).  Being that it’s hotter than Hades, I sifted through my brain’s taste buds for something yummy but not requiring a lot of cooking time and could be served over something easy, like salad. Piccata it was. Now the trick was to make a piccata without flour. I’ve seen folks just grill it up or pan fry it naked, but I rather like the faint little coating on the super-thin chicken. I drew on my experiments with flourless fried green tomatoes and snatched up the quinoa flour out of the cabinet.  It was perfect. Quick, juicy, tasty, and done in 15 minutes. That’s a weeknight meal I can get behind.  And it’s pan sauce serves as a salad dressing. Win, win!

This recipe is only for two thighs since I was flying solo…just multiply for how many thighs you have.  Feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts–I just prefer thighs since they don’t dry out like chicken breasts can.  If you feel you need more dressing, either make more sauce or just drizzle some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice over your greens. It’s that simple!

  • 2 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Oil for frying (I like a tab of butter and a TBSP of olive oil for 2 thighs)
  • 1/4 cup of quinoa flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock (low sodium works best)
  • 1 TBSP dry sherry
  • 1 TBSP finely diced onion (red onion here)
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP minced capers, 1 tsp caper juice
  • Salad of choice (I like arugula and spring greens, a wee bit of onion, and tomato. Microgreens would be great!)
IMG_8605

Place your chicken of choice between parchment or freezer paper.

IMG_8606

Pound to beejezus with the flat side of a mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. Even thickness is key.

IMG_8607

Flattened chicken thighs aren’t as ‘pretty’ as boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I think their flavor is superior. Sure, trim the fat if you’d like…but it fries up nice and adds some flavor.

IMG_8608

Salt N’ Peppa (yes, you may sing it) your chicken friend.

Place your boneless, skinless meat in between parchment or freezer paper. Pound the bejeezus out of it with the smooth side of a meat mallet until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  Salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_8609

Dredge through quinoa flour and shake off excess. Quinoa is a seed rather than a grain like wheat, and contains no gluten. It’s parent plant is related to beetroot, spinach, and tumbleweeds (how’s that for a family tree?!). It’s not a gut irritant and is often called a ‘superfood’ due to an abundance of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Dredge through quinoa flour for a super light dusting.

IMG_8611

Fry up your chicken until golden brown and cooked through. Don’t overcook though…no one likes a rubber chicken. Unless you’re a terrible comedian.

Place in pan and cook until one side is golden brown. Flip and cook until other side begins to brown. Be sure chicken is cooked completely through (thighs may remain a bit pinkish but should not be translucent in any way).  Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

IMG_8613

Do up your sauce…onion, sherry, stock, capers, and lemon. Reduce to thicken.

Add onion and sweat until translucent.  Add dry sherry to deglaze pan. Add stock and capers and simmer until reduced by about 1/2.  Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Swirl to combine.

IMG_8612

Mmmmm mmmm..that sure is some tasty chicken!

IMG_8615

Enjoy over salad with the sauce as dressing or place over zucchini noodles, pasta, or with side of your choice.

Slice chicken or place chicken thighs over salad and drizzle sauce over the top (I think slicing works better on salad). Dig in.  This dinner’s so quick you might even have time to clean the kitchen AND relax before heading off to bed!

Feel free to eat over pasta with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley or serve over zucchini noodles if that’s your bag.  It’s good any way you can get it!

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

1
IMG_8322

A simple summer meal…little mess and less work leaves plenty of time for socializing!

Oh, the humble flank steak. I first fell in love with the flank (or similar skirt steak) with my friends Matt and Jen out west.  We’d belly up to marinated and slightly charred steak with grilled green onions and loads of guacamole, imbibe in a few margaritas, and commence with great conversation and loads of laughter. It was tender, flavorful, and simple.  Yet totally delicious. If I wasn’t at an establishment, I wouldn’t think twice about licking my plate! Every single time I have it I think of them and dearly wish The Hubbs would sincerely work on that Transporter we’ve been dreaming about for years. That was Mojo, or Asada, style.  Since then I had the pleasure of dining on flank steak with chimichurri at Trattori Lucca with my friend Mike, his wife Karen, and a handful of new friends. Wine, outrageous conversation, and loads of laughter ensued. Frankly, the servers, bartender, and owners started crowding near the table waiting on us to leave. So, I like to blame the steak for all of the fun. The Hubbs and I ventured to make our own and yep, madness ensued then too. I’m pretty sure it’s the simplicity of the dish that lets both cook and cohorts get down to the real business of chillaxin’. So, gather a few ingredients, a few friends, and be prepared for some great memories!

