Category Archives: Holidays

Gift Ideas 2014

It’s the gift-giving/getting time of year again. So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Boxing Day, or Festivus – here are some goodies that your favorite foodie might appreciate.

Raven Powder-Free Disposable Black Nitrile 6 Mil Gloves
Great food-handling gloves with enough thickness to protect your hands from hot foods and enough dexterity to handle delicate cutting jobs.

FoodSaver GameSaver Deluxe Vacuum Sealing Kit
When my second FoodSaver V3825 died I was just about ready to chuck to whole works and go back to zip-top bags. Luckily, I called the company and the service rep steered me to the GameSaver model – no bells and whistles, manual sealer, cheap, 10-year warranty, and works like a charm.

ThermoWorks ThermoPop Super-Fast Thermometer
This splash-proof, fast, and accurate thermometer is easy to use and if it saves you from  just one over-cooked roast or under-cooked chicken it will have paid for itself.

Kerr Wide Mouth 8 Oz. Mason Jars and Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps
Together these make excellent individual serving bakeware. I’ve used them for pecan pies, budino, pot de creme, and custards. They work just like ramekins, but once cooled, you can screw the lid on them for storage or transport.

Cafe Bustelo
The secret to the great Cuban coffee I had in Key West – rich and strong and works great in a drip coffee maker. Going to try adding this to some of my barbecue rubs.

Vegetable Starter Culture
I’ve been doing a lot of lacto-fermented veggies – dill pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, hot peppers, etc… This culture provides consistent results every time.

GrillPro 41090 2-Piece Silicone Basting Brushes
Heavier duty and easier to clean than any other brushes I’ve tried. The shorter one is good for cooking indoors and the longer one works great on the grill.

Fat Daddio’s 18 Aluminum Gauge Half Sheet Pan and Chrome Cooling Rack
These guys make some seriously heavy-duty bake ware. This combo is great for roasting in the oven, but I use it mostly for transporting and resting hunks of meat from the grill. The rack lets juices drain away so that the skin on chicken stays crispy and the crust on roasts stays crusty.

Happy holidays to all!


turkey

Ten Degree Turkey

It was mighty frigid for Turkey Day this year, so I went with this dead-simple spatchcocked turkey recipe that maximized the tender crispiness and minimized the amount of time that I had to spend outside shivering.

The Bird
1 whole fresh turkey (a 10-pound kosher bird in this case)
2 tablespoons sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning or rub (I used Penzey’s)
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the salt, poultry seasoning, sugar, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, and baking powder in a shaker jar.

Clean and rinse the turkey, then pat it dry. Cut off the tail and any large bits of fat or loose skin (save along with the neck, backbone, and giblets for making gravy).

Place the bird on a cutting board with the breast side down and the back end facing you. Spatchcock (butterfly) the bird by cutting through the ribs on one side of the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. The bottom couple of ribs are the worst to cut through. Once you are through those it goes pretty easily. Repeat on the other side and remove the backbone.

Open up the bird and make a small slice along the center of the keel bone. Press down on the outer edges of the breast until you hear the keel bone crack and the bird lies flat.
Rub both sides of the bird with the rub, making sure to work some under the skin. Refrigerate the turkey for a least an hour (overnight is best) uncovered to let the rub do its job and to dry out the skin a little.

The Cook
Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a drip pan to catch the fat.

Put the turkey on the grill skin side up and close the lid. Cook undisturbed for 1 hour. Check and rotate the grill if necessary to even out any hot spots. Close the lid and cook until the turkey reaches 160°F in the breast. Figure about 10 minutes per pound total cooking time. This 10-pound bird was done in just under 2 hours.

spatchcocked turkeyRemove the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

To carve, cut the back quarters away from the body at the hip joint. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Locate the bone that runs the length of the thigh and remove the meat on either side. Leave at least one of the drumsticks intact because there’s something wonderfully primal about eating one of these with your bare hands.

Find the joint connecting the wing and breast, and cut through it. Remove both wings. Cut the breast meat into two pieces, slicing along either side of breastbone. Slice the breast meat across the grain.

spatchcocked turkey

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Spatchcocking is a great way to grill any kind of poultry, but it makes cooking a turkey particularly easy and tasty. The bird cooks faster and more evenly so you don’t have to worry that the breasts will dry out before the dark meat is done.

