Smokin’ Good

The weather has begun to warm here in Corrales and everyone has spring fever.  There was a time when I cooked seasonally; chilis and stews in the winter, barbecue in the summer. But long ago we discovered that chili was just as good in the summer and things made on the grill; steaks, barbecue ribs, grilled chicken were really tasty in the winter.  However, during these first warm days grilling just sounds so much better.  Tonight we kick off the season with barbecued ribs, rosemary roasted potatoes and cole slaw.

Our ribs are now a two step cooking process – smoked first then finished on the grill.  I’m in charge of the smoking: George handles the grilling.

We prefer baby back or boneless country ribs, tho I have to admit we haven’t tried country ribs in the smoker – maybe in two weeks or so. Tonight it’s baby back ribs.

I start by prepping the ribs.  Using a sharp knife,

Ribs prepped for smoking

Ribs prepped for smoking

I cut a slit in the membrane along the back of  the ribs and, with the help of a paper towel, remove the membrane from the meat.  then I cut the rib slab into two pieces.  My stove top smoker isn’t big enough to handle a whole rack and George prefers to grill the rack in two pieces as it allows him to cook the pieces more evenly.

After the ribs are prepped I prepare the smoker.  I added 2 tablespoons of Hickory Chips to my stove top smoker.  I use the griddle burner on my stove as it provides heat most of the length of the pan.  I smoked the ribs for about 18 minutes.  We have found that is the optimum time to smoke if you are going to grill.  You get the good smoke flavor with the grill providing the crusty finish.  Smoked Baby Back Ribs ready for the grillAs you can see by this picture, the ribs are nowhere near done after their 15 minutes in the stovetop smoker.  The meat has begun to turn brown but is still raw on the inside.  By the way, stove top smoking , while it will never replace a true long rest in a wood chip smoker, is a pretty good substitute when you are in a hurry and clean up is pretty easy.   I line the smoker tray with foil and spray a  light coating of cooking spray on the rack.  I can have this smoker cleaned and ready to go back into the cabinet in under 15 minutes while George is finishing the ribs . One less thing to do after dinner.

The rosemary potatoes – 3 small russet potatoes, peeled, sliced into wedges and coated with grapeseed oil and fresh minced rosemary – are ready for the oven.  All I have to do is chop the cabbage and carrots for coleslaw and we’re good to go.

I ‘d love to share a picture of the finished ribs but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

Posted in American Food, appliances, BBQ, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Food, Kitchen tools, meat, Pork, Stove Top Smoker | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healthy Donuts

Healthy Donuts?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Not when you see these!  Ok, maybe not healthy with a capital H but healthier than fried.  About a year ago I came across a recipe for baked donuts.  I thought those would be great for the B&B, quick and no frying involved. So, with dreams of donut bliss dancing through my head I bought a Wilton Donut Pan – one designed to make baked donuts.  But as I did a little more research I found that the recipes I had intended to use either required rising time so the quick part of the equation went right out the window, or were made in a muffin tin.  In my book that makes it a muffin! The newly purchased donut pan went into the baking drawer possibly never to see the light of day.  But then this happened.  I recently came across some recipes for baked donuts. They do not involve yeast, so no rising time, and they are made in a Wilton Donut Pan!

I tried several of them and worked on perfecting one of them for use at the B&B. This is the result.  These are savory donuts that can take the place of breakfast breads.

Baked Cream Cheese and Herb Donuts

Makes 6 donuts’

  • 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream cheese, melted
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbl fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 tbl Fox Point Seasoning  (can be purchased from Penzy’s spices)
  • 1/2 tsp salt,
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese – I used the finely shredded variety
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 325 F and spray a donut pan ( you can find the donut pan at Michael’s craft store in the baking section) with cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a small microwave safe bowl combine the butter pieces and cream cheese and melt in the microwave – it took me about 30 seconds but remember, my kitchen is located over 5,000′ so you may find it goes faster for you.  And here’s a tip – cover the bowl before you start the microwave.  Exploding cream cheese is a terrible thing.  Trust me on this one.

