Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken Shawarma and Work

You may have noticed, readers, that I have really been putting an effort into posting more often.  I have even been taking pictures of thrown-together meals in case I am short a post or two.  But sometimes life, and by life I mostly mean work, gets in the way.

Take tonight for example.  I do have a couple dinners I cooked that I could write about this evening, but I am currently, at 8.06pm, at my desk in the office finishing up a report that needs to get tonight.  (Why am I writing a blog post when I need to get a report out tonight is a subject I am not going to go into right now.)  I am worried that between real life (OMSI After Dark tomorrow night, yay!) and work life (staying late in the office), I won't be able to post any real meals this week.

Instead, I will post the dinner I am right now scarfing down.  A chicken shawarma plate from a cart on SW 5th between Oak and Stark, conveniently directly across the street from to front door of my office building, that has the word Arabian in its name.  I have never eaten food from this cart before, and it is delicious and a crapload of food.  All for $7.

Okay, back to work.  Wait, first a note.  I believe this is the first time chicken, or any poultry, has been featured on Princeton Eats Portland.  I find chicken repulsive in general.  It is not the taste, but the disgustingness of the chicken industry that gets me.  Remind me to rant on that later.

Bon appetit.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pickle Themed Dinner: Pork Chops Brined in Pickle Juice and...?

I love pickles.  Really love them.  They were pretty much the only vegetable I would eat until I was, ohhhh, 23?  My mom sometimes brings me these delicious pickles from the Pop-up General Store in Oakland.  They are classic dills made by Studebaker Pickles.  They are amazing.  

Yes, I love pickles, and it breaks my heart every time I finish a jar and I have to pour the juice down the drain.  I mean, yes, sometimes I'll take a spoonful of it before sending it down the drain, but mostly it gets wasted.  So imagine my joy when I saw a twitter post with a link to A Gazillion Ways to Use Leftover Pickle Juice.  Why I never thought of using the juice is beyond me, but there it was, a bunch of ways to use it!

All of the options on the list sound pretty great, but the one that really jumped out at me was to use it as a brine for pork.  I happen to have a freezer-full of pork and love brined pork chops.  Done and done.

I took chops out of the freezer last night to defrost, and ever since I have been thinking of what to make alongside the brined chops.  By the time I got home, I had fully committed to a pickle themed dinner.  But what does that exactly mean?  Pickles aren't exactly a prime ingredient in anything.  Then I thought, FRIED PICKLES!  I love fried pickles, and after looking up a couple of recipes, decided they are easy enough to make.   I don't consider two items a themed dinner, but another food item seemed unnecessary, so a pickle martini will round out the meal.

Pork Chops Brined in Pickle Juice
Pork chops
Pickle juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Brine the pork chops in the pickle juice for some amount of time.  Mine got brined for 2 hours.  I flipped them after one hour.

Take the chops out of the brine and pat dry.  Grind some black pepper onto each side.

Cook the pork chops.  I grilled them on my trusty cast iron stovetop grill.  Surprised?

Fried Pickles
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
Optional: dash of hot sauce (I used Crystal)

1 cup plain cornmeal
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Some pickles, spears or chips work best, cold and dried with a paper towel.

I didn't use the Studebaker pickles because it seemed wrong to fry them.  They are SO good on their own.  (I made 5 pickle spears of Whole Foods brand.  Had I made more spears, I would have needed more cornmeal coating, but I had plenty of egg wash.)

1.  Make an egg wash:  Whisk egg and milk (and dash of hot sauce if you like things spicy) together for about 30 seconds using a fork. Set aside.

2.  Make cornmeal coating: Mix remaining ingredients together and set aside.  By the way, you can put pretty much anything you want with the cornmeal for the coating.  I used whatever spices I had and sounded good.  

3.  Coat each pickle with egg wash.

4.  Coat each pickle with cornmeal coating.

5.  Repeat steps three and four to double-coat your pickles. The breading will adhere better if you give it a double dunk.

6.  Place each battered pickle on a cookie sheet that is lined with wax or parchment paper and freeze for at least 30 minutes. If you neglect to freeze your pickles, the pickle batter will not adhere and you'll end up with a naked pickle and a bunch of batter floating in the oil.

7.  Heat cooking oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  I used peanut oil because it's the only non-olive oil I have in the house right now.

8.  Carefully drop each frozen pickle into the preheated oil. Stir occasionally and let cook until pickles float on the surface of the oil and turn golden brown. Generally, pickle slices take 2 to 3 minutes; spears take 3 to 4 minutes; and whole pickles take 6 to 7 minutes.

9.  Remove pickles from oil and allow them to drain on paper towels.

10.  Transfer to serving plate and serve with your favorite dip!

Pickle Martini
2 parts gin
1 part pickle juice

Put in a shaker with ice, shake, and serve straight up with a pickle garnish.

