Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Taco Tuesday on the 4th of July

Carnitas Ready for Nachos

It's been pretty busy around here, leaving little time for blogging. But I'm back and ready to go, with some great new ideas.

Rewind to the 4th of July. We always have a block party in the cul de sac and this was no exception. We all decided to do a nacho bar and have everyone chip in. Homemade guacamole, pico de gallo, smoked chicken, and my contribution, carnitas.

For the carnitas, I looked at a few recipes and got work!

The Recipe:
  • 4 to 5 pound pork butt
  • 3/4 Cup Lime Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Cilantro
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 5 Garlic Cloves - Minced

Carnitas on the Smoker
Carnitas on the Smoker
Combine the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, and spices. I used fresh squeezed juices for mine. Marinate the pork butt overnight. I used a gallon storage bag. Make sure to save the marinade for basting.

The next morning, get the smoker fired up. I use a combination of lump oak charcoal and hickory and pecan chunks in my smoker. Tips on getting the smoker started can be found here.

Once the smoker is ready, bring out the pork butt. Mine was on the smoker about 8 hours. I keep the smoker temperature between 200 - 250 degrees and go for a target internal temperature of at least 140 degrees.

Carnitas on the Smoker
Carnitas ready to come
off the smoker!
Once the pork butt is off the smoker, it needs to rest. If it comes out of the smoker too early, with maybe a few hours before dinner, wrap it in foil and put it in an empty cooler. This keeps it hot without over cooking it.

Once the pork butt is ready, it is time to pull it apart. I've found the best way to do this either with 2 forks or your hands.

Now, it's time to pile the carnitas insise some tortillas or on a pile of chips!

Happy Eating!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pad Thai

I've always loved Pad Thai. My love adventure with this classic Thai dish began when I was younger and wasn't sure what else to order when we would go out for Thai food! I've slowly gotten a bit more courageous, but I keep falling back to my first love of Pad Thai!

Pad Thai
Pad Thai
The other night, we were on the phone and my wife's aunt mentioned how she always remembers how good it was when I made Pad Thai for the family a few years back. I dusted off my recipe, and my wok, and set out to make it for dinner!

The Recipe:
  • 2 Limes - Juiced
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - Minced
  • 3 Green Onions - Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
  • 1 Cup Chopped Chicken
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Peanuts
  • 1 Package Rice Noodles

The key to making great food in a wok, is to get the wok good and hot. That said, the food is going to cook really fast, leaving very little time to prep in between steps. It is best to get everything chopped, prepped, and ready, before the cooking process starts. I've found that each brand and package of rice noodles has different instructions. It typically involves soaking the noodles in hot water. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package. I find it is best to get this going first. It usually takes around 30 minutes. 

Pad Thai
Pad Thai
Over medium-high to high heat, add the peanut oil to the wok. Throw in the green onions and garlic. Stir around quickly. Once the garlic starts to brown, add in the 4 eggs, all at the same time. I like to use a whisk here to scramble the eggs over the heat. It makes it easier to keep the eggs from staying in one piece too. Add in the rice vinegar and fish sauce. 

Combine the chicken and cayenne in a bowl. Stir to coat the chicken with the cayenne. Add the chicken to the wok. Stir occasionally until cooked. 

Add in the peanuts and rice noodles. To make sure everything gets combined and the noodles get heated evenly, the best thing to do here is toss everything like a salad! Add in the lime juice and cilantro as you stir it.

I like to serve this with soy sauce, sriracha, and garlic chili paste.

For a few different variations, this recipe also works great with shrimp, beef, and pork. Just make sure to adjust the cooking times accordingly. 

For tips on cleaning your wok after use, go here.

Happy eating! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chicken Fried Venison

Chicken Fried Venison
Chicken Fried Venison
Over the weekend, my dad gave me some venison steaks. I almost immediately decided that some chicken fried venison was in order. So I grabbed some potatoes to make some home fries and got to work!

The Recipe:

  • Venison Steaks
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
Marinate the venison in enough milk to cover for 4 to 6 hours. The amount of milk you use, will largely depend on the size of the container and how many venison steaks you have. 

After the steaks have marinated in the milk, mix together some flour, salt, and pepper. To be honest, I didn't measure this. I just used what I thought was enough. It's always good to have extra. Generously cover the venison in the flour mixture.

