Monday, August 31, 2009

Steve Raichlen's Barbecued Brisket

This is a picture of our grill, though it also has a smoke box on the end. It takes up more than half our deck, but it has a burner, a gas grill, a charcoal grill, and a smoker. We love it. We've only had gas grills in the past, but now we really only use gas when we are grilling for lots of people and need the space in addition to the charcoal side. The smoker is awesome: we've made smoked turkey, brisket, and pulled pork. Pictured above is Steve Raichlen's smoked beef brisket. His book, How to Grill, is a fantastic resource for all kinds of grilling - everything we've made from this cookbook has been 5 stars.

We barbecued Texas-style brisket a couple of weekends ago. It's a great thing to do when the weather is nice and you don't mind being outside all day. Actually, you really are in and out once an hour; it's not that difficult, but for brisket to turn out well you need to cook it low and slow. Brisket is a cheap cut of meat and will turn out tough and flavorless if you rush it. Try to choose a brisket with a layer of fat on the bottom to keep it from drying out. Serve with rolls or toast and barbecue sauce.

Barbecued Brisket

Main Ingredients:

1 trimmed beef brisket (5 to 6 pounds), with a layer of fat at least 1/4-inch thick
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mop Sauce:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup apple cider/juice/broth/beverage of your choice
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper

6 cups wood chips, preferably hickory or oak
1 aluminum foil pan (disposable)


1.Rinse brisket under cold water, blot dry. Combine ingredients for rub. Rub onto both sides of brisket. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight; if you don't have time, it's okay to start right away.

2.Soak wood chips in cold water to cover for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Combine mop sauce ingredients in a glass bowl; stir well. Set aside.

3.Set up the grill, gas or charcoal, for indirect grilling. Pre-heat gas grill to high, place wood chips in a smoker box or small aluminum pan. Set in lower left of grill under the rack. When you see smoke reduce heat to low. For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-low coals around a drip pan that is placed in the center of the grill. Place 1/4 of the wood chips over the coals. During cooking you will need to add fresh coals and 1/2 cup woodchips every hour or so. Keep the temperature around 250 degrees.

4.Place the brisket, fat-side up, in an aluminum foil pan and place in the center of the hot cooking grate, over the drip pan. Add 1-cup water to pan to start. Cover grill. Open vents slightly on charcoal grill. Baste the brisket with the mop sauce every hour. Plan for 1 hour cooking time for each pound of brisket, but use a meat thermometer for best results. (Cooking time will depend on size of brisket and heat of the grill.)

5.When brisket reaches an internal temperature of 160F on an instant-read meat thermometer (after 3-4 hours), remove it from the grill; double wrap in foil, leaving an opening at top so you can continue basting. Return to grill. It is finished when it is tender and reaches an internal temperature of 180F to 190F. Transfer brisket to a cutting board, let stand for 10 minutes.

6.Thinly slice across the grain with an electric knife or sharp caring knife. Put slices on a platter and pour pan juices on top. For extra flavor, add a little ketchup to the pan juices. Serves 10 to 12.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

I needed to make desserts for two different events today, so I decided to come up with something crowd-pleasing and technically easy. I didn't take a picture (!), so I thought I'd show you the end result of the potluck - the cake was pretty much gone. If you want something homemade that most people will love, this is your cake.

The cake is based on the one on the back of the Hershey's box, which I've been making for years. I used Hershey's "Special Dark" cocoa, which is why it so dark; it's a partially dutch-processed cocoa. You can certainly use regular cocoa, though, and the recipe on each box is the same.

The change I make from the original recipe is using boiling coffee (I heat up coffee in the microwave to boiling) instead of hot water. *Some people* accuse me of leaving out details in my recipes so they can't be replicated, so I wanted to highlight this change. :-)

The frosting is based on Ina Garten's peanut butter frosting, and it is To.Die. Try not to eat it all with a spoon!

