Archive for the ‘Carnivore!’ Category

No, this is not a blog about a Chinese rock band. I happened to buy a pack of chicken drumsticks the other day and wanted to create something other than the usual Asian-style flavors I’ve done in the past. So, I “winged” it! (That’s genuine chicken humor there…)

I’ve got many Asian ingredients in my fridge, so I started to put together a marinade and it tasted pretty good even before it went on the chicken. But afterwards, with the flavors baked into the drumsticks, it was amazing…and highly addictive! No matter how drumsticks you bake, it won’t be enough!

I tossed the drumsticks in a Ziplock bag, dumped the marinade on top of them, sealed the bag and squished it around a bit to make sure all the chicken got a hit of the marinade.

I placed the bag in a bowl at room temperature (in case of spillage, it wouldn’t go all over my counter), and gently squished it around every half hour for about 2 hours.

After that, the drumsticks went in a 350-degree oven…

Marinated drumsticks, before cooking…

 

4 lbs. chicken drumsticks
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons Thai peanut satay sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili oil

 

…and after.

 

Combine everything but the chicken in a bowl and whisk well to mix. Place the drumsticks in a large Ziplock bag and pour the marinade in. Seal the bag well, and squish it around so that the marinade makes contact with every part of the chicken pieces.

Let the bag sit at room temperature for 2 hours, squishing it around gently every half hour.

Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees.

Line a pan with aluminum foil (to make clean-up easy later.) Lay the drumsticks in the pan, pouring the leftover marinade into a small saucepan.

Bake the drumsticks for about 45 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and carefully pour the juices in the pan into the same small saucepan with the leftover marinade. Keep the chicken “on hold” for a few minutes while you focus on the saucepan.

Heat the saucepan with the marinade until boiling, then reduce the heat and cook a little more until the marinade has thickened a bit. Brush this all over the chicken pieces and return the chicken to the oven for the last 10 or so minutes of cooking.

 

You might be familiar with most of the ingredients in this recipe. They are easily found in the international food aisle at any good supermarket, and that includes the less-common Thai peanut satay sauce. There are different brands, but here’s what a jar of it looks like…

 

 

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The Saturday before Labor Day is traditionally considered to be International Bacon Day. So that makes it today!

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the most amazing sandwiches on planet Earth.

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But I also make my own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that this is a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is it contains nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 oz. pink salt
optional ingredients: granulated garlic, granulated onion

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all salts do not all weigh the same, so go by the weight and not a cup measurement.

Once you rub the pork belly with the basic dry cure, place it in a large Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. If it’s too big for the bag, you can either cut the belly into two pieces, or wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Place it in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. (The container will capture any liquid that might seep out.)

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

 

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. Just remember that you still need to slice the bacon and fry it. Don’t eat it straight out of the smoker. That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

I love the flavors in Thai food…but I don’t enjoy extreme heat and my wife needs to avoid garlic and gluten. So this is my more balanced version of a Thai grilled chicken dish that is a real tasty change of pace from the standard grilled chicken at cookouts. This recipe also works in the oven.

thai chicken LTL

 

 

 

 

3 lbs. pastured or organic chicken pieces (I used drumsticks for this recipe)
2/3 cup soy sauce (I use La Choy soy sauce to keep things gluten-free)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or crushed dried chiles
1 teaspoon salt

For the marinade, combine the soy sauce, cilantro, canola oil, granulated garlic and white pepper in a food processor and let it run. Place the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag and pour half of the marinade in. Save the other half for basting later. Seal the bag and let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for a few hours, squishing the bag around so that all the chicken gets marinated.

For the sauce, combine the sugar, white vinegar, pepper flakes and salt in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and make sure the sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

After marinating overnight, discard the used marinade in the Ziploc bag. Place chicken pieces over a hot hardwood fire or bake them in an oven at 350, basting them with the leftover marinade until fully cooked. If the coal fire gets too hot, move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill to prevent burning. If using the oven, switch to the broiler at the end to give the chicken a nice char.

