Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Corning We Will Go . . .

Ah, tis the season when young Irish lads and lasses thoughts turn toward beef, corned beef!

Now those of you who've only had the day-glow pink corned beef from the grocery store are thinking "Why would I even want to think of that stuff?" Let me tell you the real thing is DELICIOUS!

Many years ago the family holiday assigned to me was St. Patrick's Day so I've been working on this meal for almost 20 years now!

So today I will show you how to "corn" your own beef at home! You know I can't help but love this recipe. It takes DAYS!!! If you don't have days and don't like beef you might consider some "corned" salmon instead. I tried it and think its delicious too.

THIS is the most important ingredient in this entire recipe. Corning was a method of preserving meat back in ye days of old. If you get enough salt in something even the bacteria say "Blech!" and go away. So the meat doesn't decompose!

Let's get corning!

It all starts with a rub! You'll need half a cup of Kosher salt. Kosher salt is flaky and light. You really can't substitute a similar amount of table salt and get the same results. Pour it in a bowl so you can get to mixing!

We've discussed my passion for bay leaves before right?

Grab around two and crumble them up! This is a nice opportunity to use the broken bits in your bay leaf stash! You've got a bay leaf stash don't you? Did you know that your bay leaves will love you more if you keep them in the freezer? They're very heat sensitive evidently!

They're so pretty! Do you think I could paint my house this color? I think I'll go to Home Depot and ask for Bay leaf colored paint . . . while my blessed oldest is standing by.

A tablespoon of black pepper! Fresh ground pepper is so fragrant and has so many lovely flavors in it. It's much milder than the pre-ground versions.

Oh thyme, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Maybe not right now though . . .

A tablespoon of thyme joins the party!

Mmmm, allspice. You smell like Jamaica . . . well you smell like jerk chicken, I've never actually been to Jamaica . . . I should demand to be taken to Jamaica immediately!

I saw a recipe that asked for 3/4 Tbsp of allspice. Who has a 1/4 Tbsp measuring spoon? There's 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon but that doesn't help me! What are they thinking? They shouldn't ask math teachers to participate in this sort of measuring!

So use a "scant" tablespoon of allspice. It's how I roll . . .

Now for a whole tablespoon of chili powder! Because I'm AMERICAN and it gives me license to take any other country's cuisine and screw with it anyway I please . . . this is a very mild chili powder but I think some spicy would be tasty too! Especially if you were going to go with salmon for your meat!

Everybody here's for the party, let's mix!

Look at it! So beautiful! It smells delicious too! Now we need some meat!

Woohoo! My husband scored on this one, 12 lbs of brisket for $2.18 a lb! He's a keeper!

It's huge! There's actually a name for each half.

On the right we have the "point." The point has lots of fat through out it making it juicy and flavorful. Because it's fatty and rounded it will stick up to the heat of my grill. Since I don't really need 12 lbs of corned beef, I'm going to cut this half off and freeze it for later! It would also make a lovely pot roast if there's no good grilling weather.

This is the "flat." In a wild case of obviousness it's actually the nice flat portion of the meat! Evidently an average working man could of named it. We're going to use it for our corned beef.

When I flip the meat over you can see it has a thick layer of fat on it. Very desirable when grilling. Not necessary for how I'm cooking this. In fact, that layer of fat will prevent proper corning! So, trim it off.

I'm using a VERY sharp knife. Do you own a very sharp knife? I have a knife sharpener! I could sharpen you knife for you. I sharpened my friend's knife once. There were many band-aids needed . . .

There it's trimmed! I should of been a butcher . . .

We're going to facilitate the "corning" process with this little device. You could use a skewer or any muscular fork.

This is a good time to think about things that make you angry like oh . . . politicians. You want little holes every half inch or so . . .

Then flip it over and start on the other side and think of your ex-boyfriend . . .

They have "Art" therapy! Why not "cooking" therapy?

Now we sprinkle on some of our spice rub! Be generous! I added several more tablespoons to this!

Rub it in! You want a nice thick layer on everything. Think happy thoughts! Lollipops, tulips, men who buy fabulous meat! Whatever makes you happy!

Flip it over and get the other side too!

Don't forget the sides! I used about half of the rub on the entire piece of meat. So now you need to wrap it up. I managed to get mine in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. But, I have skillz you see. You may want to go with the 2 gallon Ziploc.

