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Category Archive for: ‘Cooking Tools & Techniques’
Marinades, Brines and Rubs

Marinades

Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids best suited for tougher cuts of meat. In addition to herbs, condiments, spices, and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, even dairy.

Adding sweet ingredients to the marinade can help form appealing caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.  The acids in the lemon juice, wine, vinegar, butter milk, etc will actually cook the protein in the meat by chemical reaction.

Always marinate in the refrigerator. And remember, if you’re basting with a liquid in which raw meat marinated, do not apply it during the last three minutes of grilling.

The good news:

Chicken, turkey and fish will take on marinade flavors much more quickly and effectively than red meats.  Fish only need to marinate for 30 minute to an hour.  Chicken and turkey 2 to 3 hours.  Red meats need at least 24 hours to work at all.  The more acid in the marinade the better and quicker it will work.

The bad news:

Marinades only penetrate the meat 1/8 inch at the most no mater how long you soak them.  Think of marinades as a sauce and don’t waste money on expensive ingredients for your marinades.  If you use sugar the sugar will tend to burn on the surface of the meat.  If you like charred meat, fine.  Don’t use alcohol either.  The alcohol will only cook the surface of the meat sealing it from further penetration of the other flavors.  If you use salt in the marinade then you are actually brining your meat.  See Brines below.


Brines

Brines are salty solutions that help lean meats hold their moisture so they stay juicy and tender during grilling.Brining is a popular method for preparing poultry, particularly turkey, and lean meats, like pork, that tend to dry out on the grill. Sugar, spices, and herbs are sometimes added to the liquid as well.Soak meats in a container large enough to submerge the meat completely without allowing it to float in the solution. Store in the refrigerator.

Before grilling, rinse brined meat to remove excess salt and dry it with paper towels.

Remember high school chemistry? Yeah, me neither.  But I do remember something about osmosis.  But I remember that in osmosis through a semi permeable membrane like the flesh of the meat, water or other liquid will flow from a lower concentration of salt to a higher one, back and forth until the concentrations are equal.  So first water flows out of the meat and salt flows in which starts to break down the proteins in the cells.  Additonal water will flow into the meat as the protein breaks down causing the meat to be more moist.

The brine can also be used as a vehicle to carry other flavors into the meat with the dissolved salt.  Hence the sugar (to balance the salt) and other flavors that will dissolve in water.

Obviously, there’s more going on than simple osmosis. It is true that salt enters the meat (it tastes more salty after brining). But why is it also more juicy? Well, when water flows out of the meat, salt flows in and begins to break down some of the proteins in the cells. In the broken down state, the molecules become more concentrated and the solute levels rise within the meat. This causes additional water to flow into the meat.

How Stuff Works has a short article describing osmotic pressure with a diagram that may be helpful to visualize the water flow.

What has happened is that through brining, we’ve caused a state change in the cells so that they will draw and hold more water than before. As we cook the meat, the heated proteins will begin to draw in tighter and squeeze out water, but, hopefully, enough water will remain to produce a juicy, tender piece of meat.

Always start with a cold brine.  Refrigerate or ice the meat while brining to prevent bacteria from forming.  Brine for 2 hours per pound of meat and cover the meat with a solution of 1/2 cup of salt per gallon of water.  The other stuff like sugar and herbs are just bonus flavors.

Rubs

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to add spicy or smoky flavors. The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When oil or another wet substance is included, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.

Rubs are an easy way to infuse the surface of your grilled meats with exciting ethnic flavors–from Cajun to Korean.

Setting aside rubbed meats for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight allows the spices to permeate the meat as much as possible.

Rubs are most effective when used on slow cooking meat as opposed to a fast grilling method.  Slow cooking allows the meat’s juices to blend with the rub while high heat grilling only burns the rub on the surface.

 

Good luck with your flavoring methods.  Here at the Fat Farm we almost always use either McCormik’s lemon/pepper or just plain salt and pepper.  We let the meat speak for it self – jughandle


Beef Wellington – How to make it tonight

Want to make a killer presentation to your guests tonight try this –

Yes, it looks extremely difficult, but it isn’t.  Beef Wellington is beef tenderloin covered in a layer of prosciutto ham, a button mushroom paste then wrapped in a coat of puff pastry.  Easy.  This isn’t a soufle, you’ll get this right the first time.

At the Store

You are going to make Beef Wellington in a green peppercorn sauce with fingerling Potatoes and warm wilted winter greens.

