Post #525 “The Grilled Flesh of Some Animal”

February 22, 2017 at 2:31 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Anyone who who’s read this blog for longer than a week, or has known me in real life for longer than a day, already knows that I’m a grunting caveman when it comes to eating meat.  I can go for days without it, but when the urge is there, it’s all I want for several meals in a row until my blood flows rich with iron again.  And our favorite way to have this is with a fresh garden salad of some kind.

So we’re always on the lookout for quick and easy ways to cook our animal flesh.  We watch a LOT of cooking shows, whether in competition style or straight up teaching style.  We watch technique; discuss ease and use; experiment with what we’ve learned.  And recently we found and home-tested a new technique for cooking steak.

Our favorite cut of beef is the boneless ribeye.  It’s tender; it’s tasty; it’s well marbled; and it’s very forgiving.  Alternatively, we like the tenderloin, and the New York strip.  In a pinch, we will also have a sirloin, but that has to be done exactly right or we don’t want it.  Sirloin has so little fat in it that it tends to be tasteless and can be very tough.  For this new technique, you want a thicker cut of meat, one inch at a minimum.  And this technique will work for meats like beef, game, or pork, but I sincerely doubt that it would work with any fowls, or very tender meats like lamb or veal.

But, let’s talk about the salad first.  For us, grilling means salad.  If we’re grilling outside, we sometimes grill the veggies, too.  We’ve grilled corn on the cob, asparagus packets, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and more.  But mostly, our veggies run to salads.  We’re totally into easy so lots of times we get the salad kits.  It’s usually just enough for the two of us.  But we also get creative.  Once I made a salad with just the stuff we had on hand:  cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, pistachio nuts (unshelled by hand, thank you very much) and a dressing from olive oil and pear balsamic vinegar.  It was delicious.  Lately, we’ve been doing wedge salads.  You take a whole head of iceberg lettuce and cut it into six wedges.  Put the wedges into a shallow bowl, then drizzle it with your favorite dressing.  Sprinkle it with nuts, cheese, bacon bits, whatever else you like and have on hand.  Then eat it.  So good.

So here’s the new technique.  We got it from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), a show on PBS that we like.  They’re reliable and make good food.  We’ve followed many of their recipes with great success.

First, heat a cast iron skillet or griddle pan in the oven on 500 degrees for 30 minutes.  Make sure the skillet is dry; do not put any oil in it at this time.  Also, put the skillet in the oven at the start of the heating process so it heats evenly.  They suggest turning the oven on and setting the timer for 30 minutes.  That will get the skillet plenty hot enough.  WARNING:  THIS SKILLET WILL BE HOT!!!  So be careful with it.

While the oven is heating, prep your steak by sprinkling a 1/2 tsp of kosher salt on each side.  This will draw out some moisture while adding some seasoning into the meat.  It will help with the searing process.

When the pan is ready, turn the oven off, and put the pan on the stove over medium heat.  Put a tablespoon of oil into the pan and move it around.  Use a paper towel to pat the meat dry on both sides.  DO NOT ADD ANY HERBS OR SPICES AT THIS POINT AS THEY WILL BURN.

Place the meat into the pan and set the timer for two minutes.  The meat will sear and your kitchen may get smoky.  Use tongs to turn the meat over when the time sounds.  Sear for two minutes, then turn over and sear for two minutes.  Turn over one last time and sear for two minutes.  Use oven gloves to move the skillet into the cooling oven for about 6-7 minutes.

While the steak is in the oven, get the salad ready, or whatever sides you’re having.  Remove the steak to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil for about five minutes.  When the steak has rested, slice it in quarter inch slices and leave it on the board.

What we do is use dinner plates to pile on salad and place the steak over the salad.

Then we throw out faces into the middle of it and chow down.

