Chimichurri Rojo Turkey Tacos

1. Roast whole fresh turkey breast. Cut breast meat into strips
2. Get freshly made tortillas from your local tacqueria, if you can. Warm tortillas.
3. Toss Turkey in Chimichurri Roja
4. Toss mixed greens with olive oil, lemon juice, S & P.
5. Fill tortilla's with salad, then turkey.
6. Top taco with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Chimichurri Rojo

1/2 cup Spanish sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Bears Win! Bears Win! We Win with Chicago Style Italian Beef Sangwiches

Monday Night Football, September 27, 2010
Bears 20 - Packers 17

It's a rivalry you group up with in Chicago, and the intensity of the rivalry has only increased in the last couple decades. Bears-Packers. This past Monday was the 180th meeting of these two teams. 180. Think about that you Carolina Panther fans.

Anyway, we had just completed the massive homecoming menu, weren't in the mood for a lot of cooking on Monday, but DID have some steak left over. So I came up with the idea of slicing up the steak and putting it into a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich (often pronunciated as "sangwitch" by the local denizens).

The biggest problem was that we weren't cooking the beef, we already had cooked steaks. So the delicious juices that help create the sauce for the beef sandwiches wasn't going to develop. I went ahead and made a decent sauce with beef stock, red wine and a couple dried herbs. Why dried? Well, trust me, those sangwitch shops are not gourmet outposts. And I wanted to get as close as I could to the real thing, given my previously mentioned limitations.

The next thing I considered was toppings. There are two Chicago style approaches, roughly.
  • Hot - which means Giardiniera, a spicy mix of peppers, onion, cauliflower and other vegetables.
  • Sweet - which implies pan roasted bell peppers. Usually green, sometimes green and red.

I had some Giardiniera on hand, but Margie and the kids would probably pass on the spicy version. In fact, most of them would pass on the sweet version too, but whatever. So I went "High End Sweet", and slowly cooked onion, garlic and fennel with red, orange and green peppers. I added a few fennel seeds, dried oregano (bowing to local tradition) and hot pepper flakes. It looked like this, and was delicious.

In the end, we had a surprisingly nice interpretation of an Italian beef sandwich. And a GREAT outcome, as the Bears took advantage of the Packers 18 penalties (their most since 1945 when they played the Boston Yanks) to win the game and start the season at 3-0.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
(I swear, this is the first time I've recommended two dried herbs. But, we're trying to stay authentic-like)
Salt and Pepper to taste
     --- Bring sauce ingredients to a boil in a small sauce pan, then simmer while making peppers.

Peppers and Fennel
1 small red onion, sliced
1 bulb fresh fennel, white parts, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 orange or yellow pepper, seeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (again, an homage)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt and fresh ground pepper
      --- Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat
      --- Add onion and fennel and cook for 5-6 minutes
      --- Add remaining ingredients, cook for 5-6 minutes
      --- Lower heat to medium-low or low.
      --- Cook for 5-6 more minutes, or until peppers are soft, but have not changed colors.

1 pound of thinly sliced steak or roast beef (don't forget, this recipe was a way to use leftovers). I'll publish a "real" Italian Beef recipe someday too.
8 thick sandwich rolls
      --- Add beef to sauce and let sit over low heat to warm through.
      --- To serve, use tongs to place beef into sliced rolls. The rolls CANNOT EVER be toasted, just in case anyone from outside Chicago gets any crazy ideas.
      --- Spoon additional sauce over the sangwitch to make it as "dry" or "wet" as you prefer.
      --- Top with a generous portion of mixed peppers and onions.

2010 Homecoming Dinner - Kingwood High School

We've started a tradition of over-the-top Homecoming Dance dinners served at our house for our daughter and her friends. Last year's theme was "Looks like a kid's menu". You can read about it here.

The highlight of this year's menu was over ten pounds of fresh tuna, caught by Nora's friends Amanda and Lauren during their recent vacation to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Their father Chris, who has business connections to Brazil, also suggested serving Picanha, Brazilian style skewered steaks. For this surf and turf entree, we'd carve the steaks off the skewers tableside.

Lori, mom to Nora's boyfriend Jack, offered to make Key Lime Pies. They were out of this world, and looked better than any KLP I've ever seen. A twist of lime was expected, but the grated lime zest sprinkled atop was perfect, and she resisted the temptation to overdo a good thing. It was gorgeous and delicious.

