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Am still reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Grilling, Pork, on January 25th, 2014.

grilled_pork_chops_spanish_adobo

Years ago, when I was in the advertising biz, we had a very talented art director on our staff from the Philippines, named Dolf. He was an American, but so loved his native country’s cuisine. A couple of times he brought chicken adobo to our festive potluck lunches – his version from the Philippines, a wet braise kind of dish. But this post is NOT about the Filipino version, which is altogether different. Not just a little bit different, but a lot different.

SPANISH ADOBO is a spice mixture, and is meant to be liberally applied to pork chops (and allowed to sit there, so it becomes a marinade) and grilled – it’s cinchy easy to make. I saw a blog post from one of the varied ones I read, and it was called pork chops adobado. Since I’d not heard the adobado (rather than adobo) part before, I started sleuthing. Adobo is the spice mixture, but once you put it on some kind of meat and grill it, it becomes a food preparation, so it’s the adobado or adobada. I read what wikipedia had to say about it, then did a search and came to a recipe at epicurious that sounded just right.

In the explanation, wikipedia says of ancient cooking:

Animals were usually slaughtered in the coldest months of winter, but surplus meat had to be preserved in the warmer months. This was facilitated through the use of adobos (marinades) along with paprika (a substance with antibacterial properties). Paprika gives a reddish color to adobos and at the same time the capsaicins in paprika permit fats to dissolve to the point of allowing tissue penetration, going deeper than the surface.

spanish_adobo_pasteIf I interpret what that says, it means meat was marinated for long periods of time, like months – yikes. From winter to summer? So, by using a paprika-based marinade, they were able to preserve meat without refrigeration (obviously) and the capsaicins (that’s what gives heat to peppers) in it allowed for better absorption. Spanish (or Mexican) Adobo is a oil and spice paste that’s spread on the pork up to a couple of hours ahead of grilling. It’s a mixture of oil, paprika, dried oregano, fresh garlic, ground cumin, hot chili flakes, fresh lime zest, salt and pepper.

I slathered this mixture onto 2 pork chops and 2 steaks. It’s a heady mixture – not only with spices, but it has some heat. If you’re averse to hot spicy food, eliminate the chili flakes. I used half-sharp paprika (a mixture of mild and hot), so it was plenty hot for me. The recipe calls for mild paprika. The paste marinated on the chops for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator), then Dave grilled them. First they’re browned – and I mention this only because with the reddish paste on them, it may be hard to tell when the chops are truly browning as they’re already brownish red before you put them on the grill. After they’re grilled on both sides just to get grill marks (if you can see them), you move them over onto an indirect area of the grill, loosely cover them with an upside-down foil pan, or with foil itself to finish cooking. Use a meat thermometer and take them off when they’re just done!

You can vary the heat depending on what kind of paprika you use. Please don’t use grocery store paprika – it doesn’t cut the mustard. (Oh, ha! I made a joke . . . 🙂 Here is a link to Penzey’s page for Hungarian paprika. Many high end markets now carry premium Hungarian paprika – do seek it out. And do refrigerate it. Penzey’s also sells Spanish paprika, but that is the smoked variety. Perhaps cooks in Spain do use the smoked, but I’d try it without the first time. And if I tried it, I’d use half regular and half smoked. The smoked goes a long way.

Be SURE to use a meat thermometer – the chops took much less time than anticipated. Ours were about 3/4 inch thick, and only took about 10 minutes cooking time. And?

What’s GOOD: the adobo spices were a big hit. I loved it; so did Dave. We have found a new, local purveyor of pork, and this first try was great – the meat was tender and juicy. The paprika and other spices hit a great flavor note for both of us. It was a quick preparation – and some nights that’s exactly what’s needed. I’ll be making this again and again.
What’s NOT: I can’t think of a thing. We loved this, big time.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Adobo Paste

Recipe By: Adapted from Epicurious
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika — (can use half-sharp)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — crumbled
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes — or more if desired
1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest — finely grated, from a fresh lime
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds bone-in pork center rib chops — 3/4″ thick, or thicker

1. Heat grill to medium-high for direct-heat cooking.
2. Stir together all ingredients except pork chops in a bowl to form spice paste, then rub paste all over pork chops. Allow to rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours in refrigerator.
3. Oil grill rack, then grill chops, turning over occasionally and moving around if flare-ups occur, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes total.
4. Move chops to indirect heat, then cover loosely with heavy-duty foil, turning chops over once, until thermometer inserted horizontally into center of a chop (do not touch bone) registers 140°F, 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 405 Calories; 29g Fat (65.3% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 770mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Fish, Grilling, on January 19th, 2014.

cedar_planked_salmon_mustard_brownsugar

Are you looking for a super-easy dinner with salmon? You’ve come to the right recipe – this one’s so simple – as long as you’re willing to do the cedar-plank thing on the grill.

