Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baked Beans

The family likes baked beans, but even the best store bought ones tend to be very watery. For a burgers and hot dogs meal on the grill recently, I decided to try to make my own baked beans.

The recipe below is adapted from what I first tried, and is an effort to make the beans a little less sweet and a little spicier.

  • ~6 oz bacon, sliced into thin strips (8-9 pieces)
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato puree (unseasoned)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cans light red kidney beans (~14 oz each can)

[Preheat oven to 325 degrees F]
Step 1 - Render the bacon in an oven proof pot for 7 or 8 minutes until beginning to crisp up. Then add the onion to the pot for another 5 minutes or so to soften.
Rendered bacon and softened onion

Step 2 - Mix all liquids and spices (everything else but the beans) in a bowl. This is basically a homemade barbecue sauce base... Add the sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer.
Everybody in the pool

Step 3 - Add the beans (drained and rinsed) to the pot. Stir to mix everything together. Cover and put in the 325 degree oven for an hour. At the end of an hour, remove the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes to thicken the sauce.
An hour and twenty minutes of baking later

The beans were very good, but as originally made were a little sweeter than I would prefer, and could have used a little more spice. For the recipe given above, I have replaced some of the ketchup (with its high sugar content) with additional tomato puree, added the cumin, and upped the amount of cayenne.

This is a very easy recipe that takes almost no prep, and basically just sits in the oven untouched until done. The only downside is that you need to start about two hours before you want to eat...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Grilled Pork Tenderloin al Pastor with Avocado Crema

While working on a hobby project in the basement earlier today (a different post for my main blog), I was watching the Food Network (The Kitchen), and saw a recipe that made me say "that's dinner for tonight."

The recipe was Grilled Pork Tenderloin al Pastor with an avocado crema. Yum. Thanks to Jeff Mauro.

This is a simple recipe (the best kind), with a minimum of ingredients and not a ton of prep work.

The pork tenderloins were marinaded for 2-3 hours in a blender-ed combination of pineapple juice, chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, garlic, salt and achiote paste. As a short cut to the true achiote paste, I used two packets of Goya brand achiote seasoning powder (and the result was terrific).

The avocado crema was blender-ed combination of 1.5 avocados, part of a bunch of cilantro, a half cup or so of sour cream, some salt and pepper, a lime's zest and juice, plus a little water and olive oil to thin it down.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin al Pastor with Avocado Crema

The result was fabulous. I cooked the tenderloins (3 of them) on a 350-ish degree grill for 10 minutes on each side. They rested for ten minutes while we steamed some broccoli.

We served it, as is often the case in our semi-Asian family, with white rice (and a glass of Chardonnay...).

Highly recommended. Complex rich flavors with minimal prep and not too many ingredients. If you can't find achiote powder or paste, you could use salt, pepper and garlic powder and you'd be OK...

Try this, you won't regret it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Spicy Mint Beef

Dinner tonight was a new recipe; Spicy Mint Beef, a Thai recipe from the May 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine.

This was basically a stir fry. Prep was minimal, and the ingredient list was short, many of which were pantry ingredients.
Prepped ingredients

Step 1 - A sliced jalapeno and some garlic go into a pan over high heat (high heat throughout). The recipe called for a few Thai or serrano chilis, but this might make it too spicy for Julia, and definitely too spicy for Grace.
Step 1 - oil, chili and garlic

Step 2 - After a minute or so, sliced flank steak goes into the pan, followed a couple minutes later by a sliced bell pepper and 3 sliced shallots.
Step 2 - beef, peppers and shallots

Step 3 - After another minute or so, a sauce goes in. The sauce is a combination of dark soy, sweet soy, fish sauce (fermented fishy goodness!) and chili garlic paste.
Step 3 - soy, fish sauce and chili garlic paste

Step 4 - After 3 minutes of simmering the beef and veggies in the sauce, you take the dish off the heat and add a handful of mint leaves and a handful of chopped basil. Give it a couple of minutes to wilt, and you are done.
Step 4 - mint leaves and chopped basil

The end result, served with white rice. And a glass of Chardonnay...
Spicy Mint Beef

This meal gets very high marks for flavor, limited list of ingredients, minimal prep, minimal clean up, and good authentic ethnic taste. The downside is...I can't think of one. This was easy, cheap and delicious. I'm not sure what more I could ask for...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ribs (again)

Nothing says "I have 5 hours this afternoon on a vacation day at the end of a holiday weekend with nothing particular to do" like 3 full racks of baby back ribs.

I have written about my rib rub recipe before (May 2013), so nothing here was extraordinarily new other than the store bought sauce used to finish off this batch of ribs. Normally I use Sweet Baby Ray's (original recipe), which has a nice sweetness to offset the spiciness of the dry rub. Wandering the market today I noticed a series of Guy Fieri branded sauces, and since Grace is a fan of Diners Drive Ins and Dives, I picked up a bottle of his "Kansas City - smoky and sweet" version. Getting this home and comparing it side by side to SBR's, it was extremely similar in texture and taste. Which meant it was good.
Ribs - final 10 minutes sauced with bone side down

The ribs themselves were cooked in the oven, tented with foil, for 3 hours and 45 minutes at 250 degrees [F] (a long slow cook with dry rub only) and then finished on a medium heat grill for 10-15 minutes with a liberal basting of the sauce (5 minutes meat down then 10 minutes bone down). Despite what others (the purists) might say, you can make a wonderful rack of barbecued ribs entirely in the oven as long as you take your time. The last few minutes on the grill with the sauce serves to caramelize the sugars in the sauce (and make nice grill marks) but isn't absolutely necessary. [I know, I know, nothing replaces a real slow cooked rib from a smoker or a grill with wood chips...I agree...but...this works well too]

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spicy Honey Barbecued Chicken

(with Honeyed Apple-Cabbage Slaw)

I knew I would have some time today to cook a nice dinner, and I wanted to do something with grilled/barbecued chicken, but didn't want to do the simple "thrown chicken on the grill and slather with store bought barbecue sauce at the end".