Purchase:

for the mushroom paste

for the beef
  • 1 (3-pound) center cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup of Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator – keep it cold
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Minced chives, for garnish
for the green peppercorn sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 box beef stock
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup green peppercorns in brine, drained, brine reserved
Directions:
for the Mushroom paste
  • Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat.
  • Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • This paste should be fairly dry so as not to make the pastry soggy
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
for the beef
  •  Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes if you want your meat med rare.  Cook 2 -3 minutes longer for med.
  • Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board.
  • Overlap the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef.
  • Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with a thin layer of the mushroom paste.
  • Season the surface of the paste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
  • When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the mushroom paste covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together.
  • Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic.
  • Set the beef in the center of the pastry upside down and fold over the longer sides, brushing the pastry with egg wash to seal.
  • Trim ends if necessary then brush the ends with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef – saving the scrap ends to use as a decoration on top if desired.
  • Top with coarse sea salt.
  • Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.
  • Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash to brown, then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If the beef is a little low remember it will continue to cook while resting.  It is more important to not burn the pastry.
  • Remove from oven and rest 20 minutes before cutting into thick slices.
  • Garnish with minced chives
for the green peppercorn sauce
  • Add olive oil to pan after removing beef.
  • Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then,
  • off heat, add brandy and flambe using a long kitchen match. Please keep your hair and face out of the flame
  • After the flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half.
  • Strain out solids, then add 2 cups cream and mustard.
  • Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns.

 How to Roast Vegetables

 

 

How to Make Pie Dough (and why)

This is one of the basic skills necessary to become a good cook.   Learn this and you are on your way to greatness.

Why

Why, you ask.  Because I told you to…. Oh, sorry I digressed to my teen years and flashed on my father.  I’m thinking that we all should be able to make a killer pie crust from scratch with out looking at a recipe  in case we are unexpectedly on a cooking show?  No, how about, because it is way better than store bought dough in a tin pan and scratch pie crust “makes” a pot pie great, or a cherry pie amazing, or a hot apple pie melt in your mouth.  But I’m going to go with “Because I told you to…..

How it should end up

Are you used to your pie crust tasting like freezer burn?  Does it crumble into tiny pieces when you touch it with a fork?  Is it the last thing sitting on every one’s plate?  If you answered yes to any of these then you have been using store bought pie crust.

Your crust should be flakey not dry and it should melt in your mouth and enhance the flavor of your pie.  If you are thinking that every attempt you’ve made at your own pie crust has turned out tasting like cardboard, then you are trying too hard.

Method

Pie crust is only flour, butter, salt and water.  The rest is up to you.  The only way to screw this up is by overworking the dough or using ingredients that are too warm.

side bar – flour by its very nature contains a protein called gluten.  When the flour gets wet with any liquid, those glutens link together to form chains.  Those chains are great when you make bread because the more you work the dough, the more chains of gluten proteins are formed and those chains trap gases in the dough making it rise during cooking.  Bread flour has even more gluten in it making the bread dough rise more easily.  We don’t want our pie crust to rise at all.  We want it to be flaky and tender, not chewy and soft.  So…… don’t work the pie dough more than it takes to mix it together.

The butter – If you bake, you might soften your butter before you incorporate it into the batter.  DO NOT soften the butter with a pie crust.  In fact you want your butter as cold as you can get it and still cut it.  I have been known to slice my cold butter then put it in the freezer before cutting it into small bits that I barely distribute by mixing  thought out the  dough.  Your pieces of butter should look like small yellow peas in the flour.  These pieces of cold butter will melt and expand when cooked to make your pie crust flaky.  So chill all of your ingredients and the bowl before making your dough.

Ingredients – to make a double pie crust, or two single crusts, use

  • 2 1/2 cups of all – purpose or pastry flour
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter cut into pats
  • 1 t of salt or a little less, not more
  • 1 cup of ice water – you won’t need it all
Directions-
  • Chill all your ingredients and the work bowls in the freezer for 10-15 minutes
  • put the flour salt and butter pats into a chilled food processor bowl
  • Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas 10 -15 pulses- they don’t have to be consistent – less is more
  • Pour about a tablespoon of the ice water through the feed tube of your processor while pulsing once or twice
  • Depending on the conditions in your kitchen you will now need anywhere from a few tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more of the ice water
  • open the lid and squeeze some of the flour mixture in your hand.  If it sticks together you are done.  If not add a tablespoon or two of water and test again
  • when it “just” sticks together
  • dump the work bowl onto a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work bench
  • bring the sides of the plastic together and squeeze the dough
  • if at any point the mixture seems to be warming up or the butter is melting, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes
  • repeat bringing the plastic up from several sides until the dough comes together
  • Wrap the dough ball in the plastic tightly and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
  • You are now ready to roll out your dough to make the crust
  • dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn out the dough
  • roll it out until it is just less than 1/4″ thick and about 2 inches bigger than your pie pan
  • use scissors or a knife to trim the extra dough
  • then pinch with your thumb and forefinger to crimp the edge

You can now finish your pie and feel secure in the fact that you are now a “scratch” baker – jughandle

In the following video the recipe is a little different from mine above.  I don’t use sugar and I use more butter.

 

 

5 Other Blogs on Canning/Pickling

I’ve been reading a lot on pickling and canning the last couple of weeks and I thought you might be interested in a couple of other blogs I found helpful, funny, interesting or all three.