I wish I had a picture to share.  This method creates the perfect crust on the steak, and the middle is a perfect medium rare.  If you prefer a more rare steak, omit the oven time.  We’ve done both and it’s yummy.  Also, if the cut is thicker than one inch, you will want to adjust the oven time, not the searing time.

enjoy

Post #524 Bottle Rockets

February 19, 2017 at 4:08 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Both partner/spouse and I grew up in the desert in the southwest part of the country.  Because of that, one thing we always make certain of is drinking plenty of liquids.  We’re constantly going to the bathroom and it has nothing to do with our age.  Truly.  And both of us drink plenty of water, but we both find water to be boring.  So we mix it up with teas, and juices, and sodas.  Lots of sodas.  Over time, our venue for receiving said soda has evolved.  We started with cans, and recycled them.  Then we moved on to plastic bottles and recycled them.  We currently buy 2 liter bottles and pour the soda over reusable and sealable tumblers with straws.  We fill the tumbler with ice, then pour soda over it, screw on the lid, and sit down confident in the fact that even if the dogs jump up, or an earthquake happens, our drinks will remain safely in their containers with nary a drop spilled.

So we watch the sales.  When the single serving bottles of water go on sale, we buy a ton.  Our garage usually looks like we’re waiting for the next disaster.  We don’t look for sales on juices so much because they’re usually fairly low priced.  My favorites are Raspberry Lemonade, and anything cherry.  Sales on soda we watch carefully.  There’s only one brand of soda that we like so when it goes on sale, we snatch what we can.  Many times we return from the store with 20 bottles of the stuff to last us a while.

One day last September or so, Partner/Spouse arrived home after work fairly early in the morning, around 8:30.  He had stopped at the store on the way home so I was helping to carry the bags inside.  Then I hit the jackpot.  A plethora of 2 liter soda bottles, multiple trips.  Okay, so I’m a guy and I wanted to make as few trips as possible.  I can shove four of those puppies under my left arm and usually juggle two more in my right hand.  So I loaded up and turned away from the car, only to lose my grip.  So I dove for the bottle that was fumbling in the air and watched it hit the sidewalk on the cap.

The thing exploded and became airborne.  It slammed into my shoulder which threw me against the car.  I was dripping with soda and slipped and fell to the sidewalk.  I couldn’t see what was going on with soda in my eyes, and still trying to hold on to the bottles I still had.  I know it only took a few seconds, but sure felt longer than that.  The neighbor across the street walked over to make sure I was okay.  I took a shower, threw my clothes in the washer, and dealt with the rest of the day.

It became a joke at work and over the months we all tended to forget it except when someone would drop something, or report a funny accident.  Then the bottle rocket story would come up.

Then about three months ago, I was carrying sodas into the garage.  It was getting colder as winter set in so we were using the garage as a gigantic spare refrigerator to cool the drinks down.  We had sodas out there, and case after case of 160z water bottles, plus some wine, etc.  We’re nothing if not efficient.  We had also stored out outdoor lawn furniture inside for the winter and the long couch-like wicker seat was perfect for storing the sodas on.  I was heading towards them when I lost control of a bottle.  Next thing I knew, it was skittering around the cement floor spraying soda all over the contents of the garage, and me.  I string of shouted expletives later, I was mopping up soda and feeling the squishiness and stickiness of it in my clothes and various body parts.  Why was I mopping it up? my partner/spouse asked.  Because I didn’t want ants in the Spring and cleaning it now was preferable to cleaning it later.  Several minutes later, showered and far less sticky, I mumbled and muttered to myself while watching television and playing with the dogs.  Soda bottles never used to bust open when I was a kid.

Three weeks ago, we were carrying in groceries through the garage again.  I had my arms full of soda bottles, two which were in a bag for some reason.  I set the bag down on an Adirondack chair next to the wicker couch we used to store the bottles.  After I had unloaded my arms, I pulled one bottle out of the bag and set it with the others.  Just as I was straightening up to reach for the last bottle, I heard something rolling, then something hit the floor, then the unmistakable hiss as exploding soda hit the plastic bag and sprayed in a carefully controlled pattern into the middle of the garage.  I thought to myself, I know these bottles are packed and moved less than carefully, how in hell do they only break open when I have them?  Muttering expletives as I once again got out the mop to clean the concrete floor since I still didn’t want ants and bugs when the weather warmed up.

The next day as were out and about, Partner/Spouse said, “I’m going to buy one bottle of diet to replace the one from yesterday if you promise not to drop this one.”  Louder curses and expletives followed as I sputtered as loud as one of the bottle rockets that I hadn’t dropped the one yesterday; it had rolled off the chair and it wasn’t my fault, and anyway I cleaned it all up.  He laughed at getting my goat.

