Saturday, June 26, 2010

In a rut....time for a challenge

So I was reading a B.C. comic the other day. A guy is sitting talking to his shrink and says ' so when did you realize you were in such a rut." The man answers "When I started writing my diary 2 weeks in advance.

It's funny for sure, but makes me realize I am in a big cooking rut. I keep wheeling through my old recipies and have not really developed anything new.

So I have decided to challenge myself.

By Dec 31st this year, I will develop a 6 course tasting menu of BRAND NEW, NEVER BEFORE SEEN recipes. The point behind this will be to host a dinner party for my foodie friends(with a minimal fee for dinner to help cover costs). If all goes well this might even be a new years thing.

I will change this blog over to a log of my exploits as I attempt to develop this menu.

Not being any type of classically trained chef, this will be a challenge for me. I will be attempting to step outside of my comfort zone with flavors and enter a brave new world.

Oh.......its on. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baked Chimichanga's

I know, its been a really long time.

Been doing some thinking, planning etc.

Lately, I have been thinking more healthy, trying to figure out how to eat things that I really love while not eating horrible. So I came up with this on the fly and wanted to share.

I love chimichanga's. They are one of my favorite mexican dishes but come with a high fat load due to deep frying. The problem is without frying you bascially have a burrito, so my mission was to come up with a baked version that kept the charm of the fried, but much better for you. Enjoy

Makes (6 medium chimi's)
Prep time 20 min.
Bake time 20 min.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Chimi Filling:

1 lb Ground Round (FRESH, not frozen)
1/2 a large onion diced
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh pepper
1 pack your favorite taco seasoning
2/3 c water
1 pkg low-fat Cheddar/Jack, Mexican blend etc, shredded cheese
1 pkg Medium Tortillas
1 tsp olive oil
Optional 2 Jalapeños( for those who like more spice)

In a large skillet, add the olive oil to a cold pan, with the diced onion and a pinch(1/4 tsp) of the salt and about the same amount of pepper. We are going for a sweat here, so do not hit this in a hot pan to start. If you decided to do Jalapeños add them here. Cook over medium heat till the onions are soften and translucent (4-5 minutes). Increase the head a bit, and add the ground beef, the rest of the salt and pepper. After 2-3 minutes, add the garlic powder. Cook the beef until completely cooked through.
Add the taco seasoning and the water and finish the mix as directed on the package. ( basically mix cook until liquid is evaporated.) Allow mix to cool 5 minutes or so off the hit so you dont burn the hell out of yourself when you start working with it.

Heat 6 tortillas in the microwave for about 20 seconds to soften them up.

In the middle of each tortilla, add a handful of cheese in a line extending to about 1/2 inch from the edge, top with about a 1/6 of the meat mix. Fold the sides in and tuck and roll the tortilla, think burrtio here, thats what we are going for. Once rolled up secure with a toothpick or two. The goal is not to have them unwrap in the oven, try and seal them up as best you can.

Place on a lightly spayed cooking sheet, make you it has a good rim on it, this may get messy.

Now here is how we get that chimi fried goodness for a fraction of the fat. Using a pastry brush liberally brush the whole chimi with Vegetable oil. When this is baking the oil will lightly fry that shell, giving it a bit of that fried taste with much less fat and calories. Save some oil because you will probably want to hit them again after 10 minutes in the oven or so.

Bake for 20 minutes, basting with the vege oil again about half way through. Pull them out when the are nice a browned and have a slight crisp to them.

Here is a sauce I can up with after reminiscing about Chi-Chi's old ranchoro gravy they used to serve.
In a sauce pan combine:
2 c Chicken broth(Low Sodium)
2-3 branching FRESH Cilantro diced fine
2-3 Green onions diced fine
1 Jalepeno (Guess how I want it cut)
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Bring this mix to a boil and reduce to about 3/4

Once ready to finish, add a corn starch slurry to thicken it to just under the consistency of gravy.

Serve the chimi's covered with the sauce and a good dollap of sour cream(Low fat breakstones is my Sour cream of choice).

This is a great, quick and healthier style meal for a week night that pleases everyone and doesnt taste nearly as healthy as it is. For a side I like the corn cake mix you can find near the Mexican products in your local grocery story or Lightly Sautéed Zucchini works FANTASTIC here.