Nora asked for Caesar salad. Well, OK. But the menu was now kind of all over the map, so to speak. So I just kept spreading it further over the map, and here's what we ended up with:

A Taste From Every – No, Make That Almost Every – Continent**

Strawberry-Kiwi Sangria (non-alcoholic)

Europe / France
Roasted Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Gougeres

Africa / Middle East
Mini Kefta Kebab Wraps

North America 
Chicken Pancetta Caesar Salad
Homemade Rustic Bread

Fennel Coriander Grilled Tuna
Sesame Aioli
Wasabi Mayonnaise
Long Beans with Sichuanese Ya Cai

South America
Grilled Brazilian Picanha Steak
Roasted Sweet Potato Disks
Chimichurri Rojo

North America
Key Lime Pie
Lori's Awesome Brownies 

** Penguin Pops and Krill Burgers were a serious consideration, but ruled out based on international law.

Much like last year, once the quests arrive there's little time for taking pictures. I snapped a couple, mostly of ingredients in process, not finished dishes. As I get more pictures from the other families, I'll add to the small collection below.

Kefta Kabobs
Grilled then broken into toasted flatbread with mesclun and yogurt

Roasted Pancetta and Chicken Legs over Homemade Croutons
Drippings from chicken season the croutons
Chicken was shredded, then added to Caesar Salad with the croutons and shaved Parmesan

Long beans starting to dry-fry
Sichuanese Ya Cai, Xiao Xing Rice Wine and Soy
Beans served under Coriander-Fennel Grilled Tuna
Entree prep team (parents) in the kitchen
Entrees ready for service

Mr. G carving Picanha tableside

Roast Cornish Hens with Herb Crust

Roast Cornish Hens with Root Vegetables

The last full meal from my Sept 18-24 family menu plan was Roast Cornish Hens. They were on sale for $3.99 for two. I figured one hen per person, and we've got a $2 entree. I had some great root vegetables to use, but other than that, no specific recipe or plan, especially for the hens.

It was still blazing hot outside, so a long grilling wasn't appealing. But I did quickly brown them on the grill. Think about how much time it would take to brown 6 hens on both sides, even if I used three large skillets at a time. And the splatter all over my fairly clean stove wasn't appealing either. So I threw all six hens on the grill for about 7-8 minutes a side to get some browning.

While they grilled, I sauteed a few diced shallots in olive oil, then tossed them with panko (breadcrumbs), fresh thyme leaves and S&P.

Before putting the hens into the grill, I drizzled melted butter over them, then pressed on the herbed bread crumbs. I roasted at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then let the birds sit for almost that long to re-absorb juices.
The birds were......OK. Inexpensive, easy, decent taste, pain in the butt to eat. Not bad.

My original expectation was that the kids would think having their own individual chicken would be so cool that they'd attack the birds with youthful glee. They did not. Maybe the kids were tired. I also thought that with enough carrots in the root vegetable medley, they'd like that too. Not so much.

Is this menu good for an adult dinner party? Kind of - there's a good bit of labor and fine knife skill involved. Maybe this is why I don't cook Cornish hens too often.

On the other hand, I thought the root veg was fantastic. I'll place the recipe in the next post.

2009 Homecoming Dance Menu

Last year we had about a dozen freshman high school kids over to the house for Homecoming dinner. Nora's friend Amy and I though it would be cool if we had a menu that appeared to be kids food, but each dish was actually a gourmet twist on a kid-sounding item.

Several of the recipes were inspired by Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago. Others were my own creations. It was a blast, as we had about eight parents in the kitchen all working for me to do final plating and serving.
Somehow, I was too busy to take pictures of the food - a mistake that won't happen again in 2010.

Note: I'm publishing this on What Tom Cooked now, because it was originally published on my old web site, which will be retired in October. So I'd like to capture it here. I hope you enjoy this. The 2010 menu was just created and will be served this weekend.

Kids Menu

    Chips and Dip


    PB&J Sandwiches



    Chili Cheese Fries

    Ice Cream Sandwiches

For each of these menu items, the actual dish was far more complicated, with restaurant style presentation. We handed out a menu that had "Kids Menu" on one side, and "Young Adult Menu" on the other, with these descriptions:

Young Adult Menu

Chips and Dip
Homemade French Onion Dip and Kettle Chips

Homemade Pretzels Filled with Aged White Cheddar Cheese and Italian Country Ham, served with Jalapeno Honey Mustard
PB&J Sandwiches
Gigantic Ruby Grapes wrapped in Toasted Brioche with Peanut Butter and Almond Dust

Baby Spinach and Arugula with Frozen Balsamic and Thyme Viniagrette, accompanied by Figs and fresh Buffalo Mozzarella

A Deconstructed Hamburger served over homemade Garlic Toast, topped with an Oven-dried Tomato slice

Condiments:  ]
Homemade Tarragon Pickles
Celery and Apple Slaw
Tomato Compote
Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise
Raspberry Wasabi Mustard

Chili Cheese Fries
Constructed Tower of Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Fries, filled with Chili a la Franey, topped with aged Cheddar and lime wedges

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lemon-infused Blue Bell Ice Cream with Blueberry Swirl, topped with Brown Sugar Crumble

Pistachio Crusted Pork, Ginger Rice, Asian Green Beans

I hope you've been following my family menu for this week on my site Be A Better Cook. Since not all the recpies and photos will make it over there, and this is where I stash details about most things I cook, here are the results from last night.

