Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grilling Carrots

Carrots can go one way or the other, good or some weird mealy mush stick. I normally wouldn't have bought carrots to go as the side vegetable. I wanted broccolini, but the store only offered carrots as a decent grilling option. (Don't forget your veggies kids) You'll need...
-Carrots (look for more slender carrots, if you only can get the larger ones 1/2 them lengthwise)
-Salt and pepper
-Olive oil
-Thyme & Oregano
-brown sugar
-Heavy duty non stick tinfoil

My garden has been growing pretty good so far, and a once a week light pruning gives me all the herbs I'll need for the week. I'm at a point where I don't know what to do with most of it. Hence all the mint water I've been drinking.
Peel the carrots, if you need to trim them down to fit into your foil packet please do. It's easy to overwhelm carrots I've been finding, so use everything with a light touch. Pinch of salt and pepper. Two stems of Thyme and a stem of oregano. Lightly drizzle the olive oil and ad the smallest touch of brown sugar. I know the ADD child in all of us thinks "More sugar, better!" trust me on this, go light. It should aid in the carrot flavor, not highjack you on Willy Wonka's haunted boat ride.
Fold up your carrots into its neat little package and place on the top rack of your grill over the main heat source for 15 minutes or until for tender. The key to the grilling the foil package is not to crowd them, give every veggie it's own spot on the foil to get the grilled goodness. Make two foil packets if you have to. Also, use a heavy duty foil that is nonstick. Over the winter in the bargain bin at the grocery store I picked up a roll of the heavy duty nonstick foil (An end had be crushed and made it 2 dollars.) I use it every time I grill now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grilling Potatoes

After a couple trial and errors I came up with a method that works best for me when grilling potatoes. Every bite ends up being roasted, with crisp golden ends.

You will need:
-New potatoes (Yukon or red bliss) washed and halved
-Olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-Handful of herbs or spices minced (I used garlic, spring onion, thyme and rosemary)
-Long sheet of non stick aluminum foil

make a trench in your sheet of tin foil, keep in mind it should fit the top rack of your grill. Toss the halved potatoes with the oil, salt, pepper, and spices. Be generous with the salt and pepper. Arrange the potato halves face down. This is key to getting golden brown potatoes.

Fold the foil over the top of the potatoes and put on the top rack of the grill until golden brown potatoes. Around 20-25 minutes.
Make sure to grab the foil so nothing escapes and wear mits to protect your hands. Buckle the foil on a plate to toss the potatoes.

Grilled Bread

Grilling bread is very basic, and I'm sure you get the gist of how this works in the title alone. I make it every dinner on the grill though, so I found it worth sharing. How ever you choose to season the bread with whatever herbs and spices you want is interchangeable .
You will need:
-Loaf of your favorite crusty bread, sliced lengthwise in half.
-Olive oil
-Salt and peper
-What ever herbs and spices you have on hand

Evenly distribute the oil on the bread halves. To avoid grill flare ups give the bread time to soak up the oil to avoid dripping. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Evenly coat the bread with your choice of spices. Place the bread face down on the grill. Pay attention to the flames, the bread will burn easy if not watched. Remove from grill once golden brown, cut into slices.

I like to use my bread to suck up meat & oil drippings from your BBQ plate. Or stack grilled onions on it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled chicken with garden herbs

Well, we had a very long and hard winter in New England this year. At last summer is here, and if you're like me you're trying to suck up as many summer days as possible. In the dark depths of my winter cabin fever I started day dreaming of planting my own vegetable garden.