Variation: Chicken:

For the chicken version,replace the beef with diced chicken(of course)
Add a 1/2 c of Low Fat Sour Cream to the meat base when its all set

This creates a whole serperate experience that is even more healthy.

Do Not EVER use turkey for is just too dry to whole up well in this recipe.

Peace out, get the hell out of my kitchen.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Of Beef and peppers

This has to be one of my all time requested dishes. And its one of my own creations.

I am not sure what really makes it work so damn well or makes it hit just the right spots, but among my crew, they love it. And it is REALLY easy to do.

The Beef.

Stew beef works well here, as well as what they call 'ranch steaks'. General cheap cuts of meat.

This recipe scales really well, so I will just give the standard 'dinner' size.

1-1/2 lbs of BEEF. ONLY BEEF. Trust me...cut into biteish sized pieces. Think like shishkabob...but that is another blog entry.

In a gallon size zip top bag put in 1 cup of soy sauce (no low sodium crap, we need the salt here). Add 4-6 cloves of smashed garlic.
If you want a slightly more sophisticated flavor, use 1/2 cup soy and a 1/2 cup of tamari, and a splash of rice wine vinegar.

*Smashed garlic: Take a head of garlic and separate the cloves, with the flat side of a large knife, CAREFULLY, place the width of the blade over the garlic clove, with the edge facing away from you. Firmly strike the flat edge of the blade with your fist to 'pop' the garlic. This should break the garlic and make the paper really easy to pull off. If you are an idiot or stupidly clumbsy, dont do this, peal the garlic, slice it with a plastic knife.....just don't hurt yourself.

Put the meat in the bag and seal well, toss the bag around to get everything coated. Marinate at least an hour.....more if you can, but not more then 6 or so.

When you getting close to cooking time, chunk up (1-2 squarish pieces) 2-3 multicolor bell peppers, and 1 of your favorite onion. I have used red onion to sweet, each ad its charms, so I leave it to you.

Pre-heat your broiler.

Drain the meat of almost all the marinade, and combine in shallow pyrex dishes with peppers and onions, toss well in the pans to make sure they are well combined.

Cook under the broiler, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Time will depend on the doneness you are looking for. 20 minutes or so will get you to to around med-rare med, 30 to med-well, well done. You are looking for a good 'char' on your veggies and beef. Actually time will depend on your broiler.

Now comes the interesting part, the thing that makes this dish. Peanut sauce!!!!! Don't look at me like that, LISTEN TO THE BRASS ONE!!!!!

Now this will be hard for me to quantify in a recipe, I have found it to be a very much taste thing. I know when its right, but we will give it a try.

First, prepare a double boiler...dont know what that is? Google it.

Double boiler I have found, is the best way to cook this sauce, we have a lot of sugars and proteins going on here, and they burn instantly.

In the pot, put about a cup of crunchy Peanut Butter, and a half cup of regular peanut butter.

Add to it.
1/4 c Fish Sauce(check thai places)
2 tbl Rice wine vinegar
1/2 c milk
1-2 tbl of red chili flakes, thats right TABLESPOONS
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbl minced garlic
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp ginger

Taste this sauce regularly, adjust the ingredients as you see fit,
for a sweeter sauce, add 2 tbl of light b. sugar.

Now this sauce will not taste hot nor really spiced at first, the flavors will develop, and it will heat up as the oils in the chili flakes and pepper start to develop with the heat.

This sauce should look thin when you start, cooking will thicken it up. If it gets too thick add more milk.

Cook over med heat(in your double broiler) until warmed through, then about 3-4 minutes once warmed.

Now there are a few ways to eat this dish.

First white rice goes very nice with it.

I prefer to dip my beef and veggies in the peanut sauce, my wife on the other hand likes to make a 'curry' out of it and put meat and veggies over rice and top with generous amounts of sauce.

Any which way, this is a great dish, a crowd pleaser and generally easy to make.

I'm tired.....get out of my kitchen....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barbeque's, fo-que, f-you

There are those elites, I among them that will bitch that anything not done in a smoker or low and slow over fire is not BBQ.

However, nothing is so inherently American as BBQ and BBQ sauce.

There is something that speaks of summer and family about meat cooked over open fire with sweet and tangy sauces dripping off every bite.

Problem is....who the hell has that much time to make a meal any more?

