Monday, June 30, 2008

Cuban Churrasco with Chimichurri Sauce

I'm from New England and really consider that to be home, but in reality I've lived in FL longer than anywhere else (over 17 years now). When I first moved here I'll admit to being less than impressed with the food offerings, but then I was 19 and just being stubborn. I've really never been a picky eater, my father was a chef and my mother an excellent cook, so if there's any pickiness to my taste, it's just for quality ingredients and well prepared foods. I slowly warmed to the local cuisine and discovered Cuban food... that was it... I fell in love.

Before anyone comments that churrasco and chimichurri are not Cuban in origin, let me just say that I am aware of that. It's Argentinian or Brazilian, depending on the type of churrasco we're talking about, but the Cubans happen to have a very good version of it also, and that's what I have here today. The 2 main differences are in the marinade for the meat and the fact that the Cuban version of chimichurri contains cilantro as opposed to the traditional flat leaf parsley. I actually like to use a combination of both parsley and cilantro, but you can use either one.

And yes, those are roasted potatoes again, not very traditional, but we love them :)

Marinate 3 to 6 lbs of skirt or plate steak in the following for 8 to 24 hours:

10 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour orange juice*
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mash the garlic and salt into a paste using mortar and pestle or on a cutting board with the side of a knife. Stir in the juice, oil,onion and oregano.

*You can find bottled sour orange juice, or naranja agria, in the latin section of most grocery stores, but if not just use equal parts fresh lime and orange juice.

Remove the steaks and marinade from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to grill them. Grill over a VERY hot fire for about 4 minutes per side for medium rare (recommended doneness for this meat). The fire should be hot enough that you can't hold your hand over it for more than a few seconds, this will allow you to get a nice char on the meat.

Remove from the grill and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Slice thinly on a diagonal across the grain and serve with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce

3-6 cloves garlic (to taste)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of one lime
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1-2 Tbs chopped jalapeños (I use the jarred ones)
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put everything except the oil in a blender and pulse until you have a thick mixture. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the olive oil, you don't want to do this in the blender, it will emulsify. Taste and add more salt, pepper, vinegar and lime juice as desired.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Roasted Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing

I'm always on the lookout for recipes that are new and different. When I saw a recipe for this salad I copied it and set it aside to try later. Later turned out to be several years, but it was definitely worth it! The first time I tried it was last weekend to bring to my company picnic, and I was sorry I didn't keep it home! A few people have asked me for the recipe, and it made a perfect side dish for the ribs we had for dinner tonight... so here it is. Enjoy!

3 pounds small red or white creamer potatoes,washed and cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped, crisp bacon (I cheated and used pre-cooked)
2 cups chopped green onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or garlic powder to taste
3 tablespoons country style or whole grain Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet with olive oil.

Place cut potatoes in a large bowl and add olive oil, pepper, creole seasoning and salt. Toss gently with your hands until potatoes are evenly coated. Pour onto cookie sheet and place in preheated oven.

After 15 minutes turn the potatoes and continue cooking another 15 minutes. Potatoes should be golden brown and cooked through. Set aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl, mix mustard, mayonnaise, honey and vinegar. Add onions, garlic, bacon and potatoes, mixing well to coat. Mix in chopped parsley last and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Prime Rib with Roasted Potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings

I love my Mom. Have I mentioned that before? Last week she stopped by and gave me a rib roast... yep, just gave it to me. How can you not love her? This is a fairly small one, but in this case that was perfect since we were missing a kid tonight (another thing I love my Mom for... sleepovers at HER house!). I'll include the cooking times for larger roasts as well though.

When buying prime rib, a good rule of thumb is to figure on about 1 rib per two people. If possible have the butcher cut the bone off the bottom and tie it back on. You should ALWAYS cook prime rib with the bone. If you can't get the bone cut off it's no big deal, it's fairly easy to cut off after cooking.

Ok, so let's start with the roast and potatoes. I started with a 4 1/2 lb 2 bone roast, about 25 or so small white creamer potatoes, 4 medium onions, a little olive oil and salt and pepper. The roast should be close to room temp, so be sure to take it out of the fridge around 2 hours before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Lightly brush the roast with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. You can also use any herbs you like. Wash and scrub the potatoes and coat lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Peel the onions, cut in half and light coat these with olive oil as well. Place the roast bone side down in a large roasting pan and scatter the potatoes and onions around it.

Place the pan in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce the heat to 325ºF and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. After the second 15 minutes the potatoes should be nicely browned and cooked through. Remove them with a slotted spoon and cover to keep warm.

Return the roast to the oven and continue cooking until it reaches about 120º internal temperature for medium rare or 130º for medium. Check the roast with a meat thermometer after about 30 more minutes for a 2 rib roast (total cooking times for other sizes will follow). Once the roast reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and tent with foil for at least 20 minutes. It will continue cooking and reach the correct doneness.

