Vacation!

We are currently enjoying the peace and solitude of the great north woods, so no new food posts this week.

The photo above was taken from the porch of the cabin we’re renting. I was setting up a landscape shot when my dear wife noticed a canoe on the beach. So I was going to wait until they paddled by to add them to the composition.

As I waited, my dear wife asked “Are they setting up a camera tripod in the water?” Sure enough, somebody was shooting an outdoor ad. They had this poor guy in red flannel portaging his canoe back and forth until they got the shot they wanted.

So this is my landscape shot of their photo shoot. Enjoy!

P.S. For all you fellow geeks out there – the photos were transferred from my OM-D camera to my netbook wirelessly via an Eye-Fi card. Then uploaded to the cloud through a Droid mobile hotspot.

Update

What’s a vacation without some grilling? I had the great luck to get to cook up a couple of meals on this neat 1940’s stone grill/fireplace.

No recipe here – just some monster burgers cooked in the great outdoors.

 

Sous Vide Steak

After discovering that the nice, thick t-bone destined for dinner was still mostly frozen at 2 hours out, I decided to try cooking it sous vide. Sous vide (a.k.a. hot tubbing) is a cooking technique that I don’t use nearly as often as I should. The food is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag, put into a water bath, and then held at an almost-done temperature for as long as you can stand it before finishing it on the grill.

The compromise at our house on when a steak is “done” is on the medium side of medium-rare, ideally coming off the grill at 130°F internal and reaching 135°F by the time it hits the table. The joy of sous vide is that by holding the meat at 120°F, all the grillmeister has to do is put a sear on it to get a nice, wide band of meat done the way you like it without much of a ring of gray meat around it.

So, I sealed the unseasoned steak in a FoodSaver bag and floated it in an old beer cooler that I had filled with 120°F water. After 15 minutes, the water had dropped to 115°F, so I added more hot water to bring the temp up to 120°F again and closed the lid. After and hour the temp had dropped to 110°F, so I added more hot water to bring it back up to 120°F and went off the get the grill ready.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at sub-nuclear temp, about 700°F. When the grill was ready, I removed the steak from the bag, seasoned it heavily with some ground sea salt and black pepper, and slapped it on the pre-heated cooking grate.

I seared the steak for 60 seconds on each side, then turned it 90° (to get those fancy, cross-hatched grill marks) and grilled it for another 60 seconds on each side. I checked the temp and found that while the ribeye side was done, the strip side wasn’t there yet. So I grabbed the steak with the tongs, turned it sideways to the strip side was down, and grilled it for another 30 seconds. Then I moved it off the heat to rest for 10 minutes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Big band of tender, rosy-red meat with a great crunchy char on it. Perfect. Both the ribeye and the strip seems to have picked up a bit stronger mineral/beefy taste than normal. Might be from the enzyme voodoo that’s supposed to happen when you hold warm food in a vacuum.

The Nutrition:
If you trim it, t-bone steak is 5 points for 3 ounces of meat.

One year ago – Sweet Corn, Brats, & Udi’s Gluten-Free Buns
Two years ago – BBQ 25 Steaks

 

Slashed Cornell Chicken Quarters

Sometimes my recipes come together as the result of a series of happy accidents. With this one, I had read about slashing chicken quarters to get the marinade to penetrate deeper over at Griffin’s Grub, and that seemed like a great idea. Then I read Meathead’s post on Cornell Chicken, and that sure sounded tasty. And then I found myself back in my hometown for the weekend and my Mom mentioned that the local meat department I like had chicken quarters for cheap.

Voilà ! – Slashed Cornell Chicken Quarters.

The Marinade
4 chicken leg quarters
1 egg
1/2 cup peanut oil
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic

Make the marinade by putting the garlic and salt into a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the egg and process until it starts to thicken. Add the vinegar, seasoning, and pepper and whirl to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin to thicken and form an emulsion, kind of like a very thin mayonnaise.

Slash the chicken quarters with a knife, making several deep cuts perpendicular to the bones.

Put the quarters in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over them. Turn to coat, then squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it up, and stash in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is even better). Turn the bag every so often to make sure all the pieces get a taste of the marinade.