Menu Plan:

  • Pistachio crusted pork chops

  • Ginger Rice

  • Fresh Beans

Acutal Menu:

  • Pistachio and Almond crusted Grilled pork chops - our cleaning people came today, and I couldn't bear to mess up the perfect sparkling clean stove. Grilling a piece of meat with a nut crust was risky, and prone to failure. I added an egg white to the nut mixture, and grilled at medium heat, after rubbing the grill with a lot of oil. I lost a good bit of nut crust, but enough stayed on to give a pleasant taste. Got lucky and cooked them to perfect doneness - moist and juicy, last trace of pink disappeared as they rested for a few minutes. Tasty. Should have had a sauce to go with it.

  • Ginger Rice - Excellent dish. Recipe below. Will make it often, and picky son Alex actually liked it and ate a HUGE portion.

  • Asian flavored steamed green beans - I'd prefer to work with Chinese long beans, and will later this week. I simply sauteed two garlic cloves and a teaspoon of finely chopped jalapeno (left over from rice), then added 2 teaspoons of soy and a drizzle of sesame oil. Kids liked it. Tasted good.

Pork with Pistachio Almond Crust - just hitting the grill

Pork With Nut Crust
Lost some crust on grill, still a nice extra flavor.
The two with the cross-hatches on the right are plain, for Alex


3/4 cup onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped finely
1/2 a large jalapeno, seeded, chopped very finely
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
     --- Heat oil over med-high heat, add vegetables, stir and soften
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
     --- Add to pot, stir a few times, then add.....
2 cups jasmine rice
3 cups water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons salt
     --- Add and bring to a boil.
     --- Cover and lower heat to lowest setting. Cook 17 minutes.

Grilled Chicken Thighs Adobo

Wednesday, September 15 Menu

Homemade tomato, onion, cliantro salsa
Homemade quick chunky guacamole
Rice with onion and red peppers
Tacqueria-bought Pork Tamales
Grilled Chicken Thighs Adobo

Grilled Chicken Thighs Adobo

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
4 garlic cloves, smashed, roughly chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
fresh ground pepper - generous
4 pounds chicken thighs

     --- Combine all ingredients except chicken and bring to a boil in a large skillet.
     --- Add chicken thighs and simmer for 20 minutes.
     --- Meanwhile heat a gas grill or start a charcoal fire

     --- If using a gas grill, turn off one set of burners and turn the other(s) to medium-low
     --- If using charcoal, heap all coals on one side of grill
     --- Transfer chicken pieces to cool area of grill and cover.
     --- Cook about 6-8 minutes, until nicely browned.

Optional: since the liquid was cooked, and not a refrigerated marinade, you can bring it to a boil and reduce it by half while the chicken is grilled and serve with with chicken.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce variation

12.5 pound Brisket

While up in Wisconsin for  golf trip a few weeks ago, I cooked a small (5 pound) brisket for the boys, and as usual, I made homemade BBQ sauce using some of the dry rub.

Last weekend, we took advantage of $0.99 / lb brisket, and cooked up a 12.5 pounder on Sat. That gives us several nights of brisket dinner and brisket sandwiches for school lunches.

The reason I'm posting this is the BBQ sauce. With just a couple tweaks on my last favortie recipe, this one really hit me as my best ever. The complexity of flavors is increadible, and the taste is smooth, despite a slightly chunky texture. Who said barbeque sauce needed to have smooth texture? The people who sell in squeeze bottles, that's who.