Chimichurri is a simple concoction of fresh parsley, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, crushed red pepper, and cumin. Sometimes fresh basil or oregano may be added.

 

  • Flank steak, number of pounds to fit your party (we used two pounds)
  • Chimichurri sauce (used this same recipe with added onion, doubled, with some reserved as dressing for two pounds of steak)
  • Salad or grilled zucchini to serve with

 

IMG_8304

Preparing the chimichurri.

IMG_8305

Chimichurri…looks unimpressive, but it’s sooooo good!

Prepare chimichurri via linked recipe directions.

IMG_8310

Coat the steak, or place in ziploc with 2/3 of the chimichurri.

Place steak in ziploc and cover with about 2/3 of chimichurri.  Pour yourself some wine, get comfortable, and begin shenanigans while steak marinates for about an hour.

Fire up the grill to super-molten-hot. Remove steak from chimichurri, scrape off excess, and place on lava grill. Sear about 7 minutes on one side, flip and sear again for 5 minutes or so. Optimally you want the steak to end up medium-rare. Remove from the grill, tent in foil, and let rest about 10 minutes.

IMG_8311

Seriously make every effort to not dig in right away! Let it rest and reabsorb the juices.

Slice thinly across the grain.

IMG_8312

Slice thinly across the grain. This helps the steak to not become a chewy mess.

IMG_8314

Almost ready!

Serve with your choice of sides–we prefer a simple salad, fresh guacamole, and the reserved chimichurri. Micgrogreens work well with this dish too. Grilled zucchini works well too.

IMG_8322

A simple salad (and maybe fresh guacamole and a margarita!) is all you need.

This is a great dish that will impress, but has little effort. It’s perfect for gatherings or nights where you’d rather focus on your company than stirring and sweating over a stovetop.  Now go grab your wine and get some great friends…and dig in!

Growing Microgreens at Home

4
IMG_8242

The wonderful world of microgreens!

For some time I wondered what those precious little sprigs of greenery were perched atop my dishes when I was out and about eating.  Some looked like pea shoots, others like clover, some purple, others red-tinged.  And the flavor from each was distinct and super-concentrated.  I was quite intrigued. Then, during a foray into sprouting, I discovered the microgreen. What exactly is a microgreen you ask? Technically it is a tiny green used for visual and flavor in dishes.  Being intrigued, I set out to see how these little buggers were ‘made’.  After much interweb digging, I ordered myself a hydroponic kit and set to work. Well, that was a failure.  The trays were too big for one or two people to get through before they dried out (or grew mold).  And I just couldn’t feel good about throwing out the growing mat after each ‘crop’. Bearing my Grandaddy’s predilection for liking to grow little things in little containers and a strong inkling  not to be deterred, I tried the same trays with organic soil. Equal failure. Mold, rot, and dry soil.  How was this so when they made it look so simple all over the interwebs? Then I stumbled onto the perfect solution. The humble grocery store lettuce container (I also like to blame this re-purposing phenomena on Grandaddy since his yard was full of blue Folgers coffee cans sprouting various experimental plants). You know the ones that your organic arugula, super greens, and baby kale come in? Yep. Those ones. That simple.

This is super easy, great for small places, and requires very little monetary input–dirt, seeds, and reusable container. And don’t worry, that 1/4 pound baggie of seeds may be $12 but it lasts a great, long while.  Best yet, they add so much flavor to my daily salad that my dressing has simply become a drizzle of oils (any combination of olive, avocado, macadamia, walnut, almond, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, or herb-infused oils).  Other than imagining I’m tearing through a Fairy Forest like Godzilla, these things are fantastic! So, over-active imagination aside, microgreen growing is every bit fantastic!