I gathered all of the rub from the platter and stuck it in there too. You want to put it in a dish where it'll be safe. The meat will start out by giving up it's moisture. You want that moisture to turn into it's own little brine and soak back in! So keep it as sealed as possible!

I had this nice little plastic dish available.

Now to weight it down. I took my emergency 4 lb package of pintos and wrapped them up in another bag and used them as weight!

Now you put the whole thing in the refrigerator and you flip the meat over EVERY day for 5-7 days. Can you say pre-planning?

St. Patrick's Day we're on our way! Here's part 2, you know where you watch me boil meat and other complicated stuff like that!

Corned Beef

1/2 cup kosher salt
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 Tablespoon black pepper, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 scant tablespoon allspice, ground
1 tablespoon chili powder

A Corning We Will Go . . . Part 2

Remember him? Last saturday I rubbed him down with a lovely spice mixture and put him in the refrigerator? Do you have one in your refrigerator? Did you flip him every day?

No? Well that's okay, baby steps . . . maybe you have this instead

You can start from here too.  Just insert an image of a day glow red piece of nitrate laden meat in for my nice au natural meat.

The meat is gritty with spices and you want to get them off of there. They've done their work! Their legend will live on.

Throw it in a nice big beautiful pot! You want one that will allow your meat to be covered with water!

Cover it with nice cold tap water and if you're feeling frisky a bay leaf. If you're dealing with the pink stuff then go ahead and use the little seasoning packet! Bring it to a boil.

Action shot! Brisket is tough and I'm going to cook it till it's "less tough." I don't want it falling apart because that's not conducive to slicing! When you've got it simmering throw a lid on it and let it bubble for a couple of hours. You want to be able to stick a meat fork in it easily.

If you need to get to work I'd recommend throwing this puppy in a crockpot on low with about a quart of water. It'd do the work all day long!

Two hours later it looks gorgeous!

But it is still seriously tough! So I flipped it over. I have trouble leaving things be, but we've discussed that before right? Put a lid on it and let it go some more! Two hours later it was good to go. It held together as one piece of meat but the surface meat started to separate when I stuck a fork in it. So I threw the meat in a pan in the fridge.

Brisket cuts so much better chilled! It's so beautiful! I could break out in song . . .

It slices so pretty! Oh my german half wants to break out the pumpernickel and saurkraut right now!

So I threw it in an oven safe pan and poured a few cups of broth from the pot over it. Go ahead and put it in the refrigerator until 20-30 minutes before you're ready to eat. About the time you start to cook the potatoes, carrots, and cabbage you'll want to throw it in the oven to reheat at about 325 deg F.

This meat is so tender and lean. It retains all its beefy character. It has the saltiness and aroma of a good corned beef. That broth is meaty and rich. It's the perfect sauce for your potatoes. I do cook those little red potatoes in the broth. Then I cut them open, butter them and pour ladle fulls of broth all over everything! The corned beef is full of wonderful salty tang. The spices and herbs rubbed into it balance the salt with wonderful aromas, they're our bitter component you know! This meat cries out for a sweet foil thus cabbage and carrots are a must! I like to steam them separately in plain water so that they're as sweet as possible. We also enjoy some nice beets with our corned beef too! Their metallic earthy sweet flavor pairs extremely well with the meat and the orange, fuschia, green, white combination on the plate sets my heart all aflutter! Oh and I've got to have some horseradish sauce too. The tang and heat are the only flavor component missing!

Erin Go Braugh!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Andrew's Curried Chicken

Okay! I've posted this before but its what I'm cooking today! I made it for my baby before he left for the Air Force. Today I'm making it for my other baby who needs to put a little weight on her thin little frame. Its a family favorite.

Soccer is almost over and basketball is . . . well we're not participating in basketball this year! Woohoo free time! . . . After I get this Teacher dinner thing over with on wednesday that is . . . but I got other people to cook it up for me 'cause I'm sneaky like that!

Here it is from way back in May . . .

I spent all weekend trying to feed my baby too much because he's deserting me for the USAF.

I also spent all weekend (18 hours) watching a photography webinar by Penny De Los Santos . . .

I got leg cramps! Who knew I couldn't sit still for that long? I had trained for it. I spend hours each day doing nothing after all!

