Oyster Stew

My first experience making oyster stew was not a pretty one. I remember trying to follow some snooty recipe by scalding milk in a paper-thin tin pan over a temperamental electric burner while a certain persnickety relative told me how I was doing it wrong. It came out fine, but no fun was had that evening.

Since then I’ve learned a few things:

  • Good gear matters – it doesn’t have to be fancy, high-end stuff, but heavy pans and sharp knives make a world of difference,
  • Scalding milk is a waste of time.
  • Recipes are good starting places but nothing is written in stone. Feel free to experiment.
  • Cook with people or for people but don’t let anyone tell you how to cook.
  • Just like there is only one captain on a ship, there is only one chef in the kitchen.

Oyster Stew
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup clam juice
1 pint oysters and their liquor
1 medium leek, finely chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the juice has reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Add the cream, milk, celery salt, Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the oysters and parsley and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and more hot sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I don’t know why I don’t make this more often. It’s rich, elegant, tasty, and comes together in a flash. I’ve tried a lot of different aromatics in this dish and I really like the way leeks bring a sweet and subtle flavor to the dish without overwhelming the oysters.

Chex Party Mix

Chex mix one of my favorite holiday snacks.  Thanks to the hot sauce and fresh garlic, this recipe tastes a ton better than the commercial ones and it’s gluten-free.

3 cups gluten-free Corn Chex
3 cups gluten-free Rice Chex
2 cups gluten-free pretzels (Snyder’s Of Hanover or Glutino are both good)
2 cups mixed nuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 tablespoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is easy to find)
1-2 teaspoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
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 more Worcestershire and hot sauce).

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 mine in the large cake pan that I mixed everything in) and bake, checking and stirring every 15 minutes until mix is toasted and fragrant, about 1 hour.

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: ★★★★★
I’m VERY happy with how this batch turned out – salty and savory with just the right kick of heat. I used less cereal and more pretzels this time and I think it makes for a crunchier mix. As fast as this disappears, I’d double the recipe for a crowd.

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!


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.

Piri Piri/Peri Peri/Berbere Wings

Whatever you call it, this spice mix is hot. Portuguese sailors brought the piri piri (pepper pepper) with them to North Africa. There the locals incorporated it into their cooking and this fiery dish was born. These wings get a double dose of heat both from the berbere seasoning and shot of hot sauce.

6 chicken wings, separated at joints, discard tips
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon True Lemon Crystallized Lemon
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s Berbere Seasoning (cayenne red pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon, and coriander)
1/4 cup Nando’s Medium Peri-Peri Sauce

Make a rub by combining the salt, sugar, garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, and berbere in a small bowl. Dust the wings with the rub, making sure to cover both sides.

Piri Piri Wings

Set a cooling rack on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Lay wings out on a rack and let them sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight to let the rub do its work and for the skin to dry out a bit.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 350°F. On the Big Green Egg I used an extender to move the grate up to the level of the rim, putting the chicken further away from the heat.

When the grill is ready, put the wings on the grill and cook undisturbed for 30 minutes. Flip and cook for another 20 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

Baste the wings on both sides with the hot sauce. Let them cook for another 10 minutes, then baste again.

Serve with bleu cheese dressing and the reserved sauce for dipping.

truelemon

New product – I enjoyed True Lemon’s powdered drink mixes this summer and was glad to see that they had come out with powdered flavorings too.

The crystallized lemon gave the rub a nice bite in addition to a fresh lemon taste.

I’m looking forward to trying out their Orange Ginger seasoning next.

XXL Big Green Egg

I final got a first-hand gander at this beast at the Apple Harvest Eggfest. Wow! When I got there they had already taken the ribs off, but at one point they were cooking three racks of ribs, two pork butts, a turkey, an apple crisp, and still had plenty of room to spare.

For all you Eggheads out there, here are all the nerdy details:
29 inch grill diameter
672 square inch cooking area
424 pounds
You can fit 35-40 burgers, 14-16 chickens, 18-20 steaks, or 20 stacked racks of ribs on it – about three times the capacity of my large Egg.

XXL Big Green Egg-924

While this monster is way too large for this humble home grillmeister (although I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to give me one), I can sure see a grill/smoker this size appealing to some of the big competition barbecue teams, as well as caterers and restaurants.

XXL Big Green Egg-487BTW – the Apple Harvest Eggfest was a hoot. Perfect fall day filled with the smell of apples and barbecue. Can’t beat that. Will definitely do it again next year, maybe even as part of a cooking team.

 

 

Peach Pork Chops

I used the absolute last peaches of the season to make this sweet and tangy dish. I really like this grill and baste technique to keep the meat moist, particularly with leaner cuts of pork and chicken.

2 pounds thick-cut pork chops
1 pound of peaches, quartered and pitted (2 -3 peaches)
1/2 large red bell pepper, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (whatever is in the garden, I used thyme and rosemary)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
2 cups barbecue sauce (Pomegranate Pig in this case)

Combine peaches, pepper, onion, and herbs in a food processor or blender. Add just enough water to float everybody’s boat and then give it all a whirl until well-combined, but not pureed. You want it a little chunky.

Pour peach mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it has reduced by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much water you used). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat. Add the barbecue sauce and stir to combine.

Set your grill up for a direct cook at medium high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg is used an extender to raise the cooking grate a bit to give me a more even heat.

Pour about half the peach barbecue sauce into a shallow, flame-proof pan (a disposable 9×13 foil pan works great). Set the pan on the grill and heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and keep warm (I nestle mine right next to the grill).

Season the chops with a little salt and pepper on each side. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side to give them some nice grill marks and a bit of char.  Remove the chops to the pan and turn to coat each side. Put pan full of chops on the grill and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the chops hit 145°F internal.

Peach Pork Chops

Let rest 5 minutes then serve with remaining sauce on the side.