Trolling the Food Network website for ideas turned up two that looked great: a brined chicken with a homemade classic style ketchup/molasses/vinegar sauce (by Tyler Florence) and an asian themed spicy honey barbecued chicken (by Emeril Lagasse). Emeril's recipe also had a terrific looking slaw recipe, so I decided to do that one. The recipe is here.
Spicy Honey BBQ Chicken with Apple-Cabbage Slaw

The marinade (which also becomes a basting sauce and finishing sauce) is very asian in character, and consists of soy sauce, vinegar, honey, sriracha (hot sauce), sesame oil, garlic, ginger, etc... I marinated the chicken for 5 hours (bone-in, skin-on pieces of chunked up split breasts and thighs).

After marinating, the chicken goes on a medium grill for 10 minutes (skin up) then 5 minutes (skin down). While the chicken grills, the marinade is boiled in a sauce pan for that entire time. This both thickens it and also removes any danger from raw chicken having been marinating in it.

When the grill time is done, the chicken goes onto a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking (another 20 minutes or so). While in the oven, I basted the chicken twice with the boiled sauce.

Earlier in the day I made the slaw, which is cabbage, endive, carrot, onion and apple in a sauce made from mayonnaise, sour cream, honey and apple cider vinegar.

The final dish was chicken topped with the last of the sauce, the slaw, and simple green beans with olive oil and lemon pepper.

The result - A fantastic meal. The chicken was moist, tender and packed with flavor. The slaw was cool and crunchy and a perfect counterpoint to the chicken. The green beans were...a green veg.

I'd rate this about an 8.5 out of 10 for flavor. It wasn't expensive to make, as almost everything other than the chicken was a basic pantry ingredient. It was simple to make, with the only consideration being that the chicken definitely benefits from a long marinade. Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mediterranean Baked Cod

We were looking for a lighter seafood/fish dinner tonight, and a quick flip through Paul Johnson's Fish Forever (Wiley and Sons, 2007) turned up a meal that looked both good and easy to make. It was true on both counts.

The recipe, page 97, was Mediterranean Baked Cod, which was a simple baked fish in mediterranean ingredients (leeks, fennel, tomatoes and white wine).
Baked Cod Ingredients (with cauliflower)

Step 1 was to bake some sliced fennel and leeks in olive oil and salt and pepper (for 10-15 minutes). When this was done, white wine, saffron and lemon juice was added to the pan, and then the cod was placed on top of the veggies, which were then topped with tomatoes, more olive oil, salt and pepper. This was baked for a good 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees (not the 10 minutes at 350 degrees as stated in the recipe).
Leeks and Fennel

The result was a lovely tender white fish in a saffron tomato broth. We served it with a mashed garlic cauliflower and some crusty bread for mopping up the broth. The ultimate arbiters of success, the children, pronounced it good. Me and Amp loved it.
Mediterranean Baked Cod

Although it was deemed good, Grace's final words on the subject were: "it would be better with halibut". Brat. :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chili - Basic Texas Red

A good dish for a cold winter Eagles-game-day Sunday is a nice bowl of chili - a basic Texas Red, with just beef (and no beans).

I was looking back through my postings here, and I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet... This is our version of a basic easy chili, adapted from several different recipes. So here's how an east coast Yankee makes a bowl of Texas Red.


  • 4 pounds of cubed "stew" beef (chuck is good)
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 1-2 cups of green and red chilis (today I used three Anaheim mild green chilis, 1 red bell pepper and 1 jalapeno), chopped into small pieces
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 tablespoon minced jar garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon generic "chili powder"
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • A 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 square semi-sweet baker's chocolate
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 1 bottle of beer
1) Cut the beef into small (1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes or small pieces). In a large dutch oven, brown the beef pieces in a little bit of oil, in batches.

2)  Put all the beef back into the pot, add the onions and garlic, and stir for a few minutes.
Beef and onions and garlic

3) Add the dried spices, fresh chilis and diced tomatoes with their juices. Stir for a few minutes to get the spices mixed in.
Add the spices, fresh chilis and diced tomatoes

Add 2-3 cups of beef stock and one bottle of a good beer (I used a bottle of Sam Adams this time). Also add the one square of baker's chocolate. Mix well. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer, and cook for an hour.
Add beef stock and a beer

At the end of an hour, remove the cover, and simmer it for another 1-1.5 hours, adjusting the temperature as needed to make sure you maintain a low simmer.
Two to two and a half hours later - Chili

Serve with jalapeno corn bread and a salad. We garnish with sour cream, green onions, shredded cheddar (and more sliced fresh jalapeno for me).