I start a new container every other day or so and that keeps me in mounds of microgreens for my daily lunch salad. There’s a certain satisfaction about watching them grow—a little, simple success in getting the seed to hatch and unfurl.  And I can’t help but think of my friend Holly who is quite ingenious in growing herbs in small spaces–this adds a whole new landscape to small space and indoor gardening.

 

  • Re-purposed lettuce containers, as many as you’d like
  • 3 or so inches of organic soil per container
  • Seeds (try Johnny’s Seeds for great variety)
  • Fine mist spray bottle
  • Filtered water (or not, I really can’t tell a difference!)

 

First things first, the websites and videos will tell you to titer your water to a pH of 6. They’ll tell you this essential. Lies! Forever I spent bent over like a mad scientist titrating my filtered water.  Then it hit me. Mother Nature doesn’t titrate water pH. And frankly, that step turned this simple, natural act into a pro-duc-tion.  And I’m kinda lazy when it comes to that sort of thing. They also said to soak certain seeds. Yep. Not doing that either. I mean, you’re not creating DaVinci-style microgreens for restaurants. They’re for you…to eat.  In my experience, it just didn’t make a difference. So I’m not durrin’ it!

I digress. Get yourself a some old lettuce, tomato, or mushroom containers.

IMG_8335

Re-purposed containers. The ones with hinged lids work great—no losing the lid! For those wanting to try seed varieties, use the tiny tomato packages with hinged lids and get sample packs of seeds.

And some little packs of seeds. Definitely try Johnny’s Seeds for variety.

IMG_8337

Get yourself some seed packs…I’ve even used packs of radish seeds from last season. Great way to use up the supply of seeds for that monstrous garden I never got around to planting!

Put a 3 or so inch layer of soil in your container. Even it out with the back of a spoon.

IMG_8338

Place your soil and get it fairly even. No need to be perfect here, people. Just no big divots where seeds will settle en masse.

Dampen the soil with water. Sprinkle your seeds in an even layer on top and press them gently into the soil.

IMG_8339

Sowing the harvest!

Spray the seeds and top/lid of container to moisten.  If you’re using an old styrofoam mushroom container, find a lid like a washed styrofoam meat tray, and use it as the top.  The seeds need a few days of relative darkness to sprout (remember, don’t get too freaky about total darkness, as Mother Nature does shine a little sun on the buggers when in a natural setting).

IMG_8341

Just like in nature, keep these little buddies moist.

Place your dampened lid, and cover with a densely-woven kitchen or hand towel.  This is to mimic the darker conditions the seeds experience in nature when you cover them with soil.

IMG_8343

Simulating Mother Nature’s darkness to induce sprouting.

And…now wait. Depending on the seed, it takes about 3 or so days to get sprouting and a bit of height. You’ll want to mist the inside of the lid daily or so to keep a bit of moisture in your container. When you get the first set of leaves and they are about 3 inches, take the lid off and let some sunlight in.

IMG_8347

A little bit of height and the first set of leaves indicate the time to let a little sunlight in.

In another 2 days or so, I start mowing them down with some scissors near the soil line. For sunlight, I place mine on a shelf near a window in the laundry room.  You can experiment with letting them grow a bit longer to where they get their first set of ‘true leaves’, but I can be as impatient as I am lazy. So, eat ’em when you’re ready.

IMG_8344

Half-mowed microgreens. Just cut near the soil line. Be careful not to bring the dirt with you. Or hey, your immune system might thank you for ingesting a wee bit of organic dirt!

If you don’t use them up quickly and the soil starts to dry out, tilt the container and water near the edges, letting the water flow towards the center of the soil.  You don’t want them soaked, but drying out will kill them in a skinny minute. Watering ‘overhead’ can induce mold and rot, so avoid that method.

These buggers are great on salad, in sandwiches, or as garnishes on cold or warm dishes. The possibilities are endless! Bonus?  You get the daily magic of creating food out of wee tiny seeds without having to go total Farmer Joe. And for you parents…can you say ‘summer project’?  Let those little kiddos learn about how their food grows AND let them tend some tasty treats for you.  You’re welcome!

Play with how long you let them grow, what types of seeds you use, and how often you start a new batch to find what suits your needs. You won’t be sorry!