Not taking a lot of time to hunt for a recipe this time, I just googled “cedar plank salmon.” The #1 recipe came from the Food Network. It’s a Steven Raichlen recipe, but from what I read, Bobbie Flay must have had him on his BBQ show and prepared this dish. What convinced me was the 5-star rating. I read through some of them – a few people didn’t like the quantity of mustard or thought it was bitter. My thought is that they used cheap Dijon. If you use the real stuff, particularly the Maille brand, there won’t be any bitterness. I did reduce the quantity of both mustard and brown sugar, and we were ooohing and aaahing as we ate it.

First we soaked a cedar plank (one worked for the portion we were grilling, but you might need 2) for about 2 hours in cold water. Then the plank itself went onto a medium-hot grill for about 4 minutes. That gave it time to steam-out most of the water, but got the plank super-hot. Then my DH salmon_mustard_sugarturned the plank over and carefully placed the lightly slathered and brown sugared salmon fillet (pictured at left with the slather and sugar ready for grilling) on top of the plank. The lid was closed, the heat reduced just slightly, and 10 minutes later the salmon had reached 135°F and it came off. When Dave lifted the lid the last time (he checked the temp of the fish twice) a big plume of smoke engulfed him and burned his sinuses a little. He had a honkin’ headache for the rest of the evening, poor guy. Beware of that, my friends! He said the plank was slightly in flames too, but it didn’t reach the fish. Obviously, you toss the plank once it’s used. You could also do this in the oven, I suppose, but not with the cedar plank – unless you do it at a lower temp. You don’t want that kind of smoke swirling around in your oven.

The salmon needed nothing else – perhaps I could have served it with a little wedge of lemon – but it truly didn’t need it. It was a tiny bit crispy along the edges (from the brown sugar) and the mustard added just a lovely character to the fish. It was perfectly done, juicy, flaky. Delicious.

What’s GOOD: rip-roaring easy and tasty. That’s about all I can say, it should be enough for you to try this super-simple recipe. Good enough for guests too. I haven’t tried oven roasting this, but it should be easy to do that if you don’t want to cedar plank it.
What’s NOT: nada, nothing!
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Cedar Planked Salmon with Dijon and Brown Sugar

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a Steven Raichlen recipe, via the Food Network
Serving Size: 4

one cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Soak the cedar plank(s) under water for 2 hours or more.
2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place the cedar plank on the grill, cover and allow to pre-heat for about 4 minutes.
3. In the kitchen, spread the salmon fillets with a coating of Dijon, then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top. Do this just before you’re ready to grill – otherwise the sugar will begin to melt off the fish, even sitting at room temp.
4. When the cedar plank is super-hot, carefully turn the plank over with tongs and place the fish on top/center of the plank. Close lid, reduce heat just slightly (you don’t want the plank to burn, if at all possible). Depending on the thickness of the fish, cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135° (use an instant-read thermometer). If the edges of the plank start to catch fire, have a spray bottle of water handy and carefully spray the wood (not the salmon) and perhaps lower the heat slightly. Remove from grill and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 231 Calories; 6g Fat (25.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 258mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Miscellaneous, Pork, on September 6th, 2013.

pork_chop_spicy_pesto_finger_lime_caviar

As a food blogger, it’s so fun when a company contacts me – gee, little old me – asking if they can send me some food product to try. No charge. No strings attached. Actually, Freida’s contacted me about Hatch green chiles, but almost as an afterthought, they threw in a box of finger limes.

Prior to this, I’d only read about finger limes. Before our trip to Australia 2 years ago, I thought I’d scour the food markets there (if I could) to find some. I wanted to taste them. (Alas, it was the wrong time of year for finger limes, so no, I didn’t see a one.)  The whole idea of the finger limes is so bizarre, in a way. Let’s backtrack . . . finger limes were developed in Australia. The limes are small, some pink, yellow, green and off white. When you cut them in half and squeeze them, the little balls of encapsulated lime juice roll out, almost like a roll of fluff. But they’re not fluff, they’re these little sacs of lime juice. Here you can see what they’re like. finger_limes2

The average finger lime, uncut, is about an inch long. I cut several in half and gently squeezed. As I was working , I cut several of the limes more lengthwise and tried to extract the little juicy gems. Hard to do, actually, but once I cut them in half crosswise, and did the squeeze technique, they came right out. I have yet to try these on a piece of fish – that will be the ultimate test, I think, with a bunch of these adorable things scattered on top of a sizzling hot swordfish steak. Some marketing type came up with the “caviar” name, but it’s actually very apt as the sacs kind of pop in your mouth.

The origin of the relish came from Southern Living. It is called a Peanut-Basil Relish. The basil is chopped up finely, then you add green onion tops (only), some fish sauce, garlic, sesame oil (a tiny amount) and olive oil. Serrano pepper was in the mixture, but I didn’t have one, so I substituted some chipotle chile. And then I got the idea about using the finger limes. Peanuts have a role in this – I kept them separate until I was ready to serve (because they absorb liquid easily). It took about 5 minutes to make the relish.

