Oyster Stew

Oyster Stew

It wouldn’t be the holidays without oyster stew. When I was a kid this was always a thin soup that had more oyster crackers in it than actual oysters. These days I like to make it as thick and creamy as possible.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 pint oysters and liquor
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 stalks celery,  finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-ish heat. Add the celery and onion and sweat the veggies until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook the mixture, stirring often, until the roux just starts to darken, about 5 minutes.

Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring constantly. Add the celery salt, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Bring the soup almost to a simmer. Almost being the key word, as bringing the soup to a boil will cause the cream to separate. Cook over very low heat for 15 minutes until the soup is thick and creamy and the veggies are very soft.

Add the oysters and their liquor and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the edges of the oysters start to curl.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with more hot sauce on the side and some crusty bread for dipping.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This turned out downright decadent.  The roux is so simple, but makes a lot of difference in how creamy and rich the stew is.

Beef and Noodles

Beef and Noodles

This classic braised beef dish, featuring hearty gluten-free tagliatelle pasta from the fine folks at Jovial Foods, is the perfect cure for the arctic temperatures we’ve been having lately.

1 3-5 pound chuck roast
1-2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 cup red wine
1-2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups peas
1 1/2 cups pearl onions
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons corn-starch
1 box (9-ounces) Jovial Gluten-Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Pat roast dry and sprinkle with a good coating of steak seasoning.

On the stove top, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it starts to ripple. Sear the roast for 3 to 4 minutes per side (mine was fairly flat, so it only had two sides) until it has a nice brown crust on it.

Remove the meat to a plate. Reduce the heat and add the onions. Cook until they just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms start to give off their moisture, about another 5 minutes.

Increase the heat a little and deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom to get up all the tasty browned bits.

Turn off the heat and return the roast and any accumulated juices back to the dutch oven. Add the Worcestershire sauce and enough beef stock to cover the mushrooms and come about a quarter of the way up the site of the roast.

Put the lid on and move to the whole works to the oven.

Beef and Noodles

Braise the roast for an hour, then flip it over and add more stock if needed. Continue cooking until very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total. Remove the roast from the pan and set aside to shred the meat (I used a 9×13 cake pan to keep everything contained).

Move the Dutch oven to the stove top and bring the mushrooms and stock to a boil. Add the peas and onions, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the onions are tender – about 5 minutes.

Beef and Noodles

Shred the meat and remove any nasty bits. I used a pair of bear paws to break it into bite-sized chunks. Return the meat and any juices that have accumulated back to the Dutch oven.

Stir in the meat and the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl and slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until you get a smooth slurry. Stir this into the stew and cook until it starts to thicken – about 5 minutes.

Let the stew simmer while you cook the pasta according to the directions on the box until it is al dente (about 2 minutes less than the recommended time). Drain and toss with the butter. Serve the stew over the noodles.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is one rich and tasty stew. Browning and braising the meat in the same pot and building the stew up from the braising liquid gives this dish a complex, beefy flavor.

Again, the Jovial noodles held up much better than another gluten-free noodles I’ve tried. They didn’t even fall apart when I reheated the leftovers. I’m impressed.

Holiday Survival

The recipe for surviving the holidays with your family? Man, I sure wish I knew that. The only wisdom I have to share is this little sanity-saving video that helps to remind us all to keep our perspective. Remember – it could always be worse ;).

Best wishes! Hope everyone has a happy and a merry!

Gift Ideas

It’s 8°F outside and my Big Green Egg is covered with a thick coating of snow, which means it’s probably time for my holiday gift guide. If you’re looking for gifts for your grill geek, here are some goodies that I’ve had a chance to try out over the past year and can highly recommend:

Google Nexus 7 Tablet – this has become my go-to device for checking recipes, updating grocery lists, and checking email. It’s easier to use than a smartphone and easier to carry around than a laptop.