Now I'm going to be burning food while I try to create light, color, shape, composition and tension in each photo! Oh and tell a food story too. . .

Do you think these vegetables are telling a story?

I think their story is "What is she going to use on us first? The knife in the corner of the recorder over there?" Bell pepper is always such an optimist!

These are the vegetables I put in my Gentle Giant's curry by the way!

I only chopped up half of it because it was so big! Green bell pepper is sort of bitter and curry powder is sort of bitter so let's not over do it.

Some sweet juicy carrot! Yes I use the little snack carrots. If they're willing to do some work for me I let them. They cook up just fine for this purpose. I suspect Penny De Los Santos would insist on carrots with tops and bits of dirt clinging to them . . .

Oh and the celery! The beautiful celery! I'll admit I ended up chopping it up just a little further. Ideally the vegetables become soft, tender, bits, that the children don't notice . . .

I had lots of red onion bits in the fridge so I grabbed them all. Peeled off the dry bits. Used the knife where necessary until I had just the fresh beautiful parts. By the end I had 1/2 to 3/4 of an onion.

It just wouldn't be the same if we didn't have lots of garlic and ginger!

Peel 'em up and give them a nice chop. They're basically minced. Everything is under 1/8th of an inch. You could make them smaller with a grater or put the garlic in a garlic press if that's easier for you. I just wanted them slightly course and rustic. Okay, I didn't want to go back to the kitchen and find the other tools . . . I was watching Penny make photos! Throw all the veggies in a bowl and toss them around a little. You're going to use them later.

Now for the chicken! Yes, I put my chicken in my sink. I do, really! I washed the sink with dish soap and water just like I would any pot or pan! It's a lot easier to manipulate in there. I like my meat in the sink because it's so easy to sanitize afterward. Besides we're going to cook the meat. Really . . . it'll be fine! Seriously, trust me! My mother said I could! She grew up with an actual icebox and diesel powered washing machines! On a farm! No food poisoning for three generations! Take deep breaths! It'll be fine.

Throw some salt and pepper on it! Chicken likes salt and pepper. It makes it feel, dressed! Now for a parting of the ways. If you don't like chicken skin or are short on time you CAN skip browning the chicken in oil before you stew it. I have done this recipe with . . . gasp . . . boneless skinless chicken breast. It just won't be as rich and tasty . . . it won't be . . . Andrew's Curried Chicken . . . My favorite choice would be bone in chicken thighs with no skin if you want to skip this.

Now with either chicken preference throw a little flour on the chicken . . .

 . . . and mix it all together. The chicken will get a little pasty . . . now please note I just have to step over to the other side of the sink to wash my hands! See how I've limited the possibility for cross contamination? Huh? See!

Heat some oil in a skillet! Then go DOH! I should of used the beautiful enamelled dutch oven I'm going to use later!

It's making LOTS of noise because of the bits of water clinging to it! I'm just giving them a quick brown on pretty high heat. Turn it down if you see any mist rising cause that's not STEAM its SMOKE from the oil!

It's all bubbling away! Now since I have gas burners that wave in every passing breeze I find it nice to rotate my pan every minute or so. Just to even the browning out a little. If you've got an older electric stove with hot spots you can do the same. If you've got the heat up nice and high in two to four minutes you should start to see some browning.

Can you see where the color is starting to change on the edges? I'm going to go ahead and give it a look-see and see if it's brown.

Some are browner than others! Now if your chicken is stuck hard and fast to the pan try waiting a minute. If you put it in a hot pan with hot oil it'll flip as soon as it has formed a little crust. The meat will release when it's ready to be flipped.

Oh and look there's the pot I should of browned them in! The pot that would of helped me not get grease all over my counter . . . but it would of probably taken three batches!

Please, be smarter than me and remember to put a throw rug in front of the stove to catch your grease splatter before you start to slip, before the cat starts to lick the floor, before you turn to grab a rag and end up pirouetting like a ballerina! Oh and don't wear your favorite red blouse either!

Second batch! I've got to hurry. My webinar lunch break is almost over!

Take about half the chicken and put it in the bottom of an oven safe casserole or be like me and use a nice Dutch Oven type pot. Start to throw on some of the chopped veggies!