Meanwhile, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of light soy sauce on the pork chops, then a bit of olive oil and some Montreal pepper seasoning. Those went on the grill until the meat reached 150° and they were perfectly done. I spread the relish on top and we chowed down. It was delicious. I happen to have a bumper crop of basil at the moment and this made good use of it. The relish recipe suggested if you have left overs, to mix into pasta.

What’s GOOD: the relish is ever-so easy to make, and the chops were simple to season and grill. Loved the Asian flavors – they’re not overwhelming at all (either the soy sauce on the meat or the fish sauce in the relish) but gave it a piquant taste altogether. The relish would be delish on other things – it does need to be used right away, I think. The little bit that was left in the bowl when I got done was turning black, which is what basil does when it’s bruised and wet. I could have whizzed it up in the food processor and made a paste (with more oil, probably) but I liked it as a kind of rough relish.
What’s NOT: really nothing at all. Liked everything about it.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Basil Relish and Lime Caviar

Recipe By: Partly my own ideas, part adapted from Southern Living.
Serving Size: 4

PORK CHOPS:
2 1/2 pounds bone-in pork sirloin chops — or any cut of pork chops
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Montreal seasoning pepper to taste
BASIL-PEANUT RELISH:
4 tablespoons green onion tops — (green part only)
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
2 cloves garlic — crushed
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons finger lime caviar — or fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts — chopped

1. Dry pork chops with paper towels. Spread soy sauce on pork, then olive oil, followed by a moderate amount of Montreal pepper seasoning.
2. Grill pork, searing both sides, until the interior temperature reaches 150°. Remove to a heated platter, tent with foil and set aside for just a few minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the green onion tops, chopped basil (use a ceramic knife if you have one, so it doesn’t bruise the basil), crushed garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, lime caviar (or lime juice) and add the peanuts last (or sprinkle them on top when serving). If you have left over relish, add a bit more oil and use it to season rice or pasta. Use it within a day, as the basil will turn black and look very unpalatable. Spread the relish on top of the grilled pork chops.
Per Serving: 476 Calories; 34g Fat (64.0% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 2nd, 2013.

This is a post about the technical side of grilling steaks – the photo is from an earlier post – which happens to be our favorite steak preparation. Click this link to go to that recipe.

We do enjoy a steak with some regularity. My DH would probably eat a steak about every 3-4 days if I’d let him, but since I know we should limit how much beef we eat, we have a steak probably once every 2-4 weeks. And I cook beef in one or another form (ground, short ribs) maybe once a month too, although generally we’ll have more than one meal out of it, so technically we eat it more than once, twice or three times a month. If we go to a steakhouse, sometimes Dave will order a steak there as well. I almost never order a steak out because I’m pretty certain the steak we’ll eat at home is better tasting and more tender. I’m not sure about most beef purveyors, either – what do they feed the cattle? Fillers? And solely corn and grains at the end? – which is so awful for their digestive tracts. Lots of cattle are near death when they’re slaughtered because of what the feed lots force them to eat. All of that came from a book we read about steak: Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef. I have yet to write up an essay/post about that book. I’ve been meaning to, because I found the book absolutely fascinating.

In the last couple of years you may have read some of my posts about how and what we’ve done at home to improve the chances of a good, juicy tender steak.

(1) We now buy nearly all of our steaks from an organic grower who raises his stock about 50 miles from where we live, and he sells his beef (and lamb, chicken and pork) at a Saturday farmer’s market. He raises grass-fed beef (very, very chewy meat) and some he raises with just a short time of eating a special diet of legumes and grains (no corn) developed by a university. We buy the latter because it’s got the perfect combination of taste and texture. We can order ahead if we want, or just show up at the farmer’s market and decide on the spot from what he has available. Many people have standing orders. Some buy a whole steer and request part of the order to be delivered every thermapenmonth or so.

(2) We use a very expensive (for a thermometer) Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen to test the temp of the steaks. We like medium rare, and usually remove the steak from the grill at about 125° give or take a degree or two.

(3) We let it rest under a light tent of foil for 7-8 minutes.

(4) As for cooking the steaks – we were using a method developed by Hugh Carpenter to grill – mark the meat (grill marks) then move it over to the indirect heat area of the grill and wait until it reached the desired temp. And we thought those things were working well, although we had one complaint – by the time the steak got to our plate and on the table, it was not hot enough for my DH’s tastes – he wants a hotter, almost sizzling steak. We hadn’t experimented with that method.

We’ll likely be changing some of our grilling from now on after reading an article over at Serious Eats. It details 7 things that are myths about grilling, about meat, etc. I found the article quite fascinating. I’ll give you a quick synopsis here:

Myth #1: “You should let a thick steak rest at room temperature before you cook it.”

