Saturday, January 19, 2013

Coconut Stir-fry Sauce

This sauce is very similar to the coconut curry sauce I made for some lobster.  There are a few minor differences, so I decided make it a separate post.  This sauce is great for any stir-fry, but I especially like it with bay scallops or crispy tofu.

Coconut Stir-fry Sauce
1 14oz can coconut milk (lite or reg)
1 C water*
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp chopped cilantro (optional)
1 tsp sriracha or chili oil (more or less to taste)
2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with about 2 tsp water to create a slurry

   Combine all ingredients except cornstarch.

Saute your veggies and meat (that have been properly seasoned) like any stir-fry.  About 5 minutes shy of everything being completely done, add sauce and bring to bubble.  Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Slowly stir in half of cornstarch slurry.  Allow to cook 30 sec-1 min to see how much the sauce thickens.  Add more of the slurry until the consistency is reached.  Serve over rice or pasta.

*If you are making pasta with this, use the starchy, salted pasta water.  Omit water from the initial sauce, when you add the sauce to the stir-fry mix, add a cup of the pasta water.  This is the best way to make the sauce.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Crispy Tofu

Obviously we eat meat in my house.  So you may be wondering why I am writing about tofu.  It's because tofu is delicious when handled properly.  Not only it is tasty, it is nutritious and cheap.  You can buy a 1 lb block of organic tofu for under $2.00.

I think the biggest mistake people make when venturing into the world of tofu is buying the wrong texture.  If you want a dairy substitute for smoothies or cold dips, go with silken.  If dinner is what you are looking for, choose extra firm.  Knowing how to cook it is the next hurdle.

For extra firm tofu, cut it into slices.  I usually cut 6 slices if I am putting it into stirfry (cut it into cubes after it is cooked); 4 if we are eating it on its own.  Take a clean dish towel folded in half, place slices on half and fold the towel over the slices.  I like to place a cutting board on top for some added pressure.  Getting some of the water out will help it crisp up and give it a better texture.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes and flip the whole towel package over half way through; the longer it sits the better.

Season the slices with salt and pepper or a seasoning blend.  I have a prime rib seasoning that I took from work that is--ironically--really good on tofu.

In a large non stick skillet or griddle over medium heat 2 tsp-1 Tbsp of oil.  Place tofu in it and let it cook for a 3-4 minutes.  Flip it and use a large spatula to firmly press the slices down.  This helps more of the water cook out and ensures a crispy texture.  Flip and press several times during cooking.  Seriously, don't be afraid to press down hard and hold the turner there for a little.  you as much water as possible to cook out.  When both sides are crispy it is done!  For 6 slices, it usually takes about 15 minutes to get the perfect texture.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Deer Beer Chili

This looks like an average bowl of chili.  But it is special.

Very, very special.

Deer.  Beer.  Chili.

Three awesome things combining to form an ultimate trifecta of kickass.

If you don't hunt or you don't want to spend an outrageous amount of money of farm-raised venison (which can sometimes be found at specialty grocers like Whole Foods), I suggest you make some friends with guns.

Venison is absolutely delicious and incredibly healthy.  It is low in fat and cholesterol, but has all the good health benefits of red meat.  Many processors will sell the fully broken down, packaged, and hard frozen animals to walk in customers if the hunter doesn't pick up the deer within a certain amount of time.  You just have to pay the processing fee, which generally ranges from about $65-$80; you get a lot of meat, so don't be dissuaded by that price.

Deer Beer Chili
1 lb ground venison
~1 Tbsp bacon fat (or oil)
1 med-lrg onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 lrg cloves garlic, minced
12 oz beer*
2 can diced tomatoes
2 cans beans, drained (I used one can of black beans and one of a tri-bean blend)
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ancho chili powder
3/4 tsp chipotle powder (optional, can sub 1/4 tsp cayenne for it)
3/4 tsp oregano (try to find Mexican oregano)
salt to taste

   In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and bell pepper in bacon fat for about 5 minutes.  Add venison, break up the meat as it cooks.  When venison is about 3/4 cooked, add garlic and ~1/2 tsp salt.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  Add beer.  Simmer until beer is reduced by half.
   Add tomatoes, beans, chili powders and oregano.  Salt to taste.  Simmer covered for 30-45 minutes.  Uncover and simmer another 10-15 minutes.
   Serves 4-6

*Use a good, full-bodied beer that is fairly dark.  This is not the place for a lager, pilsner, or IPA.  I used Blackstone's Nut Brown Ale.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Turnip Gratin

Among the various wrapped gifts I received at Christmas, I was also given a plastic grocery bag full of turnips.  That may not seem like a very exciting thing, but they were much appreciated.  I happen to really like turnips, but in the grocery store these roots are often marred, tiny, and overpriced (for the quality you are getting.)  This meal was supposed to be my last indulgence of dairy (i.e. cheese) for a while.  Well, my subtle, unspoken resolution of eating less cheese is already a bust.  It is the morning of day 4 of 2013 and I have eaten cheese the past three days, with no hope in sight for today.

Turnip Gratin
5-6 med-lrg turnips
2 med potatoes
1 C-1 1/2 C shredded cheese (we used a cheddar/jack blend)
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 cloves garlic, minced (~2 tsp)
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C water
1 oz cream cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pinch of cayenne
3/4 C crushed crackers (I used mini Bretons)
1 1/2 Tbsp oil or melted butter

   Peel and thinly slice turnips and potatoes.  A mandolin* is the perfect tool for this job.
   Heat butter over med heat and saute garlic for about 1 minute.  Add flour, whisk so there are no lumps.  Slowly add cream and water to flour and butter, whisk constantly while adding so lumps don't form.  Melt in cream cheese.  Add salt, thyme, and cayenne.  Cook over med heat for 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly so the dairy does not scorch.
   In a lightly sprayed baking dish (9x9 or small crock like mine, which is roughly 9x6x3) start layering turnips and potatoes.  After 2-3 layers, sprinkle some cheese.  Continue this process until the baking dish is full or you run out of vegetables.  Pour cream mixture over the top.
   Bake covered at 375 deg F for 30-40 minutes.
   Mix crushed crackers and oil.
   Top gratin with crackers after it has finished its first baking.  Return to 375 deg F oven for 20-25 minutes.  A butter knife should easily slide into the center of the gratin, that is how you will know it is done.
   Serves 6.
   We served this alongside green cabbage braised with bacon and Aidell's Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Chicken Sausages.

Kitchen Mandoline- an adjustable slicer that allows you to quickly and easily make very thin slices.  They can be veeeeery pricey, but decent ones can be found for about $30.  Mine is a really crappy $12 Walmart one that doesn't work so hot.  The blades could be sharper and the inserts that have the places tend to pop out of place if you are not careful.  But even that piece of shit can handle some turnips and white potatoes... nothing much harder though.  One of my next kitchen purchases will be a nicer piece so I can slice things thin enough to make chips in my new deep fryer!