Mezaluna and cutting bowl

Mezaluna and cutting bowl

Chop your rosemary into fine pieces.  I use a mezaluna for this task.  It’s much faster than a knife and gives you even pieces.

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add the egg and the melted butter cream cheese mixture.  Stir well with a wooden spoon.  Slowly add the buttermilk, a bit at a time, stirring after each addition.  The amount of butter milk you will need depends on a number of factors; low humidity can lead to drier flour which will absorb more liquid.  Add enough buttermilk to create a dough that is drier than a cake batter but not as dry as some cookie dough or typical muffin batter.  And while this picture isn’t great it gives you some idea of the texture of the batter.  You can see

Batter consistency for baked donuts.

Batter consistency for baked donuts.

where I scraped the spoon through the batter and it did not fill back in.  This is the consistency that produced the best donuts.

Use a teaspoon to spoon the batter into the greased donut pan.  Place it in the oven and bake for 11 to 14 minutes.  I bake this combination of herb and cheese for 12 minutes and it comes out perfect.  Don’t expect the dount color to be an indication of doneness.  They will stay pale.  Instead, use the touch method.  The donuts are done when they spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove the donuts form the pan by inverting the pan over a plate or basket.  Then ENJOY! I know my guests did.

Once I had these down I thought about other flavor combinations.  Why not garlic, italian seasoning and pecorino romano cheese, or cajun seasoning with cheddar, or …. the list is limited only by your imagination.  And don’t think these are just for breakfast, I see dinner donuts on the horizon.  Just think, Donuts for dinner!  The dream of every child, or the child in you!

Note:  I use dried buttermilk powder that I keep in the refrigerator.  It save me from buying a bottle of buttermilk for a recipe that needs 1/4 cup!  If you elect to go this route here’s a tip on getting the powder to incorporate completely with the water.  Measure out the amount of powder that will produce the amount of butter milk you will need.  Place the powder in a sieve over a bowl and reduce any big lumps by pushing through the sieve.  Fill a measuring cup with the required amount of water, measure out the powder and add to the water.  Stir with a small whisk until combined.

Posted in Baking, Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Breakfast, Cooking, Food, Kitchen tools, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome Home

Today I deviate from my usual blog topic – anything food related – to talk about the birds.  No not chicken.  Hawks versus Crows.

For the past three weeks the crows have been a constant presence in our tall pines.  All day long they would hang out and make a racket with their cawing.  I wasn’t real happy about the noise and I can tell you that Boz absolutely hated them.  Every time he went out in the yard he would spend every minute chasing up and down the yard barking  – trying to clear the trees of the noisy invaders.  The crows, on the other hand, would look down at him from their lofty perches and caw all the louder.  I swear they delighted in taunting him.  Sooner or later I would have to go outside and make a racket by clapping my hands so the poor dog could do his business. This went on everyday, all day long, until early this week.

I was sitting in the living room when I saw a large shadow cross the yard near the pine trees.  And then I heard it – the most welcome sound in the world – the KEE KEE of a red tail hawk.  I went out to investigate – I was afraid I had wished for the return of the hawk so hard that I might be imagining things. But no, there in one of the pines sat a hawk.  And since then – well let’s say the crows have take up residence in other trees, none of which are on our property.  Blissful silence, well at least no cawing, has returned to the yard.  Boz isn’t a big fan of the hawks, nothing belongs in his yard but him,  but they tend to be pretty quiet this time of year.  Since they usually nest somewhere on our property we will be treated to a fair amount of Keeing when the chicks hatch but that doesn’t seem to bother the Boz man because they aren’t flying.

So let me be the first to say Welcome Back my raptor friends. Thanks for rescuing our yard from the noise of the crows!

And while we are at it, here’s a picture taken from our portal of one of our Cooper’s hawks scoping out the yard from our bird bath. coopers hawk croppedThis was taken last year but we can expect to see a repeat soon!