Apparently it’s  not necessary. It just means the steak spends less time on the grill if you do let it sit out. Otherwise, the author found no difference to taste or how it cooked.

Myth #2: “Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices.”

Nope. Definitely a myth. The article says: “When cooking thick steaks, start them on the cooler side of the grill and cook with the lid on until they reach about ten degrees below final serving temperature. Finish them off on the hot side of the grill for a great crust. For thinner steaks (about an inch or less), just cook them over the hot side the entire time—they’ll be cooked to medium rare by the time a good crust has developed.” The analysis is that once the steak has cooked on the slow side for awhile, the flat surface is drier, therefore when you do put it on the hot side, it will give you a better crust and grill marks.

Myth #3: “Bone-in steak has more flavor than boneless.”

This is one that I certainly thought was true, but tests proved it made no difference. But, if you like to gnaw on bones, do cook bone-in.

Myth #4: “Only flip your steak once!”

Isn’t this one of those quintessential mental pictures of a guy at his grill, flipping those burgers or steaks? Here’s what the article says: “. . . multiple flipping will not only get your steak to cook faster—up to 30% faster!—but will actually cause it to cook more evenly, as well. This is because—as food scientist and writer Harold McGee has explained—by flipping frequently, the meat on any given side will neither heat up nor cool down significantly with each turn.”

Myth #5: “Don’t season your steak until after it’s cooked!”

The explanation for this one is kind of long (go to the article to read it in full), but the general theory is that we put steaks on the grill when they’re too wet. Steaks have got to have a dry, dry surface. The article’s “takeaway:” You can get away with salting just before cooking, but for best results, salt at least 45 minutes—and up to a couple of days—in advance, letting your steak rest on a rack in the fridge so that its surface can dry and the salt can be absorbed into the meat. Serve the steak with crunchy sea salt at the table.

Myth #6a: “Don’t use a fork to turn your steak.”

You know you’ve read about it – don’t puncture any piece of grilled meat (steak, pork chop, tenderloin, even chicken) because the juices will escape, resulting in a dry piece of finished meat. The truth:  muscles in steak are little tiny, miniscule water balloons, he explained, and indeed, if you puncture a steak you likely will break a few, but his tests showed it was such a finite amount to hardly matter.

Myth #6b: “If you cut it open to check doneness, it will lose all its juices.”

Certainly I’ve wondered about this, but I still have done it anyway – especially when Dave has brought a piece in from the grill about 20 minutes early and he says it’s done (per the thermometer). I never want to serve an undercooked chicken breast or steak, or pork chop. A few juices may be lost, but it doesn’t seem to affect the final result. He recommended using this method only if you don’t have a meat thermometer, or you don’t trust what it says.

Myth #7: “Use the “poke test” to check if your steak is done.”

You know this one – press your finger on the meat itself – if it’s fleshy like the inside of your palm, it’s really rare, closer to the thumb it’s medium-rare, etc. The writer says that not everyone’s hands are alike – some are more fleshy than others, so that makes this method a crap shoot. His answer: use a Thermapen.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on August 1st, 2013.

salmon_lemon_piccata_sauce

Perfectly cooked salmon that’s pre-marinated in a lemon herb mixture, then served with a lemony beurre blanc (i.e. lots of butter) sauce with capers. Each serving gets just a little bit of sauce, so it’s not so awfully wicked.

Surely I have no shortage of salmon recipes here on my blog, but I’m always open for another new preparation, especially when it’s served with this delicious, butter and lemon caper pan sauce. The recipe came from a recent cooking class with my favorite instructor, Phillis Carey. It’s not difficult – in fact it’s quite easy – although the sauce can be a bit tricky.

The SALMON: First you’ll marinate the salmon for no more than an hour. 15 minutes is better than no time in the marinade, but 1 hour is ideal if you can make the time. Then you either grill the salmon (you could do it on a stovetop grill also), or you can do long, slow baking, or you can do a slow broil. Read the recipe for instructions on doing any of those methods. My favorite method is the slow broil. Even the phrase sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Broil means high-high heat. And yes, it does, but to do a slow broil you put the fish on a broiler pan and place it 8-10 inches below the broil element. That way you don’t have to turn the fish over – it cooks completely this way. It’s a Phillis technique, and I’ve used it numerous times since she first taught it at a cooking class I went to about a year ago.

Beurre Blanc Tip:

the trick to beurre blanc is to add the butter in small pieces and never allow the mixture to bubble or even simmer. That way it will stay slightly thickened.

The SAUCE:  Well, the sauce is really a buerre blanc and Phillis just makes it a little different with the addition of capers. You could also use dill or basil if you don’t like capers. I do, so I knew I’d love the sauce. The only thing to remember about making the sauce is to NOT allow the mixture bubble or boil or the sauce will separate and it’s ruined. Well, you could serve it, but it would just look like hot butter. When you add the butter gradually and keep the temp below a simmer, the sauce is slightly thickened. You need to serve it immediately, however.

