Quick, To the Grill FatMan!!!!
As it is coming to Memorial Day and the opening of the grill season, it’s probably a prudent idea to review the basics of grilling. Here is a compilation of posts on grilling, the basics, hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks ….
I was talking with Madam Bad Wolf, about our plans for the coming holiday, and the menu for said holiday and plans. She not so gently reminded me of some of my less memorable meals on the grill. This inspired me to start making notes on how to grill the more traditional items….
Do note: Grilling is NOT Bar-B-Que ….
Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above or below. Food to be grilled is cooked on a grill (an open wire grid with a heat source above or below), a grill pan (similar to a frying pan, but with raised ridges to mimic the wires of an open grill), or griddle (a flat plate heated from below) . Heat transfer to the food when using a grill is primarily via thermal radiation. Heat transfer when using a grill pan or griddle is by direct conduction. In the United States, when the heat source for grilling comes from above, grilling is termed broiling. In this case, the pan that holds the food is called a broiler pan, and heat transfer is by thermal radiation.
Direct heat grilling can expose food to temperatures often in excess of 260 °C (500 °F). Grilled meat acquires a distinctive roast aroma from a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction only occurs when foods reach temperatures in excess of 155 °C (310 °F).
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Tacos Con Carne
Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo, and I will be (hopefully) recovering from a weekend of high pressure ops. That said, perhaps a little bit of Mexico can creep onto my plate .. I am thinking Tacos… But not just any tacos, soft tacos with strips of steak, grilled peppers, onions, fresh cheese, a tangy dipping sauce, perhaps guacamole and some form of lettuce salad on the side.
A taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables and cheese, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa, avocado or guacamole, cilantro, tomatoes, minced meat, onions and lettuce.
These come in many varieties:
The Hard Taco
Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various styles of tacos have become popular in the United States and Canada. The style that has become most common is the hard-shell, U-shaped version. Such tacos are crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole.
The Soft Taco
Traditionally, soft-shelled tacos referred to corn tortillas that were cooked to a softer state than a hard taco – usually by grilling or steaming. More recently the term has come to include flour tortilla based tacos mostly from large manufacturers and restaurant chains. In this context, soft tacos are tacos made with wheat flour tortillas and filled with the same ingredients as a hard taco.
The Double Decker
Comprised of a hard taco wrapped in a similarly sized flour tortilla with a layer of re-fried beans or guacamole between the layers
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.
Braised Brisket for Passover
As the holiday of passover approaches, I am reviewing recipes and found a great one for brisket, braised with onions, mushrooms and Beer
Some call it this one thing, others call it other things, but when a less than tender brisket is braised at a medium temperature for in a dutch oven, smothered with onions and a dark beer, long enough for the collagen in the to become gelatin a very, very satisfyingly taste pleasure awaits.
Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. The beef brisket is one of the eight beef primal cuts. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collar bones, these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing/moving cattle. This requires a significant amount of connective tissue, so the resulting meat must be cooked correctly to tenderize the connective tissue.
There are two brisket cuts usually available, and the naming is quite confusing. For a more marbled piece of beef, look for the thicker end, known as the point half, which may be labeled the front, thick, second, or nose cut. The thinner, leaner end of the brisket is the flat half, sometimes called the first or thin cut.
Braising (from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as pot roasting, though some make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added.
Braises call for the meat to be browned first to “seal in the juices”, but here that step is skipped so it can absorb the wonderful taste of mushrooms I’ve used chanterelle mushrooms here, if you find them, they can be used in place of the shiitakes, for a bit more kick to the taste
How much of a pleasure is this meal? I almost want a cigarette after eating it… Folks this is VERY close to food porn …
Pho for Snow
OK, so “Winter Storm A-Hole” is bearing down on us and the entire “Winter Storm” thing is getting over bearing. Wind, Rain, Snow, Sleet, in general an absolutely miserable event. This is going to call for some serious hearty food. Beef, in a rich broth, with veggies, and noodles, and more beef and more veggies, and spices, and peppers, and even more peppers. Ja, that’s the ticket, a STEAMING HOT super beef broth, full of gelatin, and lots of Asian Trinity, (Ginger, Garlic and Chili’s), all kinds of rich meatiness from the beef and from mushrooms, maybe some bok choy.
Take some rice noodles cooked on the side, and put them in a bowl, add our hot broth and veggies, and add garnishes, say red pepper strips, bean sprouts, scallions, chili’s, and some basil. We have a beef and noodle soup similar to Pho.
Phở is served in a bowl with white rice noodles in beef broth, with thin cuts of beef. In this case I’ll use chuck steak, and I’ll pressure cook the beef, with veggies to extract the gelatin, and generate my stock, which I will cook with additional veggies for my soup. I’ll save the cooked meat and add back into the soup at the table.
These dishes are typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, Sriracha, and flavor enhancements such as a squeeze of lime or lemon. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander, Thai basil. fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts, and cilantro.
Ragù Alla Bolognese
Snow, cold, wind, Time for REAL food. But food that can be extended and reheated. I’m thinking a pasta here, with a rich and thick Ragù Alla Bolognese. Hearty, meaty sauce, that can be made in a large batch and served over quickly cooked pasta for good hot meals that are quick.
Add some garlic bread and a salad, and call it “Dinner. Done!”
If all else fails I can thin it down with chicken stock, add a few more tomatoes and have a very hearty tomato soup.
Pasta is generally served with some type of sauce; the sauce and the type of pasta are usually matched based on consistency and ease of eating. Northern Italy has fewer traditionally tomato-based pasta sauces (though tomatoes are still used in recipes) including pesto and ragù alla bolognese. In Central Italy, there are sauces such as tomato sauce, amatriciana, arrabiata and the egg based carbonara.
Tomato sauces are also present in Southern Italian cuisine, where they originated. In Southern Italy more complex variations include pasta paired with fresh vegetables, olives, capers or seafood. A lighter, more quickly prepared version of a tomato dish dish is called pomodoro. Varieties include puttanesca, pasta alla norma (tomatoes, eggplant and fresh or baked cheese), pasta con le sarde (fresh sardines, pine nuts, fennel and olive oil), spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (literally with garlic, olive oil and hot chili peppers).
Fettuccine alfredo with cream, cheese and butter, and spaghetti with tomato sauce (with or without meat) are popular Italian-style dishes in the United States.