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Corrales, New Mexico, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Fowl of a Different Feather

Yesterday I wrote about the pasta I had made for the Italian cooking class I recently taught at the B&B.  The pasta was used in the entree of  Pappardelle with Chicken Ragu.  This recipe originally started out as a Pappardelle with Duck Ragu.  Duck is hard to find in this neck of the woods.  Occasionally you can find it frozen at the grocery store but that’s usually around the holidays; and they are long since past.  So I decided to do a substitution using chicken thighs and found the dish to be different but as enjoyable as the duck version.

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients. This dish entails a fair amount of chopping and prep work.  But the results are well worth the effort and a great dish if you’re serving it as an entree at a dinner party as there is very little last-minute work to be done, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy your guests!

 

Pappardelle with Chicken Ragù             Serves 6

 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 lbs chicken thighs, skin and excess fat removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, ground to a powder in a spice grinder
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces dried pappardelle noodles
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the casserole. Add the shallots, carrot, celery, prosciutto, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the porcini powder and wine. Simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole, cover and braise in the oven until the thighs are very tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and let them cool slightly. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the ragù and season with salt and pepper; keep warm. Discard the rosemary stems.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.

Add the pasta to the ragù along with 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and the 2 tablespoons of pecorino. Cook over moderate heat, stirring gently, until the pasta is hot and coated with sauce; add more cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls, serve, passing additional pecorino at the table.

MAKE AHEAD The ragù can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

A couple of hints:

  • Quick way to clean your spice grinder – grind 2 – 3 tbl of uncooked white rice in the grinder.  Discard the rice powder and brush or wipe the grinder clean.
  • I have tried this dish slicing the garlic and mashing the garlic into a paste.  Slicing is better – just be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter.

Last but not least, as I was working on this blog I had an idea to try this in the pressure cooker as a way to reduce the cooking time.  My menu for the coming week is already planned and food purchased but could be an option for the week after next.  I’ll share the results when I’ve completed the experiment.

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Cooking class, Food, Italian, Kitchen tools, Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Using Your Noodle

Yesterday I made mention of having some homemade dried pappardelle that was leftover from a cooking class I taught awhile back.  Homemade pasta just tastes better.  It has a better mouth -feel and the flavoring options are as limited as your imagination and sauce combinations.  Today I thought I would share with you my go -to recipe for a basic egg pasta.  This dough can be made in either a food processor or stand mixer.  I use a pasta machine with a motor to roll out the dough to the desired thickness.

Egg Noodle Dough

Makes 1 pound

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3-5 tbl water

Combine all the flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in the food processor with 3 tbl of water and process with a pulsing mixture until the dough forms small moist pellets that stick together when squeezed.  If the mixture is too dry, add more water and pulse again.   Alternatively, you can place all  of the ingredients, including 3 tbl of water, into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low to medium speed until the dough comes together.  As with the food processor, if the dough is too dry add a bit more water and continue mixing.  I actually prefer the dough made in stand mixer as I find it yields a more tender product.

Press the dough together into a flat cake, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator 15 – 30 minutes before rolling.  If you can, let it rest the 30 minutes.  I find it is easier to work with if it rests for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces for easier handling.  Working with one piece at a time (cover the rest of the dough and return to the refrigerator), knead the dough briefly by hand, adding all-purpose flour to keep if from sticking to the board.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle.

Place the dough in the pasta machine set on the widest setting (#1 on mine.)  Run the dough through the machine, fold it in half, dust with flour and run through again.  Continue rolling, folding, dusting and re-rolling until the dough comes out smooth – 6 to 10 times.  The dough will not be folded after this setting.  Set the pasta machine for the next thinner setting and put the sheet through again.  Continue to dust with flour, reduce the thickness and re-roll until you reach the desired thickness.

A word on thickness.  I roll dough that is to be turned into ravioli through the 6 mark on my machine.  Dough that will be turned into pappardelle is rolled to through the 7 mark.  I also have spaghetti and fettucine cutters and I generally roll the dough for those pastas through 7 before putting them through the cutter.