The other trick to the sauce is to have EXACTLY 1/4 cup of liquid in the pan when you start to make it. If you have more, then you’ll have to add more butter. Less and the sauce will be too buttery. Once you remove all the shallots, pour out the liquid and measure it. If it’s a smidge over, put it back on the flame and reduce it to that perfect 1/4 cup. Beurre blanc isn’t a sauce that can easily be increased for a larger quantity – make it in 2 pans and ask someone else to help with the last-minute butter additions. If you’ve never made a beurre blanc, I might suggest you make it once – do it for a weeknight dinner so you understand how the chemistry works. Serve it over relatively plain chicken breasts or another kind of fish.

What’s GOOD: the fish, if cooked properly, is meltingly tender and tasty, and the sauce! Oh yes, the sauce is so darned good. Buttery. Rich. Understand, though, that you only eat a little tiny bit of it – it’s all you need!
What’s NOT: only the careful work needed to make the sauce – that’s why I suggest you make it once before you try it for guests. It’s not difficult.

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Grilled Lemon Herb Salmon with Lemon Piccata Caper Butter Sauce

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 2013
Serving Size: 6

SALMON:
36 ounces salmon fillets — skinless, cut into 6 pieces
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
LEMON CAPER BUTTER SAUCE:
3/4 cup dry white wine — not Chardonnay or vermouth
3 tablespoons shallots — chopped, not minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter — chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons capers — drained and rinsed

Notes: it is best to use a high-fat butter in this recipe. Grocery store butter contains more water and the sauce will not thicken as it should. Suggested brands: Plugra, Kerry Gold or Land O’Lakes. If doubling this recipe, make the sauce in 2 separate pans – it’s very difficult to make a beurre blanc sauce in a large quantity.
1. MARINADE: Place salmon fillets in a flat casserole dish. Combine the oil, lemon juice, parsley and thyme. Pour over the salmon, turning fillets to coat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes, or an hour is preferable. Do not marinate more than 1 hour or the fish will begin to “cook” because of the lemon juice (acid).
2. SAUCE: Combine wine, shallots and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat and cook it to reduce it to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes or so. It is VERY important that you measure the amount – pour it out into a glass or metal measuring cup to make sure it’s right on 1/4 cup. Pour mixture through a sieve to remove the shallots (discard them). Set the sauce mixture aside for up to 2 hours prior to serving (covered).
3. SALMON: If using an outdoor grill or stovetop grill, grill salmon for 4-6 minutes per side until JUST cooked. Internal temperature should be 135° if you have an instant read thermometer. You can also slow-roast the fish in a 250° oven for 25-30 minutes. Or use a slow-broil method: preheat broiler to high and move the oven rack to at least 8-10 inches below the broiler element. Place fish on a broiler rack and bake/broil the fish for 10-12 minutes total without turning over the fish. It will cook through perfectly.
4. FINISH: While salmon is grilling reheat the sauce mixture. Reduce heat to VERY low (just below a simmer) and add the butter, one piece at a time, taking great care NOT to allow the mixture to boil or bubble at all (if it does, the butter will separate and the sauce will never come together correctly). The sauce should thicken just slightly (because the butter is viscous) – if it is not thickened, add a bit more butter. Remove sauce from the heat and stir in capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place salmon on heated plates and spoon sauce over the salmon fillets to serve. This is best served on individual plates, not on a serving platter. If you must use a serving platter, pour sauce separately from a pitcher. The sauce is very rich and each fillet will get only 2 tablespoons or so of sauce total.
Per Serving: 440 Calories; 30g Fat (65.2% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 130mg Cholesterol; 144mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on July 10th, 2013.

halibut_basalmico

Three separate things to make for this meal – marinate the fish (easy) – chop up the tomato salsa stuff (also easy) – and whisk the balsamic vinaigrette (nothing to it, really). It’s worthy of a company meal. Plus, except for cooking the fish, everything can be done ahead.

First thing, I grabbed the package of fish out of the freezer. It was vacuum sealed, so I put it in a large bowl, filled it with cold tap water and weighted it down for a couple of hours. That method doesn’t work quite as well with big roasts and things, but it sure is a simple defrosting method for anything flat. I’ve learned now that it’s very safe leaving that kind of defrosting package, in the bowl, in the kitchen sink, weighted, for several hours. Not all day – that wouldn’t work, I’m afraid – if you’re at work all day.

Defrosting Tip:

Did you know that the easiest way to defrost things is to plunge the vacuum sealed item in a bowl of cold water for a few hours? Be sure to weight it down so it stays under water.