Chicken Fried Venison
Chicken Fried Venison
In a cast iron skillet, heat about a half inch of oil. To test if the oil is hot enough, sprinkle some flour in it. If it sizzles with the flour, it is ready. Place the venison steaks in the oil. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes a side. 

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Stuffed Shells
Stuffed Shells
I always loved getting stuffed pastas when I was little when we would go out to eat. It seemed so exotic! How did they get the stuffing inside the pasta? Now not that I've mastered the art if pasta making, I'm still in awe of people who can make tortellini, but in my house we like to make our own ravioli and stuffed shells! Today's recipe is for stuffed jumbo shells.

The Recipe:
  • 2 15 Ounce Containers of Ricotta
  • 1 Package of Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Recipe Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Cup Shredded Chicken (optional)
  • 1 Box Jumbo Shells
  • Shredded Mozzarella
  • Salt and Pepper

  • Piping Bag
  • 13x9 Baking Dish
  • Food Processor

In boiling water, cook the jumbo shells until slightly al dente. Set aside.

Combine 1 container of ricotta with the tomato sauce. Set aside.

Using a food processor, combine the remaining​ container of ricotta with the spinach. I don't measure it, but I go off of color. A light, pale green us a good mix. You'll know it when you see it. Mix in some salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken if you are adding that to the mix.

Using a piping bag or 2 spoons, fill each shell with the ricotta mixture. Position each shell face up in the baking dish. Once the baking dish is full, pour the tomatoe sauce and ricotta over the shells. Then cover it up with the mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and starting to brown, usually about 30 minutes.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

No Sugar Tomato Sauce

For as long as I can remember, I've added sugar to my tomato sauce. Whether I'm making something quick or an all day affair, I've used sugar to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes. The other day, I decided to try something different. Instead of the usual sugar, I added some carrots to the sauce. The naturally sweet carrots took care of the job the sugar usually performs, and added some extra nutrients too!

The Recipe:

  • 1 Large Onion - Diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - Diced
  • 3 Celery Stalks - Chopped
  • 3 Carrots - Peeled and Chopped
  • 2 Large Cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup Red Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Basil
  • No Sugar Tomato Sauce
    No Sugar Tomato Sauce
  • Olive Oil

In a heavy bottom stock pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the remaining ingredients. 

From here, there are 2 different routes to take: 

The high heat method, which can be little risky, but can make the in less than an hour. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Be careful with the high heat method, because tomatoes can burn very easily. just make sure to stir the sauce often to prevent burning. 

The low heat method, which is definitely the safer route. Once the onions and garlic are ready, reduce to the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally. The low heat method will allow all of the ingredients to break down and help the flavors come together, without the risk of burning.

Either way, I like to use a heat diffuser with my sauce, to help evenly distribute the heat around the bottom of the pot.

Once the sauce is cooked, I like to blend everything together with an immersion blender, to break down all the large pieces.

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto
Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is one of those things I always heard was really hard to make. But once I watched someone make it, and how simple it is, I had to try it fr myself.

The Recipe:

  • 1 Onion - Diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - Minced
  • 1 Quart Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter - divided
  • 1 Package Portobello Mushrooms - Sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • Spinach - Rough Chopped (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/4 Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Mushroom Risotto
Sauté the rice in butter
until translucent

In a saucepan, heat the chicken broth to a slow simmer. In a heavy bottom Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Over medium-high heat, sauté the arborio rice until translucent, or not quite browned.

Remove the rice from the pot. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Sauté the onions and garlic until slightly browned. Deglaze the pan with the dry white wine. Return the arborio rice back to the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper.

Mushroom Risotto
Add the broth one ladle
at a time

The next step is where it can get a little tricky. It's not hard, it just takes patience. Add the chicken broth to the rice, one ladle at a time. The rice is going to slowly absorb the chicken broth. Don't rush it by turning the heat up too much or the chicken broth will evaporate instead of absorbing in to the rice. Stir the rice occasionally. As the chicken broth absorbs into the rice, add another ladle one at time.

When the last ladle of broth has been added, add the mushrooms. The mushrooms will cook quickly. When the broth is fully absorbed, the mushrooms are done.

Mushroom Risotto
Add the spinach
at the very end

If you are adding the spinach, stir it in just before turning off the heat. The remaining heat in the rice will cook it.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the ricotta and mozzarella cheese. 

Some other variations to try are mushroom and asparagus, summer veggies, or pumpkin for the fall!

Happy eating!