Now, pour most of the drippings out of the roasting pan into a heat proof measuring cup. Increase the oven temperature to 425º. Pour about 1 tsp of the fat into each cup of a 6 cup muffin pan. Place pan in the oven to heat the fat for about 3 minutes. In the meantine, mix 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 cup of whole milk, 2 large eggs, 1 tsp salt and a dash each of garlic and onion powder until smooth. Remove the muffin pan from the oven and quickly pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot fat. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the Yorkshire puddings are puffed and golden brown.

If you're feeling really ambitious you can deglaze the roasting pan with a little red wine and use this as a base to make a really nice au jus. Just make a roux with the wine/fat mixture and add beef stock. Cook until it thickens up. You probably won't even need to season it as the pan mixture will contain some salt and pepper from seasoning the roast.

Cooking times (the times include the first 15 minutes at 500º, so keep that in mind. Begin checking the temp of your roast about 30 miunutes before the end cooking time and continue checking every 15 minutes after that. If you have an oven proof meat thermometer you can keep an eye on the temp through the oven window, which will allow the meat to cook faster since you're not opening the oven all the time. Just be sure the thermometer is not touching the bone and is as close to the center of the roast as possible).

2 rib roast (4 - 5 lbs) - 70 minutes
3 rib roast (6 - 7 lbs) - 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours
4 rib roast (9 - 10.5 lbs) - 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours
5 rib roast (11 - 13.5 lbs) - 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
6 rib roast (14 - 16 lbs) - 3 to 3 1/4 hours


Sunday, June 01, 2008

General Tso's Chicken

This is one of those dishes that I make when I want to impress company, or when I want a favor from someone I know :) It's also the one meal my husband and kids ask me to make most often. Sure, it's a bit time consuming, but once you get the process down you can really get it done in under an hour. On days when I'm really in the mood to spend the day in kitchen (honest, I have lots of days like that!), I serve this with homemade egg rolls and fried rice. Other days I send hubby over to the take-out place down the street for those sides (hey, as Pioneer Woman would say, I'm just keeping it real here). Fresh steamed broccoli also goes well with this, but in all honesty, you don't have to stick to traditional sides... serve it with some rice-a-roni if you like.

Here's the recipe to serve 6:

3 Tbs cornstarch
3 large eggs
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
oil or shortening for deep frying

Heat oil in deep fryer (I use a deep electric skillet with enough oil to cover the chicken pieces) to 275ºF. If you're using boneless breasts, cut each breast half into 2 or 3 large pieces, pounding the thicker pieces out a bit so all the pieces will cook evenly. You can leave boneless thighs whole.

Whisk the cornstarch and eggs together to make batter. The batter will be very thin, only slightly thicker than the beaten eggs alone. Dip each chicken piece in the batter and place 3 or 4 at a time in oil. I know you may be thinking that I still haven't caught my mistake on the oil temperature, but it wasn't a mistake (come on now, my typing isn't THAT bad!). Let the chicken cook until the coating just turns white and sets slightly, about 1 minute. Remove the chicken pieces to a paper towel lined plate. They should look like this:

This is called velveting the chicken. You can skip this step if you're pressed for time or if you're just feeling lazy that day, but it really does help keep the chicken (especially the breast meat) from getting tough.

Once all the chicken pieces are done, increase the heat to 375ºF (ahh THERE'S the temp you were looking for earlier!). It's going to take that oil a bit to come up to temperature, so while we're waiting let's make the sauce.

3 Tbs cornstarch
3 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 Tbs rice vinegar
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 Tbs chile garlic sauce (or to taste)
1 bunch green onions (white and green parts) chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
4-16 small dried red chile peppers(keep whole)
2-3 Tbs honey
2-3 Tbs sweet and sour sauce

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cornstarch through chili garlic sauce, mixing well. The sauce will be cloudy.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat about 1 Tbs of oil over medium heat. Saute the dried chiles until the start to blacken. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and green onions and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the sauce mixture again, and then add to the pan, stirring constantly. The sauce will start out cloudy:

But as it cooks, it will thicken and become a bit translucent, looking more like the General Tso's sauce you're familiar with:

Once this happens, add the honey and sweet and sour sauce to taste (you can also adjust the heat at this point by adding more chili garlic sauce), turn the heat off and go back to the chicken. Fry the chicken pieces in hot oil until golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes more.

Once all of the chicken is browned, add it to the sauce. Return the pan to medium low heat and simmer the chicken in the sauce about 5 minutes.

Serve each chicken piece with a spoonful of sauce... and if you really want to mess with your kids... some chopsticks :)