I added a little baking powder the my rub to help crisp the skin and it worked wonders. The skin was so crisp that it practically crackled when I carved the breast.

Sweetheart Ribeye

Putting Your Heart Into It

They call it a “Sweetheart Ribeye.” You butterfly a 2-inch thick rib roast and it’s supposed end up looking like a heart.

It looks like a heart, right? Kinda? Maybe? Sorta? Glad my dear wife loves me for more than my cooking skills.

Anyway, I gave it my standard hot and fast treatment on the Big Green Egg and it was very tasty. It was not, however, the big hit of the evening. That was the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee from She Cooks… He Cleans. It was rich, chocolatey, not too sweet, and decadently good. I highly recommend it.

Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day!

Gluten Free Chex Mix

Gluten-Free Chex Mix

The holidays are over, but this classic party snack is perfect for any get-together. I’ve re-vamped it a bit to make it gluten-free using The Pioneer Woman’s recipe as a tasty starting point.

4 1/2 cups gluten-free Corn Chex
4 1/2 cups gluten-free Rice Chex
2 cups gluten-free pretzel sticks (Snyder’s Of Hanover or Glutino are both good)
3 cups mixed nuts (splurge for the extra-fancy ones, you’re worth it)
1 1/2 sticks butter
3 tablespoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is easy to find)
6 to 12 dashes Louisiana-style hot sauce
4 to 6 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Ground sea or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Pour cereal, pretzels, and nuts into a into a large mixing bowl or cake pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, add butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, season salt, and onion powder and microwave until butter is melted. Stir together and taste. Add hot sauce and adjust seasonings as you see fit (I added a bit more seasoned salt and onion powder and went pretty heavy on the hot sauce).

Gluten Free Chex Mix

Slowly pour butter sauce over cereal mixture, tossing and stirring as you go.

Transfer mix onto one or two baking sheets (I left ours in the large cake pan that I mixed it in) and bake, checking and stirring every 15 minutes until mix is toasted and fragrant, about 1 hour.

Gluten Free Chex Mix

Remove from oven. Taste, and if you want to, grind just a bit of sea salt over it. Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Chex mix one of my favorite snacks and I’ve really missed it since going gluten-free. This recipe knocks it out of the park compared to the commercial versions. The fresh garlic makes a huge difference, as does the hot sauce. I can see making up a big batch of this for the Super Bowl.

Grilled and Roasted Prime Rib

Prime Rib

We had a quiet New Year’s Eve this year. For the first time in over 10 years we didn’t host a party, so it was just my dear wife and me, four spoiled cats, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and this lovely hunk of prime rib.

1 3-pound boneless prime rib roast
2-3 tablespoons Montreal-style steak seasoning

1 tablespoon prepared grated horseradish
1 tablespoon Penzy’s horseradish dip
2 tablespoons hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the roast on a cutting board with the deckle (fat cap) on top. Score the fat by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Generously dust the roast on all sides with the steak seasoning, making sure to work it into the cuts. Stash in the fridge while you set up the grill.

You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack.

For the sear, set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (700°F). Get the cooking grate nice and hot and sear the roast directly on the grate for 90 seconds on each side. When the roast is browned all over, move it to the rack (fat side up) set in the roasting pan.

Prime Rib

Move the roast to the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes. The idea is to stop the cooking process so that the outside gets nice and crispy while the inside stays a uniform medium-rare.

Normally, I would finish this on the Big Green Egg, but a record cold front moved in and discretion got the better part of me.

Preheat the oven for 300°F. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan and place roast in oven. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, or until it hits 125°F internal.

Move the roast to a cutting board and let rest while you make the horseradish sauce.

Combine hot water and dip seasoning and let sit for 5 minutes. Add grated horseradish, sour cream, and mayo and mix to combine. Let sit for another 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.

Carve roast and serve with horseradish sauce on the side.

Prime Rib

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is becoming my favorite way to do prime rib. The searing gives the roast a nice browned and tasty crust while finishing it at a lower temperature after a rest makes sure you have minimum amount of overcooked meat and a maximum amount of yummy medium-rare.

The horseradish sauce was exactly what I been trying to make. I like the creaminess of horseradish dip, but it never has enough bite for me. Combining the two worked perfectly.

Hope you all had a happy New Year!

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.