I have already written way too much in this post, but I have one note.  The average person might feel a little pickled-out after this meal.  Not me!  After I finished, I had another pickle martini and ate one of the Studebaker pickles for dessert.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Not every night can be night of dinner from scratch, but every night needs to be a night of eating meat.  I have mentioned before that I am down to cuts that are a little harder to deal with... except for the ground beef.  A quick check of my cupboards confirmed that I had a jar of marinara and pasta, so spaghetti (well, angel hair) and meat sauce it was.

There is no recipe for this meal.  Okay, for those of you who REALLY don't know how to cook:

Brown the meat in a skillet, pour in the marinara, and stir.  Meanwhile, boil some water and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain the pasta, put some on a plate, and put some sauce on top.  Sprinkle on grated parmesan cheese, and you're good to go.

Well, add a glass or two of red wine to accompany your meal, and you are ready to go.  For those of you that can get it, I highly recommend Andrew Rich wines.  Anything he makes is great, but his Pinot Noir is the best value of any Oregon Pinot I have seen.  And it's not only that they are a great value, they are really excellent wine.  Trust me on this.  I am a girl who has drank quite a bit of Oregon Pinot Noir.

Bon appetit.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grillades and Grits

I know I mentioned this in my last post, but it is serious go-time with clearing out my freezer for the beef I will be picking up in about 2 weeks.  My freezer is certainly emptier than right after my shipment of beef last year (check it out here), but there is still too much meat in there.  Look!

Everything wrapped in white is pig, and I have been purposely avoiding eating the pork because the next pig doesn't arrive until about Christmas.  But something must be done.

The beef is down to cuts that are somewhat harder, for me at least, to cook with.  (Side note:  I hate, hate!, ending sentences with a preposition.  But I can't and don't feel like spending the time thinking of a way to write that sentence which avoids ending the sentence with a preposition.  So here we are.)  For example, beef round steak.  It's not a big chunk of meat; it is round cut into steaks.  The only things I know how to cook with such a cut are milanesas or chicken fried steak, and those are the exact same thing just named by an Argentine and a Texan, respectively.  

I turned to browsing my cookbooks.  I was so impressed by the New Orleans style brisket (here) I found in the aptly named The New Orleans Cookbook that I grabbed that cookbook first.  Lo and behold, a recipe using round of beef:  Grillades and Grits.  AND the recipe uses lard.  Remember the tub of lard I had to purchase for these tamales?  Well, it's been staring at me from my fridge ever since.  So grillades and grits it is.  Smiley.

1 1/4 to 1 3/4 lb. round of veal or beef
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 Tbsp lard (Erin note:  Um, I misread this as 1 1/2 CUP lard.  
     Yes, I made this meal with approximately 16 times the amount 
     of lard needed. Oops. I really did use 1.5 cups of lard. 
     Check out the picture.)
1 c. chopped onion
1 large ripe Creole tomato, chopped coarsely
2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked grits

Trim all the fat off the meat and remove any bones.  Cut into pieces about 2 inches square and pound out with a mallet to about 4 inches square.  Rub the salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic into the pieces of meat on both sides, then rub in the flour.

In a large heavy skillet or saute pan, melt the lard over medium heat and brown the grillades will on both sides.  Lower the heat and add the onion, tomato, and water.  Bring to a simmer, cover loosely, an cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, uncovering to turn the meat over every 10 minutes.   A rich brown gravy will form during cooking; if it appears too thick, add water a little bit at a time.

When the meat is cooked, remove it to a heated platter and place in a pre-heated 200F oven to keep warm.  Prepare the grits according to package directions.  Just before serving reheat the gravy in the skillet, then pour it over both the meat and the grits.

Sooo, my notes:

1.  I was so excited to make a joke about beating the meat.  I don't own a mallet, so after confirming with my mom that a hammer would do, I began "pounding out" the meat.  I giggled the entire time, thinking about how I was going to write about how fun it is to pound and/or beat meat.  And it IS!  But this was all ruined by...

2.  I used SIXTEEN times the amount of lard!  How did I not notice that the recipe said tablespoons, not cups?  And didn't it trigger something in my mind that 1.5 cups of lard is absurd?  I guess not.  I even took a picture of the lard beginning to warm in the dutch oven to say: look readers, this is what 1.5 cups of lard looks like!

Well, you 2 people who read my blog, in this case perhaps more is better because I didn't notice my mistake until I started writing this post, long after I polished off two plates of the stuff.  