Then I made the vinaigrette. I have a bunch of different balsamic vinegars – the one I used this time was tangerine, but you can also use just plain, ordinary types too. Even the cheap grocery store stuff will work on this recipe because the astringency of the balsamic is muted significantly by all the other stuff going on on top of this fish! Then I made the salsa – now, this isn’t an ordinary Mexican style salsa at all – it’s an Italian style. Except for the fresh chiles, it could be a Latin type. This one uses cayenne – I used the Mercken spice I have in my pantry – it’s a Chilean chile powder mixture that’s a regular condiment on the tables of most people in that country. But just use cayenne, since most people won’t have the Mercken. The salsa has parsley instead of cilantro and fresh oregano instead of any other seasoning. Taste it as you make it – to make sure it has balance (of sweet, sour, salt, etc.).

Meanwhile, the fish is marinated, sort of, in a little bit of olive oil, fresh chopped thyme, salt and pepper. You could do that several hours ahead, cover and keep in the refrigerator. I just let it sit for 30 minutes or so, out on my kitchen counter. I cut the fish into serving portions just to make it easier to cook it in a frying pan.

The original recipe for this came from an Italian cook and chef, Nadia Frigeri. Many years ago I took several cooking classes from her – and learned how to make her polenta, and a variety of other Italian dishes. And this was one of them, and I forget about making it!

The recipe indicates to grill the fish – which you can – but it was blisteringly hot the night I made this, and I didn’t want to make my hubby stand outside at all. I’d cranked our A/C down to 73° so I could stand to cook in the kitchen at all. First I browned the fish on both sides in olive oil, then added some water and a lid and let it steam/simmer for a few minutes. Nothing fancy about that. Just don’t over cook it!

To serve, you drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette on the plate or platter, place the hot-from-the-grill fish, then spoon the salsa on top, drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and top with toasted pine nuts.

What’s GOOD: the lovely, white flaky fish is foremost, of course. I loved the salsa and the balsamic sauce – it was just a wonderful combination. And the little bit of crunch from the pine nuts too. There’s enough of the salsa for each bite to contain some.
What’s NOT: there is nothing not to like about this. As I mentioned, it would make a great company meal. Easy too.

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Halibut Balsamico

Recipe By:Nadia Frigeri, www.nadiafrigeri.com, from a cooking class
Serving Size: 6

2 pounds halibut — thick cut, in 1 piece
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced salt and pepper
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted
SALSA:
3 medium yellow tomatoes — seeded and chopped (or red, or combo)
1/3 cup green onion — chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano — minced (or 1 tsp dried)
1 pinch cayenne
3 medium garlic cloves — peeled and crushed
salt — to taste

Note: If the fish is more than an inch thick, you can bake it in a 400° oven for about 16-20 minutes until cooked through.
1. Arrange halibut filets in a large glass dish; season with salt, pepper and thyme, then add olive oil. Turn fish over in this marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, if possible.
2. Combine tomatoes, green onions, parsley, oregano, cayenne, salt and garlic in a bowl. Toss well, cover and chill until ready to serve, or allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Combine in a small bowl or jar the salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar. Whisk or shake mixture and add the oil as you whisk. Add pine nuts.
4. Grill fish on outdoor grill on both sides until almost cooked through. (Alternately, brown the fish on each side briefly in individual pieces in a little olive oil, add a T. or two of water and steam for just a few minutes too cook through. Do not over cook.) Remove fish from the grill. To plate the meal, pour a small amount of vinaigrette on the plate, and place a single fish serving on top. Add a scoop of the salsa, then sprinkle with more toasted pine nuts and drizzle more vinaigrette on top.
Per Serving: 364 Calories; 23g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 108mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on May 1st, 2013.

grilled_chix_orange_jalapeno_sauce

Make this. Oh yes, make this! It’s healthy, relatively simple to prepare, and it’s just loaded with flavor. You need to like chiles, however, and spicy food.

Many years ago I must have gotten the original of this recipe from Phillis Carey. My old print-out says it’s hers, but I didn’t find the recipe in any of her 3 cookbooks. And actually, the original was for Cornish game hens, not chicken. But my notes about this recipe said it was really delicious, so I made some changes to it, decided to grill the chicken rather than bake it, and I changed-up the sauce to serve with it too. So let’s just say the recipe was inspired by Phillis!

The photo above shows a half of a chicken breast – bone in – in its finished form. The chicken was marinated for awhile in an orange juice, oil and chipotle mixture, seared on the grill, moved to indirect heat to cook through, then served with a quick sweet salsa at the end.  The salsa was the royal crown of the dish, I’d say. I bought fresh salsa and after melting a little bit of red jalapeno jelly on the range, and allowing it to cool, I added it to the chilled salsa and it was spooned over the top. I wanted to lick the plate – and it’s not that there’s anything so unusual in it – except that you don’t expect salsa to be sweet. Yet it is, and it’s just perfect on the chicken!

What’s GOOD: it’s a really different taste – the chicken is moist, since you take it off the grill when it just reaches 155°. And the salsa. Well, that’s the best part.