Serve the chicken with the sweet pepper sauce drizzled on top.

Many people are turned off by lamb because somewhere in their past, they had a horribly cooked piece of meat that ruined it for the rest of their lives. I’m here to tell you: don’t be sheepish! Try lamb again!

If you think lamb is too “gamey,” buy American lamb over New Zealand or Australian lamb. Although the animals are mostly pasture-raised, American lamb is larger and grain finished, which means a milder flavor.

I prefer 100% grass-fed lamb. You can find it from the US, but most of it comes from New Zealand. Having been to the country, I can tell you that the quality is unmatched and the grasslands in New Zealand are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. New Zealand lamb is smaller and is slaughtered at a younger age than American lamb, making it very tender. In New Zealand, as well as many other countries, only an animal under 12 months of age and without incisors can be called “lamb.” No such labeling is required in the United States.

I love the baby lamb chops that look like miniature porterhouse steaks. You can find them in any supermarket. A good marinade will get rid of any of those flavors you don’t want. Here’s an easy recipe that I served at a party in my home for 40 people, many of whom claimed they didn’t like lamb or never had it before. By the end of dinner, the chops were gone!

lamb LTL

 

 

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, through a garlic press
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 lbs. lamb chops

Place the lamb chops in a plastic bag. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and pour it over lamb. Seal the bag and squish it around so that the marinade reaches every part of the chops. Place it in refrigerator for a few hours…overnight is better.

Next day, pre-heat your barbecue grill. While your grill’s warming up, remove the plastic bag from the fridge and let the lamb come to room temperature.

Grill the lamb chops until they’re done, which means cooked no more than medium. Don’t cook it to death!

If you can’t get to a grill, pre-heat your oven to 350. Heat an oven-proof pan on the stove top with a little oil. Carefully place the lamb chops in the pan and sear on all sides. Then place it in a 350-degree oven to cook all the way through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe you saw the story in the news recently: the nephew of Colonel Sanders himself revealed the 11 secret herbs and spices that made KFC’s original recipe chicken a worldwide success. He claimed he worked for his uncle for many years and had to make huge batches of the seasoning mix. The article reduced the amounts to a more user-friendly version, which I put together last night.

You have to understand something…although I’m a big proponent of grass-fed this and pastured that, I have a weakness. My kryptonite is KFC’s original recipe chicken. There’s a KFC right next door to a local Home Depot in my area and my car literally drives itself to the pick-up window…I can’t help it. I justify the consumption of grease by asking for no sides–no biscuit, no nothing. I get one breast and one thigh, and I drive off, steering my car with my knees as I indulge in my dirty secret.

Making the KFC chicken recipe at home means I do have some control over product quality. I use pastured or organic chicken. I use clean oil. And I oven-fry my chicken, meaning I fry it in oil until golden brown, then finish the cooking process in the oven.

I have to say, the recipe really works! Maybe if I placed the real KFC side-by-side with my home-made chicken, I’d notice a difference. But it was pretty damn close and absolutely delicious! If I could change one thing, I would use smaller chicken pieces next time. I used large pieces and the meat-to-breading ratio was off. Though it was mighty tasty, I was craving more breading per bite.

 

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
5 lbs. chicken pieces…your choice
oil, for frying

 

Combine the flour and the “11 herbs and spices” in a bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk and the egg. Add the chicken pieces to this bowl and let the chicken soak in it for 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour a couple of inches of the oil into a pan with high sides and heat to 340 degrees, using a thermometer. Don’t go too high up, because oil expands when hot and could spill over.

Take the chicken pieces and coat them with the seasoning mix one at a time, making sure you coat them well. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan…work in small batches. Too much chicken could cause the oil to spill over the top.

Fry the chicken pieces until golden…no need to cook them all the way through. Place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. When all the chicken has been fried, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the chicken pieces reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.

 

 

Sometimes the best ideas come from out of nowhere.