It's small and made mostly of containers, but you can fit a lot into a 7x4 area if you're cleaver enough. This summer I planted-
-Red cabbage
-Strawberries
-Yellow onions
-Green onions
-Parsley
-Thyme
-Tomatoes
-Cucumbers
-Mint
-Radishes
-Oregano
-Rosemary
-Pole beans
-Chives
-Celery
-Basil
-Broccoli
-Peppers
So as you can see, you can get plenty into a small area. I bought a couple books on container gardening to help me out and a really good vegetable garden book called "The Kitchen Garden"
I wish I could be super cool and claim to have grown the majority by seed but I only grew 30% this way. Yes it's cheaper and more bragging rights come with it, but I was ok with buying baby plants.
The nice part is having all the herbs on hand and the option to just go in the back yard and cut what you need. Light pruning also aids in the plants' grow. Just don't forget to rinse off what you cut to get the dirt off
But getting back on track to grilling chicken! I know plenty of people that know more about grilling then myself. I'm more of a "Grill Fan" then "Grill Master" But I can grill a good bone in chicken breast. I find bone in chicken is really good for grilling and makes a much more tender results then a boneless breast. In the morning I'll put together the marinade for the chicken and let the meat soak for the day. It's a really basic but very good mix.
-Half of the juice from a lemon & its zest
-two cups of olive oil
-tablespoon of salt
-2 teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper
-Half a bulb of garlic chopped
-2 tablespoons of dijon mustard (I like the country style)
-handful of fresh herbs (I had thyme, parsley, basil, rosemary) chopped
I got some cake pan tins at the dollar store to let the chicken marinate in. Combined ingredients.
Loosen the skin of the chicken like shown in the Roast Chicken recipe. I even slide some of the mix under the skin, but keep in mind not to add too much or it will prevent the skin from browning. Place the breasts in the tin breast down. Make sure to cover the upright part with the mix also. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the frig until you are ready to grill. Mine sits for at least six hours. (Reduce how much lemon you put in if you plan to let it sit over night)
I'm using a gas grill here, this grill was large enough that it had four burners. I used 3 out of the four. Preheat your grill with the lid down for at least fifteen minutes before placing anything on the grill. Shake off the excess marinade from the chicken to prevent flare ups from the grill. Place the chicken on the grill with the breast meat facing up for a half hour with the lid closed. Resist the urge to open the lid and let the heat out, I have my heat a bit higher then the lowest setting.
After 30 minutes flip the chicken placing the breast meat down on the grill, this will finish off the cooking and crisp the skin nicely. Grill for about 10-15 more minutes until skin is crispy and the juices run clear. Remove chicken from grill and let rest tented under foil for 10 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grama's Meatballs

Meatballs. Grama's meatballs. Grama's pan fried meatballs. Are you following along with me? I should be blogging about "Grama's spaghetti and meatballs" Seeing as she made the pasta, sauce, and meatballs all from scratch. We'll start with one element, the other two you can cheat and us jar sauce and box pasta. There is no cheating the meatballs. Ever.
-About 3/4 of a pound of ground beef (I like natures promise ground beef from stop & shop, it's much fresher and far less terrifying then standard ground beef)
-4 slices of stale pepperidge farm white bread (Brand name is key here)
- 1 egg
-half of a small onion
-five cloves of garlic
-Parsley (tablespoon?)
-Salt and peper
Pepperidge farm white bread. I don't know why it's so key, when ever I use another white bread it's just not the same. It's the kind my Grama used, so that's good enough for me. Let the bread slices sit for a day or two in the open air. I put the slices in an open plastic bag on top of the frig. The type of bread and it being stale is key.
The beef needs to be 85% lean, 15% fat
The onions and the garlic need to be minced very tiny, please take the time to do this. Add the beef and very tiny onion and garlic to the bowl.
Remove the crust, note I'm cutting away very little.
Soak the bread slices under warm water until you can feel the slice breaking down, squeeze out the extra water and add to the bowl. Add the spices. 3 teaspoons of salt and a good grind of pepper. Crush the parsley in your hand before adding. Crack the egg in also. The mixing was a two handed job so I don't have the photos to back it up. Mix it up very well until the bread and the meat become one uniform meat blend. No bread chunks, yuck.
When I shape the meatballs, I have a little cup of water to keep my fingers wet so the meat doesn't stick to my fingers.
They aren't round meatballs more like rounder little hockey pucks. The shape aids in even cooking when we pan fry them. Do your best to make them very similar in size. I just kept them on a cookie sheet until the oil was brought to heat.
Always save and reuse your frying oil, you can get five or six re- uses out of a jar this size. Saves you money and it makes a more complex flavor every time you fry adding yummy new meat flavors.
I filled the pan 1/2 inch with oil and bring it to heat. When the oil begins to shimmer on the surface test it with a small bit of meatball. If the bit begins to dance and fry right away the oil is ready.
Fry in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Remember what I said about frying, it should sound like a babbling brook. Otherwise they'll cook uneven. Adjust the heat if you have to. Wait 30 seconds after you adjust the heat for the oil to adjust to the heat. Frying is always easier with a gas stovetop rather then an electric stovetop. I had an electric stove top for two years and hated it. Fry about five minutes on each side, or until the meat is golden brown.
Keep your brown bag with a paper towel on it right next to the frying to avoid making a mess. Sprinkle the meatballs with salt the second they're out of the pan.
Use grated Romano cheese with these meatballs, it has to be Romano!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pork chops!