1. Starving off the Land -“My week of pickling dangerously” –  One of my favorite on-going blogs to follow

2. Serious Eats – Garlic Dill Pickles – Great site for recipes of all kinds

 

3. The Smitten Kitchen – bread and butter pickles – A very sophisticated blog on all things food.  Great recipes fantastic pictures

4. Hunter Angler Garderner Cook, Sunchoke Pickles – This blog is everything about living off the land, hunting and fishing.  Great recipes

5. david lebovitz – Moroccan Preserved Lemons – This is probably my favorite blog, I’m not sure why, maybe it is just nicely designed.

Canning Pickle Basics

I felt that since I was going make my signiture pickle recipe and name one for one of my readers, it might be a good idea to know what I was doing so that I wouldn’t make anyone sick.

 

Basics

Methods

Pressure Canning

 

Vacuum Sealing

 

Water bath – Fill hot, sterilized jars with product leaving 1 inch headspace.  Ladle cooked brine over the product leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims.  Adjust the two piece lids.  Process by boiling in your canner for 10 minutes.

 

Refrigerator Pickles

 

pH

I have found that to be safe while processing via the “boiling water canner” method, the product should have a pH of 4.5 or lower.  That means the more acidic the better.  So, since I want to really mess around with the recipes, I’m going to have to get a pH meter, but I think I’ll just get the cheap strips.

Processing Time

Also important is the amount of time your jars and ingredents are in boiling water.  The high temp. of the boiling water kills harmful organisms that might later grow under the canning conditions.  For that reason alone, I will be making refrigerated pickles.

 

Another Method Of  Making Pickles – Naturally Fermented

Be safe Fat Farmers and have fun being healthy – jughandle

Pickling Spices – Contest

Every year we get pickles from our relatives to enjoy through the winter.  And brother, we do enjoy them.  Inspired by these ambitious people I thought I’d like to make a “signature” pickle of my own.  If you give me the winning combination of spices for my pickles I’ll name them after you.

Now, I do enjoy my mother-in-law, Ella Ween’s, bread and butter pickles and brother-in-law, Brent’s, dill pickles and they are always generous with their offerings.  But I want to “give back” to the family and come up with a pickle that is radically different, but good.  My research finds that my task may be more difficult than I thought.  I don’t know what spices my in-laws use, but I’m smart enough to know the spice is what makes the pickle what it is.  I’m avoiding store bought premixes and I’m trying my own mixes.  I found some suggestions on the net below:

Spice Recipe #1

6 T mustard seed
3 T whole allspice
6 t coriander seed
6 whole cloves
3 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks

Spice Recipe #2

1 cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
2 T mustard seed
1 T ground ginger
1 T dill seeds
2 tsp cardamon seeds
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp whole cloves

Spice Recipe #3

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Spice Recipe #4

4 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 inches long)
1 piece dried gingerroot (1 inch long)
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole mace, crumbled medium fine
8 bay leaves, crumbled medium fine
1 small dried hot red pepper (1 1/2 inches long), chopped or crumbled medium fine, seeds and all

Spice Recipe #5

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

There are obviously common ingredients in each recipe and the amount of each ingredient would be a factor,  but the following are the compete range of choices:

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom seeds
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

What else could I add to make mine unique without messing it up:

Celery seed?

caraway seed?

Cilantro? (I know, coriander is the seed of the Cilantro plant)

garlic?

onion?

lemon zest?

lime zest?

How about spices like?:

Thyme

oregano

rosemary

sage

basil

lemon grass

Tarragon

Turmeric

 

Please help me decide.  I’ll post a followup when I get my final mix.  If you give me the winning pickling spice recipe I’ll name my pickles after you.- Jughandle

 

 

How to Blanch and Peel Veggies and Fruit

For anyone who has tried to peel a “mess” of tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, apples, bell peppers or any other thin skinned fruit of vegetable, you know that peeling with a knife or vegetable peeler isn’t any fun and is very time consuming not to mention the large amount of the “meat” of the veggie or fruit that is lost in the process.

Blanching

Blanching is a method of dropping the fruit or vegetable into rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then removing straight into cold or iced water to stop the cooking process.  Have you ever gotten a bad sunburn and later your skin peeled off?  Well, blanching is a similar process.

You’ll be amazed at how fast and efficient it is.  It is totally worth the time it takes to bring a large pot of water to a boil.  With tomatoes, cut a little x on the end opposite the stem.  When you put the tomato into the cold water the x will give you small handles to start the peeling.  If you are going to make an apple pie, apples will peel the same way.  Going to “put up” some of those nice bell pepper you grew this year?  Blanch them, that tough thin clear skin that makes the pepper hard to cut and eat will peel right off.  I thought that I’d freeze a large batch of beautiful white peaches that were so sweet this year.  I blanched them first to quickly remove the skin, then easily pushed out the seed and cut into quarters before filling some freezer bags.  Easy peasy

If the skin doesn’t easily peel off, almost by itself, increase the time in the boil.  Make sure you cool them in cold water for at least as long as they were in boiling water.

I still catch myself pulling out the potato peeler to quickly skin 3 or 4 potatoes, but any more than that, or if I’m trying to get the skin off of small red potatoes, I most definitely blanch them. – jughandle

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