This is a very versatile dough that works for both cut and stuffed pasta.  It can be flavored with the herb of your choice.   You can add 4 tbl of tomato paste can be for tomato flavored pasta.  To make a spinach pasta just add 2 cups of washed and drained spinach leaves and omit the water (unless the pasta is too dry).

You’ll notice I do not use Semolina flour in my dough recipe. The semolina that is locally available is not, to my taste, fine enough to be used in the pasta dough.  It tends to impart a gritty mouth feel to the pasta that I find less than desirable.  I do, however, use it to make my deep dish pizza dough!

And last night’s leftover pasta – George thought I had made it from scratch yesterday!

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Cooking class, Food, Italian, Menus, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

Earlier this week I made a dish that called for thick sliced bacon so I bought a package.  Now what to do with the rest of the bacon.  As in most homes, getting rid of bacon is not really an issue.  After all, just about everything tastes better with bacon.  But I wanted to do something beyond the usual meat loaf or bacon burgers.  Then I found a recipe that actually used two ingredients I had on hand; bacon and home made pappardelle.  I recently taught a class that featured home made pappardelle. The leftovers not used in the recipe in class were dried and stored so the pasta was sitting in my cupboard. I was off to a good start!

Here’s what’s for dinner tonight:

Creamy Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon  (2 generous servings)

  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 tbl unsalted butter

    Ingredients for Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon

    Ingredients for Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon

  • 2 slices thick cut bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green part only, halved lengthwise and then sliced thin
  • 3 tbls heavy cream
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1/2 lb pappardelle or fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padno

 

  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring often until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp 6-9 minutes (at my altitude).  Add leeks and season with salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often until leeks begin to brown.  Add cream, thyme, and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  • While sauce is thickening, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain pasta reserving one cup of the pasta liquid.
  • Add pasta, parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water to sauce and stir to coat the pasta.,  Increase heat to medium and continue stirring until the sauce coats the pasta adding more pasta water if necessary.

I’ll serve this with a plate of sliced tomatoes and sliced fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Bacon and using up leftover ingredients.  That’s a winning combination!

Posted in Comfort food, Cooking, Entree, Food, Menus, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Another St. Patrick’s Day is here and, as George is 1/2 Irish, and we are celebrating in the traditional manner  – Irish Stew, Champ, Soda Bread and Guinness Stout (in the stew and in a glass!) I have seen recipes for an Irish Stout float but don’t know if that will make the cut.

I am trying out a new recipe for Irish Soda Bread – one that calls for a combination of cake flour and regular flour.  Why a mix?  Because cake flour is lower in protein than regular flour, and the mix more closely mimics the protein makeup of the flour found in Ireland.

The other major difference is that this bread is cooked in an iron skillet.  I was dubious about the iron skillet, but it turned out great.

Let’s start with the ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour

    Ingredients for Irish Soda Bread

    Ingredients ready to go

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tbl softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and adjust a rack to the center position.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the softened butter and rub it into the flour using your hands until the the butter is completely incorporated and the flour butter combination resembles coarse crumbs.  Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk.  Work the liquid into the flour using a fork until the dough comes together in large clumps.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead briefly until all the lose flour is incorporated.  The dough will be shaggy and uneven.

Irish Soada bread in the cast iron skillet ready for the oven

Irish Soda Bread ready for the oven

Form the dough into  6″ to 7: round and place in a cast iron skillet. It looks like a hot mess but trust me, this works.

Bake until browned and a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean – 40 to 45 minutes.  This is one time when altitude really doesn’t matter.  I baked mine for 40 minutes and this is how it came out.

Irish Soda Bread out of the oven with a lovely brown crust!

Finished Product!

Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  History tells me that this bread should be eaten within a day or two but it never last s longer than that in this house!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m off for a Guinness and some great Irish Stew, Champ and Soda Bread.  And all in the comfort of my own home!

Posted in Baking, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Family, Food, Holidays, International Cuisines, Irish, Recipes, St Patrick's Day, St. Patrick's Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment