Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Dinner

In light of the expected chaos of Christmas morning, Justin and I decided that we were going to save some leftovers for to have for that night's dinner. We thought it would be nice to relax and keep it simple... that is until we received what must be one of the best Christmas gifts ever!

What was it?

Two wonderful dry aged strip steaks and a bottle of very nice wine! Apparently, my mom thought we'd enjoy this more than a gift card to some restaurant. Well... she was right... So instead of leftovers, we had a great meal!

Christmas Steak and Wine

(Look at the beautiful crust on that baby!)

  • 2 steaks (~8 oz in weight and ~1 1/2" thick)
  • salt/pepper
  • lard (or butter)
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • a splash of whole milk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup beef stock
  • salad greens
  • desired toppings for salad (I used shredded carrots and a few olives)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil 

  • About an hour before you start cooking, take the steaks out and let them come to room temperature. (This makes for an even cooking time)
  • Heat a 12" cast iron skillet over medium high heat, until it starts to smoke. Add a small amount of lard and let it melt. (You want enough lard to coat the bottom of the skillet.)
  •  While the pan is heating, salt and pepper both sides of the steaks.
  • Add the steaks to the skillet and let them cook for 5 minutes on the first side. You should have a nice crust on the outside...
  • Flip the steaks over and cook for ~3-4 minutes, until they reach your desired doneness. (I cooked mine for 3 minutes, as Justin and I prefer ours medium rare, if not a bit more on the rare side...)
  • Take the steaks off and place them on a plate. Cover loosely with a piece of tinfoil and let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy!
  • Heat a pot over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stock and garlic. Bring the stock to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.
  • Remove the pot from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the cauliflower. (Alternately, you can use a food processor.)
  • Add the butter, splash of whole milk and salt/pepper to taste. Serve along side the steak.
Salad + Vinaigrette:
  • Place salad and fixins in small bowls.
  • I find the best way to make the salad dressing is to use a clear plastic squeeze bottle, like the ones you use for ketchup and mustard. Pour a small amount of extra virgin olive oil into the bottle. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in enough balsamic vinegar to make a 2:1 ratio with the oil (aka, twice the amount of EVOO used). Put the cap on the squeeze bottle and cover the tip with your finger. Shake the bottle vigorously (Remember folks, this is to make an emulsion! Oil doesn't mix well unless it's with a little coercion...) Ultimately, you want the vinaigrette to taste a little bit too tart and too salty. It'll taste perfect when you put it on the salad.
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving.
This was honestly a FANTASTIC Christmas dinner! It allowed me to use my newly perfected steak cooking skills and let me imbibe in some wonderful wine. (I'll admit that I think this is the best way to eat a steak: simple salt/pepper and a good sear in a pan. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!) Plus, pairing these with some cauliflower mashies and salad makes for a really nice combo.

Thank you Mom for the wonderful (and tasty) gift!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tongue Twisted

After watching way too many episodes of of "Bizarre Foods" and "No Reservations," Justin and I have become desensitized to weird foods.  We have no problems trying out various recipes that introduce such edibles into our culinary repertoire. That being said, I decided that this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to try out something a little different... Beef Tongue. That's right! Tongue!

I know it looks gross, but it feels much more grosser than it looks... 

I did some fairly extensive research to try to find the best way to deal with this unusual hunk of beef. I found several Mexican takes on tongue recipes, so that was to be my cuisine of choice.

Firstly, I took the tongue and stuck it in the slow cooker. Topped it with some onion, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, a bay leaf, salt/pepper and enough water to cover the whole shebang. I turned this baby on low and let it cook for 8 hours. When I took it out, it looked like this:

(Yeah, it still looks creepy...)

I then cut the tongue into quarters and peeled off the tough, outer skin covering the meat, (all the while repeating to myself, "This is just a weirdly shaped muscle. Muscle meat is good...") and cut it into small chunks.

It totally looks like normal beef now!

This now much less creepy looking meat was combined with salsa, peppers, onions, garlic seasonings and avocado to create an awesome dish!

Lengua Mexicana

  • 1 beef tongue, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 onions, 1 cut into large chunks and 1 chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, 4 smashed and 3 minced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15 oz jar organic salsa 
  • 1 tbsp mexican seasoning (I use the blend from Niblack Foods. You could also use a good taco seasoning mix.)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • butter
  • avocado
  • cilantro
  • Place the tongue in the slow-cooker, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  • Place large chunks of onion, smashed garlic, peppercorns and salt on top of the tongue, and pour just enough water to cover the tongue.
  • Cook on low for at least 8 hours.
  • Remove tongue from slow-cooker, and peel the skin from the meat using two forks.
  • Discard the skin, and cut the meat into small chunks. Set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the chopped onions and peppers, and saute until softened. Add the minced garlic and jalapenos. Cook for another minute.
  • Add the tongue meat back to the pan, along with the salsa, mexican seasoning, cocoa powder, salt and pepper. Cook until everything is heated.
  • Serve over some roasted veggies (I used roasted candy-cane beets), on lettuce leaves, tortillas or whatever you desire. Top with cilantro and chopped avocado.
Yes, this meal is a 10 on the weird factor, but let me assure you that it tastes absolutely fantastic! The beef tongue has a slightly chewy texture and the flavor of your everyday stewed meat (No mineral aftertaste like liver. Just a really beefy taste.) The mole style sauce is spicy and deep, and the avocado adds just the right amount of richness. 

Don't be put off by the creep factor of tongue folks! Tantalize your taste buds with some... taste buds?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mmmm, Mmmm, Muffins!

During the holiday season, I tend to do a lot of baking for friends and family. I've oh so conveniently become known as 'the Baker'... However, since I've gone Paleo, I haven't made too many of my usual baked delights. I am bound and determined to make a caveman friendly crowd pleaser at some point... But for now, I'm going to give out one of my non-Paleo goodies that's always a winner.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Banana Muffins

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs creamy, all-natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbs Nutella
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.
  • Sprinkle the baking soda, salt and flour, mix.
  • Scoop peanut butter and Nutella into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until the mix is somewhat syrupy (about 30 seconds). Pour into banana mixture and mix (Don't mix completely. Stir until there are still swirls of the peanut butter/Nutella combo and banana mix).
  • Pour mixture into greased muffin tin (or a lined tin). Fill each cup to about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
These muffins are amazing! Not too sweet, with a nice banana flavor. Plus, they have Nutella! Who doesn't like this stuff?! Bake these and everyone's going to be your friend.

FYI - I'm working on a way to make these sugar free/gluten free. I'm guessing it'll involve almond flour and maybe an extra banana or a little bit of honey for the sweetness... That recipe to come!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Breakfast Revamp

As we now enter the second weekend in December, we've fully descended into time of holiday parties and splurging. 'Tis the season of feasting and, ultimately, leftovers! While I love the idea of not having to actually cook every once in a while, having turkey five times in one week gets a little boring... So, don't wanna have that plain ol' pot roast for dinner again? Cook it up in an omelet instead!

The 'I Need to Clean Out My Fridge' Omelet

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 eggs
  • leftovers (preferably something not soupy... In this instance, I used my leftover brisket and collard greens from Dinosaur BBQ)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • shredded cheese, optional (I used some really nice raw sharp cheddar from the Ithaca Milk Co.) 
  • Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • In the meantime, warm up leftovers (I usually stick 'em in the microwave and nuke until warmed through).
  • Crack eggs into a bowl, add the salt/pepper and blend with a fork.  
  • Pour the eggs into the preheated skillet and swirl the mix around until the pan is covered with liquid. Run your spatula around the outside of the egg mix to help to shape the omelet and loosen up the edge. Let the eggs cook, undisturbed for about 10-20 seconds (or until they are fairly firm on top).
  • Spread the leftovers in a line down the center of the omelet and let cook for a few moments.
  • Shake the pan to loosen the omelet. Carefully, use your spatula to lift the far edge of the omelet and fold towards you. Fold over the opposite side so that you have a trifold. 
  • Slide the omelet onto a plate and top with shredded cheese.
You can do with recipe with pretty much any type of leftover (I've even done it with leftover Chinese!) It lets you clean out the fridge and create something a little different.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sauerkraut Update!

A few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at some good ol' fermented foodstuffs and started a batch of sauerkraut. I've been waiting with much anticipation for the time when it would be ready. After the initial day, I opened the jars twice a week to test out the sourness, check for any fuzzy bits and add any necessary water to keep the kraut submerged. I'll admit, the first time I opened the jars was a bit... interesting. I don't think I was quite ready for the funk that spewed out... but it did let me know that my first batch was on the right track. Onwardly I persevered on my fermenting endeavor until this moment when I am ready to present to you:

Sauerkraut 1.0 

I made two jars of this recipe. One in my little squatty pint sized jar and one in a standard taller jar. (I found that  the squatty one fermented a little faster than the tall one. Not quite sure why... but I'm guessing that it had something to do with it being a little more hidden from the light in my kitchen.) Anyhoo, the flavor of this 'kraut is pretty spot on compared to the stuff I've bought from Wegman's. I will say that cumin and fennel from my spice mix definitely come through. They don't overpower the natural sourness, but rather add to it. All in all... this is a success!

This makes me want to go on a fermenting spree! My next venture is either going to be Kombucha tea or kimchi. Stay tuned for the next ferm-adventure!