Key changes: less pimenton, ancho chili powder, chunks of fresh tomato

Dry Rub for Brisket
Or make a 1/4 batch to use for making just barbecue sauce. There will still be some rub leftover.
4 tablespoons smoked paprika (sweet, or sweet-bitter)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1.5 tablespoon sugar
1.5 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
----- Combine all ingredients
----- Reserve 4 tablespoons of dry rub to use for the BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce

1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
------ Heat in a medium saucepan until onion is wilted
4 tablespoons reserved dry rub
------ Add and stir to combine
1 cups crushed tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce
1 cup fresh tomatoes, coarsley chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
Cayenne pepper to taste
---- Combine, bring to a boil, simmer 20 minutes or more.
Drippings from cooked brisket or ribs (see note).
---- Add drippings to sauce. Create a small batch in side bowl, with a 50-50 mixure of drippings to sauce, to determine the texture and tase you prefer. Mix remaining sauce and drippings in your preferred proportion.

The last step is highly variable, depending on the amount of fat in the drippings. there's always ALOT of fat, but briskets differ in fat content and amount of trimming. Non-fat juices also emanate from the meat. The idea is NOT to simply add fatty oils, but rather a mixture of the fat and juices.

Note: If cooking ribs, you'll need employ the "Texas Crutch", a method of wrapping partially cooked ribs in foil, midway through the cooking process. The wrapped ribs are cooked for about 45 minutes, then unwrapped again to finish cooking. A reasonable about of juices will develep in the foil, which can be used in BBQ sauce.

Exotic Pizza Night Menu

Grilled Pizza w/Alligator Sausage
 Looks sloppy, but they've already been cut to cool. I wanted one sausage slice per small bite.

Camembert and Crackers

Pork Shoulder Soup (see yesterday)

Grilled Pizza with homemade sauce, mozz and grilled Alligator and Pork Sausage

Grilled Pizza with mozz, parm and spicy fennel confit

Salad of local tomatoes with garden grown basil. Shallots, magic viniagrette.

Pizza toppings
Fennel confit upper right, pre-grilled alligator sausage slices, homemade tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella

Grilled Pizza Method
Grill one side uncovered, add toppings to cooked side, return to grill, covered

Latin Pork Shoulder Soup with Mixed Legumes and Rice

New habit forming here - while I'm inventing certain new recipes, I've been writing them down to compose the complete recipe before cooking it. And if I write it here, the readers will get the work in progress, with updates later. Who knows? You might like it.

OK this recipe is good, maybe not great. But, if you've cooked a lot of pork shoulder, this is a way to spread it out into another dish.

1 leek
1 small onion
½ cup bacon, pancetta, ham, etc.
--- soften
3 carrots, diced
1 celery root, diced
1/2 cupcrushed tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon each ground New Mexico Chiil, pimenton, 1/2 teaspoon oregano
--- sauté 5 minutes
7 cups fresh chicken stock
--- add, bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes
2 pounds roast pork shoulder, shredded
--- add all and heat through
--- adjust seasonings - S&P

1 cup cooked rice
1 cup brown Spanish lentils, cooked
2 pounds garbanzo beans or black beans
Fresh cilantro, S&P
     --- Combine in a separate bowl

Serve by placing a rounded scoop of rice mixture in a bowl. Ladle soup around edges. Top with meat from soup, retrieved with a slotted spoon.

Silky Mash

Gordon Ramsey uses the name Silky Mash to describe this version of mashed potatoes. Mash is a common phrase used in England comparable to our "mashed potato(s)".

The silky part comes from two aspects of the recipe:
  • Technique: pressing cooked potato through a strainer
  • Ingredients: using an oppressive amount of butter, cream and milk.
The technique is awesome. I used a large mesh strainer, about 6.5" wide, with holes that are about 1/16th of an inch. The results were some sort of wiry tangles of potato, maybe like angel hair pasta chopped up into a fine dice. Only they crumble apart in your mouth. Anyway - it's hard to describe in words, and a home picture of mashed potatoes is unlikely to be a time-effective investment. So you'll have to trust me on this. Plus, I just ate the last bit about 2 hours ago.

Here's a shot of the strainer I used. For comparison, I put it next to a very common 3" diameter fine-mesh strainer, the kind you can find in many kitchens.

There's a huge difference between this strainer technique and tools like a potato ricer or press. They will truly mash your potatoes. Using the strainer, the potatoes are in separate strands, and if folded carefully into the butter, cream and milk, they will retain that separation. That unique texture is the magic.

As to the oppressive amount of butter and cream? Well, I'm not going to publish all of Gordon's amounts, but if I divulge that there was one cup (4 sticks) of butter, then let's agree to not pursue those details further.

Like most mashed potato recipes, you need to fine tune the amount of liquid and butter based on the specific type of potatoes, and to how dryly or softly cooked they are. Plus personal preference. Here's a starting point, adjust from there.