Good quality pork is the key to a good pork chop, for that matter any good meat dish. Pork you can get at the supermarket is the poor-man's pork. Tough, no flavor, and has an ingredients list on the packaging (WTF?) The pork chops I bought were pricey, but I ended up with a good dinner which is want you want after all your effort. For this matter any meat dish will be day and night if it comes from an animal that lived a happy life. Find a places in your town that offers good quality meat.
-2 pork chops (I bought them french cut)
-one lemon
- Three shallots
-2 crushed garlic cloves
-Bunch of fresh rosemary and thyme
-Olive oil
-Bit of butter
-Chicken stock (or broth)
-White wine
-Salt, peper, and parsley
The chops slightly varied in size so I tied them with some string to make them even in thickness. It Just helps with the over all cooking so always tie them. I patted them dry with a paper towel, and salt and peppered both sides. I pulled out my large and heavy stainless steal pan. If you need to put some oomph into picking up your pan then you have a good one. I bought this one at Target, so you can get a good pan near by for a fair price. OH! Don't forget to look for a pan that can go from the stove top to the oven. Very important. When your pan is hot add some olive oil and the bit of butter to the pan. Add the fresh spices on the stem and the pork chops. Cook two minutes on each side.
Your oven should be preheated to 450 degrees. After both sides have be seared I squeezed in some lemon juice and some lemon zest (if you don't have a zester the lemon juice is fine)
I also now add the garlic and the shallots around the chops. Stick the pan in the oven (Because we have a oven safe pan) for ten minutes to finish. Once done, remove the chops to rest on a plate and discard the spices.
Put the pan back on the stove on medium to high heat and sauté the onions down a bit more. Add some chicken stock and white wine to the pan and scrape the bits from the bottom. I think I added a bit more zest also.
Whisk in a bit of flour and let it reduce down. Salt and pepper to taste and add some parsley. This is a very bright tasting lemony sauce, spoon over the pork chop.
Eat it with some apple sauce and enjoy!

Mac and Cheese

Other then the vegan community, who doesn't like Mac and cheese? Hell. Even some vegans like it, but they just talk about it like a lofty memory from another life as if it was a first love. Yeh it's pretty good. I've been told my Mac and cheese is great, and have used it as currency in more then one situation. I made this batch for two in my little Le Creuset pan. This is my favorite pan because it works so well for two people size dishes. I picked it up at Marshals for half the price. If you don't have a stove to oven dish, do all the stove top steps in a pan then add to a casserole. Ok! So this is what I use!
- 2 cups of elbow macaroni (I tried the "plus" stuff it's ok, but go for regular)
-Whole milk
-1/2 stick of butter
-Shredded cheddar (a big handfull?)
-Fontina cheese (about a 3inch square)
-2-3 tablespoons of flour
-Cayenne powder
-Salt & Pepper
Bring water to a boil and add the two cups of macaroni, once cooked, strain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Let the pasta hang out in the colander while we make the cheese sauce in the same pan.
On medium heat melt the butter
Sprinkle in the flour
Constantly stir the flour and butter while it bubbles and the raw taste of flour cooks out. About a minute should do it
Slowly add the milk, I just fill it till it was a bit under two inches high in the pan.
Mix it! Mix it! Mix it!
Add the salt, pepper and Cayenne powder. About half a teaspoon of the Cayenne, it just compliments the cheese taste really nice. As the milk is brought up to heat you'll see it start to thicken, keep mixing it and DON'T let it boil. Adjust the heat if you need to.
Once the milk grows thick begin to add the cheeses. I didn't feel like making a mess out of my grater so I just chopped up the Fontina. It's an amazing cheese that really aids in that gooy melty- ness that is so great about this dish. Mix until the cheese melts.
Now a nice handful of cheddar, sharp cheddar is good. Mix it up until everything combines. Taste the mix to make sure there's enough tang from the salt, crack from the pepper and a soft heat from the Cayenne.
See? It's great nice and think to coat the spoon but it still runs off.
Add the pasta right back in, don't worry it will seem a bit too saucy. Once we bake it in the oven it will all come together.
Mix it up
Add a cracker crust to the top. Cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 350 for ten minutes, uncover the dish and bake for another ten. Enjoy!