*if you decided to skip browning the chicken this is where you'd start to follow the recipe again. May I please, please beg you to use skinless chicken thighs with bones in them? Pretty please? You'll keep a lot of richness if you do! Okay . . . you CAN use the boneless, skinless, thighs . . .

Add about half of the vegetables to this first layer of chicken. Aren't they pretty?

Penny told me to seek the light! The only light at this point was in the office on a chair. I had to use a cookie sheet to reflect some too. Penny's VERY inventive. This is probably not the "sense of place" that she was talking about. Photo stories should give a "sense of place" you see.

Add the rest of the chicken and vegetables. Remember the chicken is still very raw at this point! Be safe!

Remember that pan you browned the chicken in? There's a lot of delicious goodness that in there. If I messed up my kitchen for it I'm using it!

So tip your pan over and wait a few seconds. We just want to get rid of the oil! Let the crusty goodness settle to the bottom. Then dump the oil.

Now please, please, wipe the grease off the outside of the pan before you put it back on a burner! It can ignite in quite a dramatic fashion! I try to only set things on fire when I'm pregnant . . .

Get yourself some spices. I always use curry powder and a cinnamon stick at the very least. Give you curry powder a little taste. I'm not particularly fond of the curry powder I have here so I'm jazzing it up with some cumin powder and a little garam masala. Add some red pepper if its not spicy enough for you!

Now turn the heat on to about medium. Curry spices really appreciate some toasting and it's a good way to integrate the lovely browned bits. Even if you're skipping the whole chicken browning thing I'd still heat up the spices in a pan a little!

Now . . . as far as I know . . . there's no wine in Indian cooking. But, heck, it's me! Let's add a little wine . . .

It'll form a nice paste when it cooks in . . .

Now get very angry and frustrated when you can't fine your regular can opener. You know the one that makes the little triangular holes in the top of a can? The one that makes pouring controlled and easy? The one that's missing because it's got a bottle opener on the other side? That one?

Pour it in however works for you!

When it's smooth take it off the heat! You might want to taste this and see what your salt level is like. This is our cooking liquid and it's only going to get blander. Add some salt if it's not VERY flavorful at this point.

*if you added flour it'll be slightly thickened

Pour it over everything! It'll only fill the pot halfway. The plan is that as it heats the chicken and vegetables will release their moisture and form a nice sauce! Just enough sauce to cover everything!

So put a lid on it! A nice tight lid! Now I stuck it in the oven at 300 deg F. for a couple of hours. It bubbled, it toiled, it troubled . . . okay it just bubbled. I toiled cleaning up grease splatters. I troubled myself over how it was doing and checked and poked it every 30-60 minutes or so. If the chicken isn't nestled in sauce after the first hour go ahead and add a little water. 

Sorry for the complicated cooking terms again. Nestled means it's 1/2 to 3/4 covered. Otherwise it's be covered, submerged, swimming etc.

Oh be still my heart!

Now! The chicken is salty and spicy with all sorts of lovely aromatic spices! So I like some nice basmati rice. The texture of it is lovely against the silky, moist chicken. The peas are a lovely sweet counterpoint to the highly flavored foods. The naan well it . . .

Makes a lovely platform for the goodness to travel to your mouth! Excuse me . . . I need a moment . . .

. . . to see if there's any leftovers . . .

Andrew's Curried Chicken
serves 4

8 chicken thighs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups of diced, bell pepper, carrot, onion, and celery
1/4 cup minced ginger
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1/2 tsp garam masala or Chinese 5-spice powder (optional)
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
1-14 oz can low sodium chicken broth
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Mix all the vegetables together and set them aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour. Chicken should be very lightly coated. Cover bottom of dutch oven or large skillet with oil (2-4 Tbsp) and heat over high heat. Brown chicken in two batches. A few minutes per side should make them nicely brown. Turn heat off. Set chicken aside. Drain grease from pan. Put pan back on medium heat and add the spices. Heat them until they're fragrant. Add wine and broth and scrape bottom of pan until it forms a light sauce. Reserve. Layer chicken and vegetables in pan and pour sauce over everything. Cover and bake at 300 deg F. Check after an hour to make sure a sauce is forming. I like to rearrange the chicken so it is all at least partially covered. Add water if necessary. Cook one more hour.

**Serve with a lovely ice cold IPA style beer! They don't call it India Pale Ale for nothing.