Tom's Silky Mash
2 pounds russet or gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2" pieces
     --- Boil approx 10 minutes, until fork tender, let cool
4-6 tablespoons butter
     --- Melt in a medium sized pot
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup whole milk
     --- Add to pot with butter and combine
     --- Press potatoes through strainer. Do not compress potatoes together after they are pressed through.
     --- Use a rubber spatula, add the butter milk mixture into the potatoes, a little at a time, folding gently.
     --- Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper


Beach House Burger Night

It seems so simple now......while the girls went out to a restuarant and the guys stayed home, we were going to have burger night. I planned to make homemade pickles, oven dried tomato compote, homemade BBQ sauce, and two kinds of burgers - plain, and stuffed with andouille cubes. More pasta of some sort too.

Then, we played golf in the morning and spent all afternoon on the beach.

So when it came to burger night, new plans broke out. Left over salads from the picnic (plenty on hand) - just the two kinds of burgers. However, with good ingredients nearby, here's what the good burgers were like:

==== Bun =====                         or                  ==== Bun =====
Remoulade                                                          Remoulade
Pickled Okra Slices                                             Crab  and Shrimp Cake
Thin Sliced Purple Onion                                     Pickled Okra Slices
Burger with chunks of Andouille                           Thin Sliced Purple Onion
==== Bun =====                                               Burger with chunks of Andouille
                                                                           ===== Bun =====

My nephew Jonathan has a picture.......which he needs to send me.......

Chicken, Sausage and Monkfish Paella with Aioli and Maple Glazed Crispy Chicken Strips

This paella was delicious. It sounds very complicated, with such a long list of ingredients. However, all these ingredients are cooked in sequence in the same pan. You don't have to cook parts separately - which is often the case with a complex recipe. So it's not complicated at all.

The keys to this recipe are:
  • Adding the stock in stages
  • Maintaining enough heat to get a little crusty rice on the bottom of the pan
  • Ensuring that the rice is cooked to pleasant doneness (slightly al dente)
In this version of the recipe, the use of rich, authentic Spanish chorizo was also a major factor. It was the kind of chorizo that is cured, like an Italian salami, not loose, like a Mexican chorizo link. Since Spanish chorizo is hard to find (and expensice) you could substitute any chorizo you can find, other sausage or skip it. However, you may have to add or remove oil from the pan depending on your choice. Mexican chorizo will give off too much oil. Skip the sausage and you might need to add some olive oil.

The aioli can be made in a blender or hand whisked. I've not seen it paired with paella until I read an article about Jose Andres. WOW!! What a great complement to the already complex paella.

Over the top addition - the aioli already seems over the top, but I had just boned three whole chickens for stock and the paella, so had a lot of chicken skin available. So I made Crispy Chicken Skins with Maple Glaze, sliced them and added them to the paella (after the picture above was taken). Not bad.

2 garlic cloves, mashed with a small amount of kosher salt
1 egg yolk
4 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup oil
     --- Combine all ingredients up to oil in a large bowl.
     --- Drizzle oil into bowl, whisking continuously
     --- Chill before serving


For a crowd of 8-10, double this recipe and make it in two separate pans.
3 cups or more of chicken stock is needed for each batch.

1/2 of a dried new mexico chile, or equivalent
     --- seed pepper and grind in a spice grinder

     --- Heat a paella pan or large skillet (12-14") over medium-high heat, optionally, over direct heat on a charcoal or gas grill (remove grates if you dare!!). If grilling, add soaked wood chips in a foil packet, pierced in several places with a fork.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large link Spanish Chorizo sausage
     --- Saute 3 minutes for sausage to release some oils
     --- Remove sausage and place in a large bowl

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken, cut in to 1 inch pieces
     --- Saute 5 minutes, until chicken begins to brown
     --- Remove to a sausage bowl

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, mixed, chopped coarsely
     --- Saute 4-5 minutes
     --- Remove and add to chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
     --- Saute 2-3 minutes

1/2 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
3/4 arborio rice
     --- stir to coat rice, 1 minute

1 cup fresh chicken stock
1/2 of a 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
The dried, ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon saffron, crumbled
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
     --- Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes
     --- Add chicken, mushrooms, sausage and any liquid, simmer 10 minutes
3/4 cups stock
     --- Add and simmer 8 minutes
3/4 cup stock
     --- Add and simmer 8 minutes
1 pound monkfish, cut into 1" slices
     --- Combine into fish, cover and cook 3-5 minutes, until fish cooked through.
     --- Add more stock and continue to cook rice if needed

Some of the rice should stick to the bottom of the pan and form a browned crust. This is what the Spanish call "soffrito" - and is a prized component of paella.

Related Posts with Thumbnails