This meal is truly delicious.  Who can complain about beef and grits smothered in gravy?  No one.  It's like a Salisbury steak, southern style.  Okay, I don't really know what Salisbury steak is except that on South Park Chef was (is he still?) always cooking it up, and it appeared to be some sort of beef and mashed potatoes with gravy.  Similar to grillades and grits?  I'd say so.  Maybe I should give Salisbury steak a try.

This whole post has gone completely off track since my discovery of the lard mistake.  I had what I was going to write planned out in my mind, and to see that I made such an error only now, while typing the recipe out, is disturbing.

Really though, friends, it tasted good.

Bon appetit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cook's Illustrated "Ultimate Chili"

The 2011/2012 cow is probably on its way to slaughter in the next week or so and will arrive in Portland at the end of the month.  I need to eat some beef!  So, beef stew meat, you are being made into chili.

I found this recipe on the Cook's Illustrated website circa 2004.  I printed it out and had it with my recipes for years.  I couldn't find it yesterday, so was THRILLED to find a version of it on the Epicurious website.  It's definitely some work, but man is it worth it.

A couple notes before we begin:

1.  I had 2 Anchos at my house already.  I first went to the regular grocery store for the regular ingredients, then hit up my favorite international market for the chile peppers.  They didn't have Anchos. I picked dried Pasillas to substitute.  When I got back home, I saw the notes for the recipe, which I did not have, stated that dried New Mexico or Guajillo chilies may be substituted for the Ancho chilies.  The store had both those types.  Let me tell you, Pasillas work too.

2.  The recipe calls for light molasses.   The store didn't have light molasses, so I bought regular molasses.  To the people out there who think that they can taste the difference between 2 tsps of light molasses and 2 tsps of regular molasses in a huge pot of chili?  Go ahead, I dare you.

3.  I didn't have oregano.  I thought I did, but I didn't.  I didn't want to go back to the store, so I omitted it.  I don't think oregano would have added anything.

4.  I do pretty much all my cooking in cast iron.  If you are using a cast iron skillet for the browning of the meat, the oil is unnecessary.

5.  I usually make my chili on the stove.  I was tempted to do so with this recipe, but I kind of liked the idea of putting it in the oven and not dealing with it; not checking if it was boiling instead of simmering, not taking tastes and burning the shit out of my mouth, just letting it cook.  It went well.  I think I will make chili in the oven always.

6.  My desired condiments:  grated cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Okay, really what I used was nonfat plain yogurt.  Same same but different.

Okay, on with the recipe.

6 dried Ancho chile peppers (about 1 ¾ ounces), stems and seeds removed,
and flesh torn into 1-inch pieces
2 to 4 dried Arbol chile peppers, stems removed, pods split, seeds removed
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 small jalapeno chilies, stems and seeds removed and discarded, flesh cut
into ½-inch pieces
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4
2 (14 ½ ounce) can diced tomatoes
½ small can of tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons light molasses
2-3 cans pinto, pinquito or kidney beans
2 ½ pounds blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into ¾-inch pieces
1 (12 ounce) bottle lager

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place Ancho chilies in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until flesh is dry and fragrant, 4-6 minutes, reducing heat if chilies begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. Do not wash out skillet.

Add arbol chilies, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa, and1 teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chilies; process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. With processor running, very slowly add ½ cup broth until smooth, thick paste forms, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer to small bowl. 

Place onions in now-empty processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped, about four 1-second pulses. Add jalapenos and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa, about four 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until any exuded moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chili paste, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and molasses; stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined. Add remaining 2 cups broth and beans; bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven. Add ½ bottle lager to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Transfer lager to Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining oil, beef, and lager. Once last addition of lager has been added to Dutch oven, stir to combine and return mixture to simmer.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is fully tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Let chili stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt. Serve with desired condiments.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart.  It's not difficult; it's just time consuming.  I left my house at about 4.30pm to get the ingredients, was back by about 5 and started cooking immediately.  Granted, I was by no means rushing and much of the time is spent waiting around for the chili to cook, but I did not eat my first bowl of chili until after 9.

That said, this really is the Ultimate Chili.  It puts my easy recipe (see here) to shame.

Bon appetit.

Princeton Eats SF: a food Saturday - Dinner


I love sushi.  I love sushi even more when I eat it with my "vegetarian" best friend.  The only two good things that resulted from Ben and Santina moving to Mexico (this is a selfish statement; of course there are many good things that resulted for them) were getting to visit them and Santina eating fish.  It gives me such pleasure that she has continued to eat fish upon returning to the states.

So, it was sushi at Sushi Bistro for our Saturday night dinner, and what a feast we had.  We started with three small plates: tuna poke, butterfish blasters (snow crab meat and avocado wrapped in butterfish), and Y.T. jalapeno (slices of yellowtail topped with sliced jalapenos, sea salt and lemon juice).  

