Tuesday, November 23

Winter Tonics of the Beef and Potato varieties

Last Monday, we headed up to Chico, CA for Sierra Nevada Brewing's 30th anniversary party which was awesome— 30 mostly rare beers on tap in their HUGE and amazingly beautiful facility. I made it through the party, but came home with the icky cold that's going around this year. So, the past week has been all about resting, watching TV (current projects: Being Human, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, maybe Brew Masters and maybe 30 Rock), and soup. Here are the 2 I made to try to kick this bug:

Beef and Barley Soup
1.5 lbs. stew meat (Mine was lean chuck. You could pretty much use any cut, as long as it's on the lean side.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced (so they're semicircles, I mean)
3 large stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c dry wine (I had white open, but you could certainly use red)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
couple dashes Tabasco
1 qt beef broth (I used a natural beef bullion dissolved in boiling water)
1 can (14 oz?) of diced tomatoes
3–4 c water
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried parsley
2/3 c pearl barley
(optional) 3/4 c fresh green beans cut into 1 in pieces

  1. Cut beef into bite size pieces if not already done so by your butcher. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When oil's shimmering, add beef and spread it into an even layer. Don't touch the meat for a few minutes so it gets a bit of a sear, then stir it around to cook through.
  3. Add onions, carrots and celery to meat and cook until onions soften, about 4 min. 
  4. Add garlic, wine, worcestershire and Tabasco and cook another 2 min.
  5. Add beef broth, tomatoes with their juice, and water (enough to cover everything by 1 in). Cover and continue to cook on med high until it comes to a soft boil.
  6. Reduce heat to a simmer, but keep covered. Add herbs and cook for about 30 min. 
  7. Add barley and cook (still covered) for another 20–25 min until barley is tender/toothy. Note: DO NOT use more barley than called for even if it seems like too little. It'll absorb all your liquid and puff up. I promise.
  8. If you're using green beans, you'll want to add them about 10 min. before barley is done. 

This next one is one of my favorite old standby meals. My mom taught me how to make it when I left for college, so it's really comforting. Plus, it's easy and super-cheap, but surprisingly hearty and warming with lots of black pepper (you may want to put in less… Liz and I both have an unusual fondness for the stuff). It's especially solid with a bit of bread and cheese to accompany it.

Potato Soup
3 tbsp butter
4 stalks celery, sliced
onions of some sort: this time I had 1 smallish leek, which didn't seem like enough so I also used 1 medium shallot. Usually, I use a small yellow onion, diced. Basically, you want about 1 c. of onioniness.
4 large russet potatoes, diced, skin on
1 tbsp dill seed (This is important as it gives the soup a nice dry herbiness.)
1 tbsp black pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
2 c (or so) milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill weed or 1 tsp dried

  1. Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat. 
  2. Add celery and onions and cook until softened.
  3. Add potatoes, dill seed, and pepper. Cook another 2 min,
  4. Add broth. It should just cover the potatoes. If not, add a bit of water. Cover and bring to a low boil. Cook until potatoes are soft and you can smash them with a spoon.
  5. Add milk and cook uncovered about another 5 minutes until milk warms up. If you're using dried dill weed, put it in now.
  6. You have many texture options here. I like to just stand over the pot and smash a bunch of the potatoes against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon to give the soup some thickness while leaving several chunks. You could also ladle 1/2 or all of the soup into a blender, puree it and return it to the pot. Or, if you've got a handy immersion blender, you could attack it that way. Or, just leave it alone—up to you.
  7. Garnish with fresh dill, add salt to taste.

Not beautiful, but that's OK for us peasants.

Friday, November 12

Sunday = (sometimes misguided) project day

Every Sunday when Liz goes to work at St. George Spirits, I get to have an afternoon at home to myself— a "me" day in daytimeTV-speak. Usually, I end up filling the day with cooking projects I've been ruminating on all week, and/or my ongoing yeast and bacteria enterprises (sourdough and yogurt, that is).

Here's what this past Sunday had in store:

1. Sourdough english muffins.
2. Maple yogurt
3. Pulled pork
4. Sourdough rolls for #3 and as a test for Thanksgiving dinner

My inspiration for making pulled pork was the fact that every time I order pulled pork at a restaurant around here, it's only OK— not smoky or spicy enough for my taste. It's disappointing because Oakland is supposed to be a BBQ mecca, and my experience is that east bay BBQ is on the sweet, not too challenging side. Plus, Oaklanders love them some hot links which are usually cooked to the point of mush in a casing, and that's just gross. We won't even talk about the sad state of the sides I've tried.