I’m worried though, for two things.  First, by the laws of exponential equations I’m far overdue for another bottle rocket attack.  Second, we never did find the first bottle rocket explosion bottle.  Such a mystery.

Enjoy

 

Post #523 It’s a Pretzel Kind of Day

February 5, 2017 at 7:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Even though we’re now living on the peninsula near the bay on one side and the ocean on the other, and we’ve only lived here for about two and a half years, I’ve lived in this area for nearly 30 years, with brief forays in other cities.  So, I know the weather patterns pretty well.  Winter is tough to call around here.  We generally don’t get much bad weather before January although the temps fall drastically.  Then in mid-January, we get what I always call the January thaw.  This is a two week period where the temps soar, and the weather gets mild.  It confuses the heck out of the birds and the plants.  I’ve had roses bloom in the thaw, even had hydrangeas sprout.  People who’ve put their lawn mowers away for the winter try to drag them out to get in a couple of clippings.

But it never lasts.  We hit February, the one I call the Bitch Month, cuz you just never know what the bitch is gonna throw at you.  Usually, if the snow flies, it’s gonna fly in February.  It might last through March, but we’ve had snow as late as April that socked in the cities.  This year is a little different.  The thaw started early, and has lasted a week longer than usual, so far.  The temps are down, but way above freezing.  Today, I walked the dogs in just a t-shirt.  It was a beautiful, comfortable end to the weekend.  So, for lunch, I wanted something different.  We like to do appetizer meals a lot, so figured for late lunch, it was time to make pretzels.

I love pretzels.  I love the skinny salty crunchy ones you buy in the grocery store in one pound bags.  I love the giant soft ones you buy in the mall or on the street.  I love the pretzel bread and pretzel rolls you can get in specialty shops, and increasingly more often at hamburger restaurants.  My favorites, though, are the soft pretzel sticks, usually about four inches long and perfect for dipping into cheese sauce.

So I decided to make pretzels.  Good authentic German pretzels.  I’ve  been to Germany many times, and spent many weekend afternoons wandering through street fairs and markets munching on those glorious giant pretzels.  Sometimes they were fresh, and sometimes not so fresh.  And then there were the brats and pretzel rolls.  Yum!

Here’s the recipe I used.  It makes 8 large pretzels and any number of pretzels sticks:

  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 10 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Coarse salt or pretzel salt

Combine the flour and yeast thoroughly, then add the water.  Mix until all the flour is moistened, then knead for about five minutes to form an elastic dough.  Add the salt and butter during the kneading process.  Don’t worry if the dough falls apart when the butter is added.  Continued kneading will bring it back together.

Divide the dough in eight equal pieces and roll into a ball.  Cover the dough balls with a towel and allow to rest for five to ten minutes.  Roll each ball into a rope 18 inches long tapering it at the ends.  Form the pretzel by creating a U with the rope, then cross the ends and twist.  Bring the twisted ends down to bend draping the ends over and pushing into the dough.  Place them carefully on a large baking sheet but do not crowd them.  Use two baking sheets if needed.  Allow to rise uncovered in a warm draft-free place for an hour, then put in the fridge uncovered for two hours (you can also leave them there overnight.)

When you’re ready to bake them, preheat your oven to 400.  Boil six to ten cups of water and add half a cup of baking soda when it’s boiling.  Be careful when adding the baking soda as the water will react.  When the oven is ready, carefully slide each pretzel or pretzel stick into the boiling water for 15-20 seconds.  I turned mine halfway through the process.  Then remove and drain for a moment and place on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and bake for 10-12 minutes.  They will be deep brown with a crispy crust and wonderful flavor.

Here’s what I got:

pretzels

There’s one pretzel and several pretzel sticks missing cuz that’s what I had for late lunch.  I dipped them in a spicy cheese sauce I bought at the store.  When Partner/Spouse woke up, he also ate several sticks and a pretzel.  So good.

I hope you all try these.  It sounds complicated but is actually really easy to make.  Let me know how yours turn out!

Enjoy

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