On my way back from a client in Brooklyn I passed a new establishment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I found a very nice little appetizer of baked cheese.
The restaurant / lounge was less than packed so the owner / chef had a few minutes to chat. Of course, we all know who wheedled the recipe from him, and chatted about some possible addins..
Consider the well seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet, black, heavy and with it’s own baked on non stick surface. Now add cubed cheese, some olive oil, (my first add / change, bacon drippings or bacon cubes browned off in the skillet), thin sliced garlic, seasonings, and of course herbage. This is then baked until the cheese melts, bubbles, and browns.
This is then served bubbling hot, with a selection of thin slices of crusty french baguette, (Toasted and not toasted) and maybe the chunks of browned bacon on the side.
Prep That Grill, It’s Grillin’ Time
Before we can rush out, buy large slabs of meat and apply raw fire to char and cook, we must do all the work we have ignored since it become too cold to grill.
Namely cleaning the grill, don’t lie to me, you rushed back into the house with that last steak, roast, burger, fish fillet, and did not think about turning the grill to high for 15 minutes to burn off the grates. Not that I would cook on those grates after the winter, they need to be cleaned.
Now one can pull the grates into the house, and “MAYBE” fit them on the dish washer, otherwise you get to scrub them in the kitchen sink, or prop them against the house and use a pressure washer. NONE OF WHICH really do the job right. To dissolve the melted / blackened / burned on grease, you need heat, lots of heat, more heat than your grill can generate. (Without help) No, I am not talking about getting out the propane flame thrower and setting half the town on fire, all we really need is some heavy duty aluminum wrap, and some science.
Grilling or broiling is a form of cooking that involves direct heat. Devices that grill are called grills. Grilling is a pervasive tradition in much of the world.
In the United States and Canada, use of the word refers to cooking food directly over a source of dry heat, typically with the food sitting on a metal grate that leaves “grill marks.” In the UK and other Commonwealth countries this would be referred to as barbecueing, although grilling is usually faster and hotter than the American sense of the word “barbecue,” which does not necessarily imply grill marks. Grilling is usually done outdoors on charcoal grills or gas grills, a recent trend is the concept of infrared grilling. There is a great debate over the merits of charcoal or gas for use as the cooking method, Electric indoor grills have also recently become popular.
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I’ve been on a mid-east kick lately. So how do I make it exciting, tasty, appetizing, Maybe a Shawarma… Slow cooked, juicy, flavorful, and not the expected..
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern Arabic-style sandwich usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East; it has also become popular worldwide. Shawarma is known as guss in Iraq; it is similar to the gyros of Greece. The classic shawarma combination is pita bread, hummus, tomato & cucumber, and of course the shawarma. The additional toppings include tahini and chili sauce.
Strips of meat or marinated chicken are stacked on a vertical spit with chunks of meat fat make sure that the meat stays juicy and an onion or tomato are placed at the top of the stack to provide flavoring. The meat is then roasted slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of or over a flame for a period of several hours. Traditionally a wood fire was used but for modern times, a gas flame is more common. While many specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat selections, some establishments have just one skewer. In this recipe, chicken is used, but beef, lamb, or combination of all three are quite common.
After cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a large knife, made up into a sandwich with pita bread or rolled up in lafa together with vegetables (cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, cabbage) and a dressing (tahini, hummus, chili sauce, flavored with vinegar and spices). In some countries, (Romania, Bulgaria, Jordan, Israel, or the United Arab Emirates), french fries are included in the sandwich
Shawarma is eaten either as a fast food type dish by itself, with grilled bread, or fresh pita bread, or with other regional foods like Tabouli, Hummus.
Cast Iron Chef – Pepper Steak
After mastering yet another vendor proficiency test, (one could say I am now buzz word compliant), I decided to chuck the rest of the afternoon and go visiting clients.
Sitting in an office high overlooking a major intersection, and chatting with a client as he reviewed my missives posted here, a slow cooked pepper steak produced by his wife, was mentioned. As he went on to describe the mouth watering lusciousness of the meat, the contrasting colors of the stop-light peppers and the richness of the gravy produced I knew I HAD TO HAVE that recipe.
Also remembering that I had made the lady of said clients house a gift of a 18″ Bad Wolf special chef’s knife, I decided that my usual brash tactics might not work, and that a bit of kitchen research would be the better part of valor…
The real key here is low and slow cooking in a moist environment….
Collagen, the predominant protein in connective tissue, is quite tough to chew, and is found in abundance in tougher and cheaper cuts of meat. (Almost the tougher / cheaper the better). At 150 degrees it starts to melt and become gelatin-like as the temperature climbs. At 150 the muscle tissue will have tightened fully and the bonds between individual protein molecules become stronger and tighter. These bonds become so tight they drive water from the meat back into the braising liquid!
IF REMOVED AT THIS POINT, THE ROAST WILL BECOME TOUGH AND DRY.
Once the internal temperature of the meat reaches 170 degrees, a second process begins as melted collagen makes meat seem tender and moist. Further heated, the collagen in the muscle will break down progressively into soft gelatin as the tightened muscle tissue strands continue to separate.
Because collagen won’t melt completely until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 200 degrees, the meat must be cooked to this temperature and held there for an hour to take full advantage of this phenomenon.
The meat fibers will swell to take on the liquid surrounding them, and with the collagen will turn to gelatin, so that the meat becomes a wonderious tender, moist, taste treat seasoned with all the goodness of the various peppers, onions and garlic that have simmered with it.
I’ve not used high priced sirloin, or tenderloin, but have used chuck steak which is quite economical that produces glorious flavor and a worthy texture when cooked properly. And properly is low and slow.
I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fuits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat. A fair amount of fish, lighter on poultry. This does not mean I will run screaming at the sight of a a steak, (or at least run screaming AWAY..)
One item that keeps popping up is preserved lemons, used in all kinds of dishes around the Mediterranean, it really should be called preserved lemon peel, as that is the component most used.
Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.
Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.
Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.
The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavor also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.
In Ayurvedic cuisine, lemon pickle is a home remedy for stomach disorders, and its value is said to increase as it matures. In East African folk medicine, lemon pickle is given for excessive growth of the spleen.
From a VERY OLD COOKBOOK (Elizabeth Raffald (1786). The experienced English housekeeper )
They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.
Note: When I speak of “Fresh” dried spices, I am stalking about items recently acquired, not sitting on a back shelf for a year. This should yield about a quart, so having a sterilized quart jar and lid is necessary. As a point, it is easier to manipulate the lemons in a wide mouth jar.
It is a funny half hot / half cold day, where in the morning you want a hefty jacket, in the afternoon you want a t-shirt, and by early evening you are back in the bomber jacket…
My tastes are that way as well, I wanted a heavy breakfast, a light lunch and a meal with staying power for dinner.
I remember a wonderful dish I had at a local french restaurant, it was a chicken, broken down and browned then simmered in a broth along with Spicy Sausage, “Cajun Trinity”, sinful spices, meaty mushrooms and fresh vegetables to make a really wonder full sauce. Think similar to a beef stew with really big chunks of meat and veggies… The gravy was so thick and wonderful I was soping it up with the french bread on the table. (Yes, I know it sounds soo uncivilized, sooo unsheik, but it seems everyone else at the table was doing the same thing….)
Do note: Do not try this with boneless chicken breast, it just does not work well…
Fricassee or Fricassée is a catch-all term used to describe a stewed dish typically made with poultry, but other types of white meat (like veal, rabbit, or Cornish game hen) can be substituted. It is cut into pieces and then stewed in gravy, which is then thickened with butter and cream or milk). It often includes other ingredients and vegetables.