All were delicious, and it is very difficult to pick a winner, but I think I would have to go with the poke.  With the frequency that I visit Kauai, I have eaten a lot of poke in my day.  This poke was very lightly marinated and did not have any seaweed, both a nice change from the traditional Hawaiian poke. 

Next up was a plate of butterfish, tuna, albacore tataki, yellowtail, salmon and albacore sashimi (picture at the top of the page).  I had not eaten butterfish before that night.  The butterfish in the appetizer was seared, and with the combination of the crab and avocado, it was difficult to get a sense of how the fish actually tasted.  When the plate of sashimi arrived, Ben and Santina were a little put off by the solid white color of the fish.  To quell their doubts, I went first.  I must say, butterfish is a delicious fish.  It is, well, buttery.  It is a bit like salmon in it's creaminess, and there is not an overpowering fishy taste.  

We never figured out which albacore was which, but there is no question that one of the two was the best fish on the plate.  It is rare that a fish will beat out salmon for my favorite, but the albacore was melt in your mouth soft and perfectly flavored.  My mouth is watering thinking about it.

Despite the ban on special rolls that Ben and I had discussed implementing, we ended up ordering two, the aloha 101 (ahi tuna, mango and cucumber wrapped in seaweed, flash-fried, served with spicy garlic sauce) and the monster in-laws (chopped spicy albacore, cucumber topped with yellowtail, jalapenos, spicy and ponzu sauce).  They were good, but I prefer simple sushi, either sashimi, nigiri, or simple rolls.  

We finished off our meal with another plate of sashimi of which I unfortunately did not take a picture.  Included on the plate were two specials, baby blue fin tuna and wild (some type I can't remember) salmon.  I am never very impressed by tuna sushi.  I like it, that's for sure, but it never gives me a mouth orgasm like other fish does.  This baby blue fin tuna?  I'd say it is in a tie with the albacore for best of the night and maybe even beats out the albacore.

That's it for my San Francisco food Saturday.  I hope to have many more SF food days to report about in the future.  And when I do report in the future, I will take pictures with a real camera, not the camera on my phone, and the quality won't suck as badly as it does in this post.

Bon appetit.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Princeton Eats SF: a food Saturday - Lunch

After Santina and I finished up our shopping at Marc and poking our heads into a couple other shops on Fillmore, it was time to meet up with Ben and head to lunch.  

Tony's was the name, pizza was the game.  (Did I really just write that?  I am quite tired.)  Seriously, Tony's is the best pizza I have ever had.  Or maybe I have just been away from the east coast for so long that I have forgotten what good pizza tastes like.  Either way, it was amazing.  I ate way too much and loved every bite.  We got three pizzas:  a Sicilian margherita, an American style primavera (pesto sauce, cheese, fresh tomato, and fresh burrata), and a coal fired original pie with cheese.  It's so hard to say which was the best because they were all so different and so good in their own ways, but I am going to have to make a call: the coal fired was the best.  So good that we ate it before I remembered to take a picture.

Full to the brim, Santina and I took off for more shopping, this time at Zara in Union Square.  It wasn't quite the extravaganza that Marc was.  After eating so much and running around all day, the reality of my hangover exhaustion was setting in.  We both managed to find and purchase some good stuff, but we needed to get home and rest up for the next feast.

Tomorrow's post:  Dinner.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Princeton Eats SF: a food Saturday - Breakfast

Whenever I see two of my best friends, Ben and Santina, I know that some serious eating will be involved.  My trip to SF last weekend was no exception.  It started with huge greasy slices of pizza Ben and I got between the bars we hit up right after I got into town late Friday night and continued almost until I hugged Santina goodbye in SoMa.

Most of the eating occurred on Saturday.  There was so much eating that I have divided the day into three posts.  It was just too long otherwise.

Saturday began with Santina rushing a slightly (more than slightly?) hungover me out the door to begin shopping.  But I was not about to start shopping until I had some food in my queasy stomach.  We went to a wonderful French bakery up the street from their apartment, Patisserie Delanghe, where we had our fill of pastries.

The feast shown above consists of, beginning with the croissant at the bottom of the picture and moving clockwise is:  plain croissant, boysenberry bread pudding, morning bun, almond croissant, and blueberry cream cheese danish.  Everything was spectacular, but the boysenberry bread pudding was the star.  It was one of the lightest bread puddings I have had, and the crust on the top was perfect.

After our breakfast, Santina and I went a little crazy at the Marc by Marc Jacobs store.  I am loving all the jewelry I bought, and you readers of Style by Santina?  Get prepared for some amazing items that Santina snagged.

Tomorrow's post: Lunch

Bon appetit.