It's Weds night, kids are hungry, wife is hungry, wants comforting familiar good food.
Whatcha gonna do hot shot? Whatcha gonna do?

This is something quickerish I make that hits the spot. As with most of my stuff it is easy and cheats, alot.

It is my oven BBQ chicken wings. About as easy as easy gets...but so damn good.

First get your oven going at around 400, yes that high, now shut up.

Wings can go on frozen onto the pan. I prefer the wing ding style from Perdue or Tyson. You can defrost them, which is fine, but drop 10 minutes off the first cooking time. And for god sakes if you do defrost them, make sure you squeeze them dry with paper towel and that you did not start to cook them in the microwave.

Honestly the best way I have found to defrost wings is in a steel or glass bowl full of warmish water, change every 5 minutes until defrosted.

Toss them liberally with Lawerys Season salt, garilc powder, and Old bay seasoning.

Shove them in there and dont touch for a half hour.

Now that those are going, we got sauce to make.

Start with Open Pit brand bbq sauce, original. Don't complain here, Open pit has a great base to work with. It is a vinegar and tomato based sauced that is not very sweet. Believe it or not many competition cooks in this country start with Kraft BBQ as a shut up.

Anyway, time to doctor, take a small bottle of this sauce and add it to a nice sealable container. Now add:
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbl Soy Sauce (not low sodium)
1 tsp Season salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried onion
2 tsp dried pepper flakes
1 tsp mustard (I like grainy mustard here, but each his own)
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp hot sauce

Adjust this to your liking and hit. Now just let that sit for about 20-30 minutes to get the flavors to hydate a bit.

After 30 minutes turn the pan around in the over, but don't flip the chicken, its not done yet.
Crank the heat to 450 and cook at least 10 more minutes. The chicken should be done now and the skin should be getting kind of crispy. The spices on it should look like they are on the verge of burning.

Now the fun part, sauce time. We are going to do this a couple of times.

Sauce all the wings on the top, use a bbq brush or silicon one, this coat should be even and not very heavy.

Now throw them back in and let them go for 5 minutes. The sauce should look very sticky, like caramel on the chicken now. HIT EM AGAIN, same procedure, and let them go another 5.

Turn off the oven, give them one more coat of sauce and stick them back in for just a minute, while you assemble your plates.

Serve em up and you have delightfully sticky, sweet, tangy, spicey wings that the family will go nuts for.

This goes great with Blue Box mac and cheese, and in about an hour you have a great family meal. Don't heat up too bad either.

Yeah I will get to the complicated stuff eventually. Right now I am havin fun.

Next time on the brass chef....Beef and peppers with Peanut sauce, Asian, Mediterranean, Thai, oh my.....and ready in 30 minutes of cooking.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scrambled eggs. How can you screw that up.

Softball topic here, but one that get's my goat.

Scrambled eggs is one of the most commonly made breakfast items in the country.

But people do not know how to cook them.

Now I am not Alton Brown. I have no cool protein diagrams to help you out.

The simple truth is this.

Have you even made scrambled eggs and thrown them into a bowl or plate, come back a minute later and the eggs are kinda hard and you notice that there is a bit of water in bottom of the dish?

That is because you over cooked the eggs.

The concept at work here is known as carry-over heat or cooking. The principal says that just because you have removed direct heat from something does not mean that it stops cooking.

Applying this principal, when your eggs are perfectly done in the pan, they will be over done on the serving plate because the residual heat will cook the eggs on the plate.

The answer is really simple. Take the eggs off before they are done.

Good scrambled eggs should have come together in the pan but still have spots that look under done in the pan. Wet and glossy in places.

At that point, don't mess around, get them onto the serving plate, and then don't touch them for 30seconds to a minute. Upon inspection you should now see wonderfully, perfectly cooked scrambled eggs.

Yeah this was an easy one, I am tired.....go away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Short Intro

They call me the brass chef......

Who is they.....they are a group of educated eaters and culinary adventures that I call my friends.

The three simple words 'I am cooking' are usually enough to inspire drives of up to half a state away to eat what I am making.

I raid the fridge and make magic with leftovers.

I usually don't follow recipies and cook by what feels right.

Keep an eye on this blog for the culinary misadventures of the brass one....

if you are really lucky, you might even get a recipe or three.