Fat Daddio’s 15-Inch x 2-Inch Cake Pan – this heavy-duty pan fits perfectly inside an upturned large Big Green Egg plate setter, making it an ideal drip pan.

Tagine – I can’t tell you how many uses I’ve come up with for my Emile Henry Flame Tagine. It not only makes a great dutch oven, but I use the base all the time as a casserole dish or serving platter.

Oster Counterforms Blender – this inexpensive blender is a nice alternative to a food processor. I “wet blend” a lot of sauces to save food prep time.

Toastabags – I use these so that I can toast my gluten-free bread in a non-GF toaster, or so that my dear wife can toast her bread in our GF toaster.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen – Harold McGee’s definitive book on kitchen science is focused on the both the “hows” and “whys” of cooking.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing – Michael Rhulman’s book is the undisputed authority on making confit, salami, prosciutto, pâtés, as well as smoked meats and seafood.

Cuisinart Elite Collection 4-Cup Chopper/Grinder – small, but mighty. Perfect for making whirly sauces.

Red Boat Vietnamese Fish Sauce – this artisanal nuoc mam puts the puts the “ooh” in umami.

Microplane Professional Coarse Grater – excellent for grating cheese, garlic, or zesting citrus fruit. Also makes fancy chocolate garnishes.

Stainless Steel Vented Chimney Cap – this Big Green Egg replacement cap from Smokeware easily does the job of both the ceramic cap and the daisy wheel and offers better features than either.

Brined, Grilled, and Basted Pork Tenderloins

Pork Loin

I have to admit that I’ve never been a big pork tenderloin fan. They’ve always seemed kind of pricy, bland, and finicky. Not qualities I look for in food or friends, so I tend to gravitate to more complex and tasty cuts of pig like shoulder roasts and ribs.

Part of the problem with tenderloins is that pork has gotten leaner and cooking an already lean piece of meat to the old USDA recommend 160°F left you with a pretty dry and flavorless hunk of meat.

Thankfully, the government has seen the error of its ways and since lowered the recommended temp to a pink and juicy 145°F. So when the local MongoMart ran a sale on some nice-looking tenderloins, I decided to give them a try.

Dead Simple Brine
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups ice water
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds each)

Combine the salt, sugar, and un-iced water in a small pan and cook over high heat until salt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add the iced water and stir till the ice is dissolved.

Put the tenderloins in a zip-top bag, pour in the cooled brine, squeeze the air out, then seal the bag, Stash in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.

Rojo Baste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

While the pork is brining, put the oil, butter, garlic, salt, juice, chili powder, cumin, and oregano in a large grill-safe pan (a 9×13 cake pan works fine).

Set up your grill for a raised direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. I used a Woo2 extender ring to raise the cooking grate up a bit.

While the grill is heating up, remove the tenderloins from the bag. Pat them dry, then rub them down with a little olive oil and dust them with your favorite rub or seasoning. We’re going south of the border for this meal, so I used Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom.

When the grill is ready, put the pan with the baste on the grill grate and heat until the butter melts and the garlic becomes fragrant, then move it off the grill but keep it warm and nearby.

Put the tenderloins on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until the tenderloins are starting to brown and show grill marks.

Move the tenderloins off the grill and into the basting pan. Roll them in the baste and return them to the grill. Grill them for another 2 minutes per side, then move them back into the basting pan.

Pork Loin

Roll them in the baste then put the whole pan with the tenderloins in it on the grill. Cook the tenderloins in the pan, rolling them in the baste every few minutes, until they hit 140°F internal (about another 6 to 10 minutes).

Pork Loin

Remove the basting pan and tenderloins from the grill and let them rest for 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloins crosswise into 1/2 inch thick medallions and serve drizzled with the remaining baste.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
These were the best tenderloins I think I’ve ever had – rosy-hued and juicy with great flavor. Not as rich (or fatty) as ribs, but they didn’t take hours to cook either. The mild flavor of the pork really benefited from the layers of flavor that the brine, flames, and baste brought to the game.