What’s NOT: nothing for me – I liked it, but you do need to appreciate a bit of heat and sweet with the chicken to enjoy it fully!

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Grilled Chicken with Jalapeno Jelly Salsa

Recipe By: Inspired by a recipe from Phillis Carey, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 4

4 chicken breast halves — bone-in preferred
3/4 teaspoon chipotle chile canned in adobo
1/4 cup jalapeno jelly
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
SWEET SALSA:
2 tablespoons jalapeno jelly
1/2 cup fresh salsa
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro — minced, for garnish

1. MARINADE: Melt the jalapeno jelly, cool for 2-3 minutes, then pour Into a Ziiploc bag with the orange zest, juice, oil and chipotle chile in adobo. Seal and squish the bag to mix the ingredients, particularly the chipotle chiles. Add chicken and seal. Refrigerate for about an hour, or longer if time permits.
2. Remove chicken from marinade (save the marinade) and blot with paper towels. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high. Briefly sear the chicken on both sides – enough to get grill marks, then place it over indirect heat, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking (using the glaze at least once) until the interior of the chicken reaches 155°, about 15-20 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and cover with foil for about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, pour marinade into a small saucepan. Heat marinade and allow to simmer until it has reduced by half (there won’t be a lot) or until it thickens some. During the grilling, brush the chicken with the glaze.
4. SALSA: In a small saucepan, melt jalapeno jelly. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes, then add to the fresh salsa. Spoon the salsa over the chicken and garnish with cilantro.
Per Serving: 402 Calories; 20g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 93mg Cholesterol; 246mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Lamb, on January 7th, 2013.

lamb_chops_cherry_marsala_sauce

What a special treat – loin lamb chops grilled and served with a sauce (dried tart cherries, rosemary, dry Marsala wine, shallots and butter). All of it delish.

Visiting Costco recently I noticed a gorgeous package of 7 lamb chops. Little things, beautifully trimmed, ready for the grill. The recipe came from the New York Times, but I’d read about it in my favorite cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser. This is her recipe that was published in 2001. A winner.

It took a few minutes to make the sauce, and my DH did the chops on the outdoor grill. The sauce has a bunch of ingredients, but it wasn’t difficult – chopped shallot, garlic, fresh rosemary, some chicken broth, the dry Marsala, salt and pepper, plus some unsalted butter and oil. Have all the remainder of your dinner all ready to go so when the chops are done and the sauce is thickened just so, you’re all ready to serve it!

What’s good: the meat was delicious – tender and juicy – and the sauce was unusual (from the tart cherries) but complemented the meat perfectly. It would make a lovely company meal.
What’s not: nothing at all.

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Lamb Chops with Cherry Marsala Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from New York Times, 2001 (Amanda Hesser)
Serving Size: 4

2/3 cup dried tart cherries
8 lamb loin chops — about 1 inch thick (about 1 pound)
salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup shallot — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup Marsala wine — dry if you can find it

1. Place dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 15 minutes, then drain. Pat lamb chops dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add oil and sauté chops for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare, swirling pan occasionally to make sure chops stay in contact with oil. Transfer chops to plate and tent with foil.
2. Turn off flame under skillet. Wipe with paper towel (lightly and carefully, so you don’t burn yourself—it doesn’t need to be oil-free) and return to medium heat. Melt butter in pan and sauté shallots until just tender, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add garlic and rosemary to skillet and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add broth and Marsala to skillet. Stir in cherries and scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
3. Divide lamb chops between two plates. Spoon sauce and cherries over and around chops. Serve.
Per Serving: 832 Calories; 64g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, easy, Grilling, on December 24th, 2012.

grand_marnier_grilled_chicken

Yet another (good) recipe for grilled chicken. Can’t ever have enough. This one is marinated with a variety of things (nothing difficult or odd) and a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier, then it’s grilled. Done. Easy.

Making this chicken was kind of an afterthought. I had decided I was going to make the Summer Grilled Panzanella Salad. But I knew we needed something else with it – some protein. So I opened up one of my favorite cookbooks, Hugh Carpenter’s Hot Barbecue. This recipe popped out at me. Although the orange flavoring didn’t exactly fit with the panzanella bread salad, I decided it was good enough. I had all of the ingredients on hand (goody!) so it was simple to combine the marinade and let it chill out for awhile before grilling.

It was altogether easy to make. The marinade ingredients are combined, divided in half (you marinate the chicken in half and glaze the grilling chicken with the other half and pour any left over marinade on the chicken when it’s served) and then you let the chicken chill for 1-8 hours. The chicken is grilled at a medium heat (350°) for 12 minutes per side, then you just keep grilling it until it reaches 160° on an instant read thermometer. I think it took about 30 minutes altogether. Serve it right away. I’d purchased drumsticks and thighs (you could do breasts, but it will take less time on the grill, and I think I’d turn down the heat a little after the initial grill-mark marking).