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling coffee
1 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1 c. smooth peanut butter
1 t. vanilla
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. milk or cream
20 mini Reese's peanut butter cups, chopped

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9X13 pan.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

4. Make frosting: with a mixer, beat together butter, peanut butter, salt, and confectioner's sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and milk and beat until fluffy. If the frosting is too thin, add confectioner's sugar a tablespoon at a time; if it is too thick, add milk a teaspoon at a time to get to the desired consistency.

5. Frost cake and top with peanut butter cups. Feel free to use more candy if you like!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Gourmet Club Returns!

It was Catherine's birthday today, and we haven't had a Gourmet Club dinner in a long time - so it was the perfect time to make a full course meal from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We had a wonderful night! I was impressed that the four children made it through six courses. Jack, our little gourmand, ate everything - he wants the leftovers in his lunch tomorrow.

Catherine is French, so she's grown up with the long, multicourse meals. I served small portions, so we didn't leave the table overfull.

I meant to take pictures of each course, but it didn't happen. Almost everything we had is on the platter above.

Course #1 - Appetizer - Tomato stuffed with shrimp. I made mayonnaise for the first time; it was very good but thinner than I expected. This looked impressive, and unfortunately, it's the only thing not pictured.

Course #2 - Pasta - Penne with bell peppers and Italian sausage. This was a huge hit! I think each child had three servings.

Course #3 - Entree - Veal Scallopine with asparagus and Fontina. This caused the only problem of the night - when I was making the pan sauce reduction, the smoke detector went off because I had the pan too hot. Other than a slightly hazy room, everything was fine.

Course #4 - Salad - Green beans with lemon and olive oil. Delicious! Catherine's daughter had seconds - of green beans. These were very simple to make and benefitted from being cooked in salty water.

Course #5 - Fruit - Black and White marinated grapes. I liked this refreshing segue. Black and green grapes have a glaze of fresh orange juice, sugar, and lemon zest.

Course #6 - Dessert - Fourteen Layer Cake. The cake is not from the Italian cookbook; supposedly it's a Southern cake, but I've lived in Georgia for eight years and nobody's ever made me one! The greatest revelation about this cake is that there is such a thing as chocolate cream cheese frosting. And a tesseract.

Fourteen layers! The recipe is here on Bakerella's website. I baked my layers for 15 minutes in the disposable pans with a cookie sheet underneath to conduct the heat. I loosened the layers with an off-set spatula and didn't use parchment. The cake takes a while to make because I can only fit two pans at a time in the oven, but the techniques are not difficult. I loved making it - it's so pretty!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Grilled Moroccan Chicken and Greek Couscous

We had my wonderful in-laws over for dinner tonight, and I wanted a nice summery meal. It's been years since I've made Moroccan chicken, and though I've made other couscous salads, this one was new to us. We also had grilled corn on the cob and Paula Deen's peach cobbler for dessert. Yum!

Use a charcoal grill if at all possible. The couscous would make a great, healthy lunch. Both recipes are adapted from Recipezaar.
Moroccan Chicken

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped scallion (white part only)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1.Combine oil, scallions, parsley, cilantro, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper in the container of a food processor.
2.Process until smooth.
3.Rub the mixture on both sides of the chicken breasts and let stand 30 minutes.
4.Preheat the grill to medium hot.
5.Grill chicken breasts 5-7 minutes on each side, or until done.

Greek Couscous

1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup uncooked couscous (about 1 10 oz. box)
1/2-1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cup diced peeled cucumber
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, well drained (garbonzo beans)

1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
salt (to taste)

1.Bring the 1-1/2 cups chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the couscous and oregano, remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
2.Fluff with a fork.
3.Combine the couscous with tomatoes and the next 5 ingredients (tomatoes through chickpeas) in a bowl; set aside.
4.Combine 1/4 cup water with the remaining ingredients; stir well with a whisk.
5.Pour over the couscous mixture, tossing gently to coat.
6.Season with black pepper and salt.
7. Drizzle with a little more lemon juice and oil if salad dried out. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beef Enchiladas

Periodically I decide to make some meals and sauces and prepare some meat to stock the freezer. It's usually when we've been busy and I decide we've had too much "ordered" pizza or Chinese. I made a double batch of enchiladas yesterday and a triple batch of sauce, so I wanted to share this recipe.