I had 5 lbs. of beautiful St. Louis-style heritage Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta) pork ribs thawing in the fridge, and I knew I wanted to create a new sauce or glaze with them, but I was feeling less than inspired. Our food-loving friends, Don and Johanna, showed up at our door with a gift they bought in Maine, at a shop called LeRoux Kitchen. It was a bottle of maple balsamic vinegar. It smelled wonderful…and tasted even better! I knew I had what I was looking for.

 

By the way, if Don (a talented local artist: http://www.doncadoret.net) and Johanna (a talented teacher) aren’t your friends, you can easily make your own maple balsamic vinegar by combining a 1/2 cup of balsamic (not the super-expensive kind, but the $9-a-bottle kind) with 2 teaspoons of maple syrup. Add more or less maple to taste. (That’s what I’ll be doing when this bottle runs out!)

 

Yup…my smoker…she’s been used a few times!

 

I use an electric digital smoker made by Masterbuilt. I like the fact that I can set the temperature and time, and not have to constantly watch it. It has a side chute where I can add smoking chips when I want, and the results are consistent. I suppose some grilling fanatics might say I’m cheating, but a digital smoker allows me to live a life, hang out with my family, do some yard work. I don’t have time to babysit.

I chose to smoke my ribs for about 4 hours in the smoker, lightly seasoning them first with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, adding hickory chips to the smoker only once to give them a “light smoke.”

 

Brushing with glaze, then wrapping in foil.

 

Although I always use a water bath in my smoker, the ribs still come out visibly dry, so I like to brush them with a glaze, wrap them in foil and finish the cooking process in the oven. The glaze flavors the meat and also adds a little steam that tenderizes it.

5 lbs. pork ribs (I get St. Louis-style Berkshire pork)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 cup water
1/2 cup maple balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I like Franks’ Red Hot)

 

Prepare the ribs by removing the inedible skin on the back of the rack. The easiest way to do this is to cut a little “tab” of skin, then pull it with your fingers. Holding the skin with a dry paper towel will help your grip. I cut the racks in half to fit my smoker.

Season the ribs lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on both sides and place them into a 240-degree smoker for 4 hours, smoking lightly with hickory wood.

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, maple balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper sauce. Stir well, and let it come to a boil. Let it reduce by half, leaving it still watery. Set aside.

After 4 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker, placing them on a sheet of aluminum foil. (I use Reynold’s Non-Stick Foil, since the glaze will be sticky.) Brush both sides of the ribs with half of the glaze, and place the ribs meat-side-down on the foil before sealing the it around the ribs. Place the aluminum foil packets on a baking sheet, then into a pre-heated 250-degree oven.

While the ribs are cooking in the oven, turn the heat up on the remaining half of the balsamic glaze in the sauce pan and reduce it until it starts to thicken. Once you reach that stage, turn the heat off and set it aside.

 

Remove the ribs from the oven after 2 hours. Open the foil packets so that the ribs are now exposed. Brush the bottom of the ribs (which should be facing up), then flip the ribs over and brush the meaty side. The ribs should be falling off the bone at this point, which means they’re ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got dozens of chicken wing recipes,  but even so, sometimes I just want something different. I decided to take my favorite taco seasonings recipe and adapt it to chicken wings. Caramba! One of the tastiest wings I’ve made in a long time!

This is such an easy and delicious recipe to make, even for a crowd. At your next party, just double or triple the recipe, as needed.

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
avocado oil
4–5 lbs. chicken wings

 

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Combine the salt, cumin, oregano, paprika, onion, garlic, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the wings out on the sheet. Sprinkle the wings with the avocado oil and rub the oil all over the wings. This will help the wings cook evenly,  and it’ll help the seasonings stick to the wings.

Turn the wings bottom-side-up and sprinkle with the seasoning mix. Flip the wings over and sprinkle them again, coating them evenly.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.