What I liked: the marinade gave the chicken a very nice, mellow orange flavor – I liked it. A lot. I’d make it again for sure with no changes to the recipe at all. It’s also EASY.

What I didn’t like: nothing at all.

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Chicken Grand Marnier

Recipe By: Adapted from Hot Barbecue by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison
Serving Size: 4

1 pound chicken thighs
1 pound chicken drumsticks
MARINADE:
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier — or other orange liqueur
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — grated
2 tablespoons fresh basil — chopped
1 whole green onion — chopped

1. MARINADE: Combine ingredients and pour half of it into a zip type plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, seal and refrigerate for 1-8 hours. Reserve remaining marinade in refrigerator.
2. Remove chicken from refrigerator at least 30 minutes ahead of grilling.
3. Preheat grill to medium (350°). Cook chicken about 12 minutes per side, and continue to cook until the internal temperature (dark meat) reaches 160°. Use an instant-read thermometer to determine. Use the remaining marinade to brush on the chicken each time you turn the pieces. If any marinade remains, pour it over the chicken when serving.
Per Serving: 387 Calories; 20g Fat (51.1% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 137mg Cholesterol; 630mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Veggies/sides, on December 14th, 2012.

street_corn

Oh, my. Can I just tell you to make this? Do you trust me? Have you learned that when I say that, it’s something that’s sensational? Worth making? Fabulous. All those things? Yes, YES!

We have a local restaurant in Tustin, where I live, called the Tustin Roadhouse. It’s a kind of a dive, but not in a bad way. Cement floors, melamine topped tables and a few benches. They serve Que – mostly. The restaurant used to have a different name (Beach Pit BBQ) but awhile ago they branched out just a little bit, provided some optional menu items and sides. We went a month ago and ordered appetizers and a side dish – corn. We had delicious – absolutely wonderful fried calamari with a fab remoulade sauce. Then they brought the corn. Oh my gosh! It was SO good. When we went back there a couple of weeks ago, all I really cared about was ordering more of that corn. I quizzed the waitress about what was on the corn, and promptly came home and made it myself.

grilled_cornYou’ll find some other recipes online if you search for Mexican Street Corn. Some recipes suggest Parmesan. Most called for the cotija cheese. Some don’t have the cheese at all. Some used cayenne in the mayo. I like the depth of flavor from chipotle, so I used that. cotija_cheese_pkgI made up my own recipe for it. I know it’s not corn season right now, but I did find corn at our local Trader Joe’s. It wasn’t the best tasting, but hey, it’s December as I write this, so I took what I could cotija_cheese_cutget! Those of you readers who live in the Southern Hemisphere – buy some corn right now and make this.

street_corn_dipping_pans

First you grill the corn, then while it’s sizzling hot you brush on a mixture of mayo, chipotle chile in adobo added in, and a tad of lime juice squeezed into the mix also. Then you roll the corn into crumbled cotija cheese. You don’t need much – maybe 2 T. per ear is sufficient. If you love the cotija, then add more. Cotija is a salty, aged cow’s milk Mexican cheese. It has the texture of feta, but it’s not like feta in taste, just the crumbly aspect of it. If you use Parmesan, be sure to grate it – don’t shred it. You don’t want big threads of cheese – you want crumbles. That’s IT. See? I said easy.

What’s good: the cheese, the flavor, the texture. You don’t use much mayo (the amount above – about 3 tablespoons was enough for 4 small ears) mixed with the chipotle and lime juice. Yum is all I can say.
What’s not: absolutely nothing. Do use corn holders in the end to hold the corn while you’re brushing on the mayo mixture – they’re really hot right off the grill.

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Mexican Street Corn

Recipe By: My own concoction, but based on what I tasted at the Tustin Roadhouse
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: Add more chipotle chile if you like it hotter. Just be careful – it packs a punch if you use too much.

4 ears fresh corn — on the cob
1/4 cup mayonnaise — regular or light
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile canned in adobo — mashed, chopped, minced to a paste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled in small pieces

1. Set out two flat plates or dipping pans. In one add the mayo, chipotle (to taste – add more if desired), and lime juice. Mix it well and taste. Add pepper if desired. Don’t add salt as the cheese is quite salty. In the other dish or pan crumble the cotija cheese.
2. Grill the corn just long enough to get grill marks on the ears.
3. Use a silicone brush and brush each ear with some of the mayo mixture. Use corn holders in the end, or hold the ear with paper towels. Cover each ear end to end with the mayo mixture, but not thick at all – just enough so the cheese will stick. Then gently roll each ear in the cotija cheese, rolling back to cover most of it with a erratic covering of cheese. It does not need to be solidly covered – that would be too much, and too salty. Serve immediately before the corn gets cold!
Per Serving: 178 Calories; 13g Fat (58.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 98mg Sodium.

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