The Cook
Set your grill up for either an indirect cook or a raised direct cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. I like to fire roast skin-on chicken to keep it crisp, so I set up for a raised indirect cook using an extender to move the cooking grate up higher in the Big Green Egg’s dome. This way the chicken is getting cooked with a nice, large, even amount of heat on both sides.

When your grill is up to temp, remove the chicken quarters from the marinade and arrange on the grate skin side up. Close the lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. Flip and cook skin-side down for 20 minutes. Flip again and cook skin-side up until the chicken is done – 180°F internal in the thickest part of the thigh or until the leg joint moves easily and the juices run clear.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This was the absolute crispiest chicken I’ve ever made. It almost tasted like it had been fried. It was so good that my dear wife, who never eats chicken skin, loved it too. I’m sure that a lot of the crispiness was due to slashing the skin, giving fat more places to bubble its way out and get some air under the skin.

Then why 4 stars? Note that I didn’t baste the chicken – I should have. Using the marinade as a baste would have built up the flavors quite a bit and done more to help keep the chicken moist. My fault for not reading the original recipe as well as I should have.

The Nutrition:
One chicken leg quarter is 300 calories and 8 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Blackened Redemption
Two years ago – Lucky Guy

 

Tandoori Chicken with Cucumber Raita

I am slowly, but surely, adding some Indian dishes to our regular menu at home. Tandoori Chicken is one of my favorites, so I was pleasantly surprised when a coworker returned from a trip to India with a couple of bags of honest-to-Ganesha, hand-mixed tandoori seasoning.

Tandoori Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons tandoori seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh-grated ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tandoori seasoning, oil, juice, and salt. Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Cucumber Raita courtesy of Simply Recipes

One large cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and seeded
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
10 large mint leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of paprika
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

Grate the cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Let sit 10 minutes, then squeeze with your hands to get rid of any excess water. Chiffonade the mint by rolling the leaves up tightly and cutting thin slices off the end. In a medium bowl with a lid, combine the mint, spices, yogurt, and cucumber. Cover and stash in the fridge until ready to serve.

When you are ready to cook, set your grill up for a direct cook over high (450°F) heat.

Remove the thighs from the marinade and arrange on the grill.  Cook about 6 minutes per side, until you get some crispy bits on the outside and the inside is about 180°F. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Serve over Basmati rice or grilled mixed veggies with a healthy dollop of raita on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The chicken was tender and juicy with a wonderfully complex  flavor. There was a great mix of the sour of the yogurt and the sweet spices. It had a bit of heat to it, so the raita was a great compliment.

The Nutrition:
One thigh is 263 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points. A dollop (about 2 tablespoon) or raita is only 25 calories and 1 point.

One year ago – Splash-proof Thermapen
Two years ago – Link Love

Planked Salmon Nicoise

I had enough salmon left over from my last batch of Planked Salmon that I sealed some of it off in a FoodSaver bag and froze it for later. Then we hit a deal on fresh green beans, new potatoes, and real tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I knew it was time to make a salmon version of my Tuna Nicoise.

The Dressing
2 anchovies, or 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

Make the dressing first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until they are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin to thicken and form an emulsion, kind of like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Salad
1 cooked salmon filet, about a pound
1 head Romain lettuce, chopped
1/2 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and then cook another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Blanch the green beans by bringing 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the green beans and let boil for at least 3 minutes. Check for doneness. Immediately drain the green beans in a colander and plunge them into ice cold water to bring the temperature down. Drain the beans.

This is a composed (versus tossed) salad, so lay all the goodies out on the table and let folks put together their own plates.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This was a great dish to beat the summer heat. No real cooking involved and everything came together in a flash. The farm-fresh veggies pair well with the tangy vinaigrette. I halved the oil in the dressing, so it was plenty tasty, but not nearly as rich, making it a nice match for the salmon as well.

The Nutrition:
Serves 4. Go easy on the dressing and this meal is only 480 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points per serving.

ONE YEAR AGO – Cucumber Margarita

TWO YEARS AGO – Meat on a Stick