Anyway, I rubbed a pork shoulder with a Tarheel rub I had picked up at this awesome spice store in Seattle (+ brown sugar, salt and NM red) and let it sit overnight. Then, I got it in my head that I had to smoke it in the Weber despite the fact that it poured rain for most of the day. No matter— I just brought the grill up to our fabulous porch and slow-cooked the roast for 4 hours over hickory chips. I finished it up in the oven for about an hour, then pulled it and stuck it in the crock pot with this crazy creation:

Everything in the Kitchen BBQ sauce

2 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 heaping tsp red chile powder
1 largish chipotle in adobo, minced
1 1/2 c tomato sauce
1/2 c cider vinegar
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp strong brewed coffee or espresso
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 oz. whiskey or bourbon
hearty pinches of thyme, oregano, parsley, and black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until it's soft, about 3 min.
2. Add garlic, chile powder, and chipotle and cook until fragrant.
3. Add everything else, and stir well. Bring to a low simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. You may want to add a little bit of salt, but it depends on what you're putting it on. The BBQ sauce will still taste pretty vinegary, but don't worry— that will dissipate as it cools and/or when you add it to meat.

I may work on refining this concoction so that either the whiskey or the coffee stands out more, but it's got a deep, dark, tangy hotness as is.

Tuesday, November 9

30 minutes? No prob.

Thursday, Liz and I enter week 9, the final week, of our Couch-to-5K training schedule. In week 9, the idea is to do three 30 minute runs, and ideally be ready for a 5K.

In addition to the Cto5K app, we've also been tracking our distance and pace with another app called WalkWatch (we are quite the fashionable pair in our running outfits and iPhone armstraps, let me tell you). The good news is that we're improving and running farther than I ever thought possible (2.43 miles in our last 28-minute run). The other (not necessarily bad) news is that we're not likely to be able to do 5K (3.1 miles) in 30 minutes at the end of the week because we're still a little slow for that. This just means that after we get used to running for 30 minutes, we'll continue to work on our pace and distance 'til we get up to 5K-running speed.

One of our lofty goals when we started this regimen was that we might be able to enter a 5K Turkey Trot this year. Will we make it? Will our maiden race be a Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice run instead? Stay tuned to find out what happens…

Tuesday, November 2

Chilling Turkey Chili

This Sunday, Liz made a request for Halloween chili of the sort that we New Mexicans sometimes call "Texas chili." (Nevermind that we were watching the World Series and rooting for the SF Giants to trounce the Texas Rangers…) You might know it as Chile con Carne or Chili Beans, but basically, it's the yummy meaty, beany, tomato-saucy stew that is distinctly different from NM chile (with an "e"). At some point, I'll expound on the whole New Mexican chile taxonomy, but for now, I'll just share the recipe I came up with. I have to say it was pretty great considering my prejudice against Texas and that I made the decidedly California move of using turkey instead of beef. Ah, regionalism… Anyway, this is how it goes:

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 largish onion, diced
4 or 5 jalapeƱos or other hot peppers, diced (so about 1/2–3/4 c. depending on how hot you want it)
5 cloves garlic, minced

Saute all of this in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until veggies are soft.

Add to the pot:

2 lbs. ground turkey (I used 1 lb. each of white and dark meat for the best texture and flavor)
3 tbsp. red chile powder (NM red is, of course, the best…)
2 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. green chile flakes if you've got 'em, otherwise red will do (I also like to grind these up in the spice grinder a bit)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa (yes, cocoa)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 chopped up cilantro stems

Turn up the heat a bit, and mix all of this together. Break up the turkey as much as possible, and cook until spices are fragrant and turkey is cooked through. 

Now add:

3 c. chicken broth
1 c. beer (I used Eel River's Porter, which has a pretty strong coffee flavor that works well in the chili. In fact, next time I make this, I may throw some finely ground coffee in, too.)
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes in their juice
1/2 can of tomato paste (I think that's about 3 oz.)

Cover and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and let simmer over medium heat for about 10 min. 

Finally, add:

4 c. cooked, drained beans—I had cooked up a batch of beautiful nightfall beans earlier in the day (it was Halloween, after all), but you could use canned beans or a combo of different kinds of beans—whatever suits your bean fancy. For more on cooking beans, please pop over to Aly's blog for her definitive bean treatise at the end of this recipe.

You may need to add more chicken broth at this point—just make sure everything's covered with liquid. Simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes or so until the liquid reduces a bit. Add salt to taste.

Serve with grated cheese and cilantro.

I also made a spooky blue cornbread to go with, but stupidly neglected to take a photo of it. Another post  on that will undoubtedly show up soon.