Enchiladas are time-consuming, but they freeze and reheat well, so they're worth it. Traditionally, they are made with soft corn tortillas which have been fried, but *other people* in this family prefer flour, so that's what I'm using in this recipe. Corn is a whole grain, but you fry them, so nutritionally it's probably a wash - just use whichever you prefer. If you do use the corn tortillas, you'll get close to twice as many enchiladas. Heat an inch or so of vegetable oil in a heavy bottom pot and fry tortillas one at a time on each side (30-60 seconds each); drain on paper towels.

Beef Enchiladas

Makes 6-8 large flour enchiladas.

3 T. butter
3 T. flour
2 T. chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. cumin
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can low sodium beef broth

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 onion, diced

3 cups cheddar or Mexican cheese, shredded

Brown ground beef with onions until done; drain.

Melt butter in a deep skillet or sauce pan. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened and golden brown. Add spices and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato sauce and broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and thickened. Add 1/4 c. water if it is too thick.

Ladle some sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 pan, just covering the bottom. Put the meat mixture in a bowl and add a little sauce, stirring it in. Put a flour tortilla on a plate and scatter about 1/2 c. of meat mixture and a sprinkling of cheese on one side; roll up tortilla. Place in pan seam side down.

When pan is full of enchiladas, pour the rest of the sauce on top and cover with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream and hot sauce.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant

Fondant is a sugar paste used in cake decorating. By itself, it makes an absolutely satin smooth finish. Mixed with gum paste, it can be molded like clay into edible 3D figures. Most people aren't crazy about the taste of fondant, so buttercream is usually spread underneath it (it also helps it adhere). Marshmallow fondant, though, is quite good - it tastes like marshmallow, unsurprisingly.
It's also fun to make! It starts as a messy glop of melted marshmallows and confectioner's sugar, and after some kneading it becomes impeccably smooth and blindingly white.
For Ben's 4th birthday, I made a puppy out of equal parts gum paste and marshmallow fondant. I told him he could eat the puppy at his party, and he ate almost the whole thing! You can see all the messy mistakes that reveal my amateur status - I'm no Cake Boss! But he absolutely loved the puppy that bears a passing resemblance to our dog Lucy, so I was happy.
Marshmallow Fondant

16 oz. white mini marshmallows
2 T. water
2 lbs. confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup Crisco (put in a separate bowl)

Melt marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave. Put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, open microwave and stir, back in microwave for 30 seconds more, open microwave and stir again, and continue doing this until melted.
It usually takes about 2 ½ minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.
Now grease your hands with the Crisco - palms, backs and in between fingers, then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle.
Start kneading like you would bread dough.
Keep kneading, this stuff is sticky at this stage! Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more.
Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant is sticking. If the mix is tearing easily, it is to dry, so add water (about ½ tablespoon at a time then knead it in). It usually takes about 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.
It's best if you can let it sit, double wrapped, overnight (but you can use it right away if there are no tiny bits of dry powdered sugar). If you do see them, you will need to knead and maybe add a few more drops of water.
Prepare the fondant for storing by coating it with a good layer of Crisco shortening, wrap in a plastic- type wrap product and then put it in a re-sealable or Ziploc bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Fondant will hold very well in the refrigerator for weeks.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

This recipe from Gourmet magazine is probably my favorite thing to make for company. It's delicious, unusual without being inaccessbile, and indulgent but not rich or heavy. It does have a lot of steps, but you can do many of them ahead of time. Serve it with this coconut bread. Just make the bread ahead of time so you can refrigerate it (makes it less crumbly).
Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 main-course servings
For pork
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
For glaze
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco
For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For salad
3 navel oranges
5 ounces baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1 medium head)
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 firm-ripe California avocados
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer
Prepare pork:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.
Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.
Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140°F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155°F while standing.)
Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.
Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Assemble salad:
Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges, and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges. Pour any juices from skillet over pork.