 

 

 

 

When I was a kid, no visit to a Chinese restaurant was complete without an order of those sweet, greasy and radioactive red spare ribs. They came in that foil-lined bag that barely kept them warm until my dad got us home to devour them along with the other classics: fried dumplings, and won ton soup with fried won tons on the side. I still see those ribs on menus even today, and despite my cravings, I just don’t eat fire-engine-red-dyed food anymore.

Imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for those classic spare ribs in a food magazine. I figured I’d just make them without the food coloring. It totally worked.

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe exactly as written, and this was no exception. For one thing, it called for dry sherry. I didn’t have it so, I used dry marsala wine. I didn’t even have the pork ribs, so I substituted a beautiful slab of grass-fed beef flap. It was awesome.

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry marsala wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or through a press
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 lbs. beef flap (skirt steak or hanger steak works, too)

 

To make the marinade, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, madeira, garlic, sugar and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Mix well.

Trim the excess fat and silver skin off the beef flap, and if it’s thick, slice it lengthwise to make a thinner piece of meat about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.

Place the meat in the marinade, making sure it gets well coated on all sides. Marinate the meat at room temperature for about 30 minutes. If you have a thicker cut of meat, you can marinate it longer.

Drain and discard the marinade.

Heat a cast iron pan and add a little lard or oil. Place the beef flap pieces in the pan, searing well on one side before flipping over to the other. If the meat is thin, you can cook it to a medium-rare right there on the stove top. You might need to finish the beef in a 350-degree oven if you’re using a thicker cut.

 

To make the Chinese ribs with this marinade: simply place the ribs and the marinade in a Ziploc bag at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the ribs on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. Save the marinade…and baste the ribs with it every 30 minutes, turning the ribs over as you do so. Cook until the ribs are done, about 2 hours.

 

 

Here in New England, the best brand of chicken salad you can buy is called Willow Tree. It’s been here for over 50 years, and people crave it like crack. But I don’t like anything whose ingredients are a well-kept secret, so my task was to make something that was a reasonable Willow Tree facsimile. I got close…real close! As always, I use pastured chicken and organic veggies when possible. I found that boiling the chicken breasts in stock instead of water keeps the meat more flavorful.

image

 

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 pints salt-free chicken stock (I use home-made)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I live on Hellman’s)
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil again, then simmer uncovered for about 7 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid, and let the breasts sit in the pot for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the breasts to a cutting board and allow them to cool. Save the chicken stock for another use, like soup. (See below.)

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, celery, onion, brown sugar, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.

When the chicken has cooled, shred the breast meat into bite-sized pieces and then transfer it into the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill before serving.

I love my chicken salad on a Martin’s Long Roll.

 

BONUS: I don’t waste the chicken stock left over in the pot. I chop some carrots, celery and onion and throw it in there. I reserve some of the chicken breast meat–just a bit–and throw it in there, too. I add a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of dried Bouquet Garni. I bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are al dente. Pasta or potatoes optional.

Makes an awesome chicken soup!

 

 

When I can’t get to Chinatown in Boston or New York, I cook my version of a recipe I discovered many years ago in “The Chinese Cookbook,” a wonderful source of information by former NY Times food critic Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee. Whenever possible, I use a whole pasture-raised chicken.

This recipe can be made gluten-free by using GF hoisin and soy sauce, available in most supermarkets.

 

Cantonese chicken

 

1 whole chicken, about 6 lbs., or 2 smaller chickens (pictured)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 

Remove all the giblets from chicken. Rub the soy sauce all over the chicken. Then rub the peanut oil all over the chicken.

Combine the Chinese five spice, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Season the entire chicken, including inside the cavity, with this mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the chicken in a pan lined with aluminum foil (cleanup will be easier) and bake.

Meanwhile, combine the hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. When the chicken is about 15 minutes away from being done, brush it with the hoisin/sesame oil mixture. Cook it another 15 minutes until the chicken has a nice dark glaze. Don’t let it burn!

Let it rest about 15 minutes before carving.