Sunday, August 24, 2014

Simple Oven-Smoked Bacon

On my foodie bucket list is making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. I did make it last winter and it was amazingly tender and flavorful. It lived up to all my expectations and more. I can't wait to make it again and blog about it. I wanted to give myself an extra challenge by making the bacon required by the boeuf bourguignon recipe. I know people will think I'm crazy. However, learning the art of charcuterie is also on my foodie bucket list. I usually try to make recipes a few times before I blog about them. I'm ready to share my homemade version of pork belly bacon. There is so much more that I need to learn about making bacon, but I was thrilled to find out that I do not have to have a smoker to make my own bacon. I owe a lot to these two posts for my success "Ventreche, French Bacon" and "Oven Smoked Bacon Recipe." I call this recipe "Simple" because I didn't think it would be possible to make bacon without a smoker.





Simple Oven-Smoked Bacon
2 - 4 lbs pork belly (I used a 2 lb cut and I would go bigger but I haven't found a bigger cut)
3 oz of sea salt (I used Real Salt's Kosher Salt)
1 tin of trial size Weber wood chips (Someday I will probably have a wood preference but in my experimental phase this worked perfect for me)

1. Day 1 - Sprinkle both sides of the pork belly liberally with salt, place in a plastic bag with zipper seal, and keep in the refrigerator.



2. Day 2 - Flip the belly to the other side.

3. Day 3 - Flip the belly to the other side.

4. Day 3 - Several hours after the last flip, rinse the pork belly, pat dry, and leave on a rack at room temperature for 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wet the wood chips and put them back in the tin. Turn on your hood fan and place the wood chip tin on medium high burner until it starts smoking.





6. Carefully remove wood chip tin from heat. Set aside. I find it's best to have a cookie sheet already prepared with to large strips of tin foil. Big enough to create a tent with the wood chips and pork belly.
Place the wood chips on the foiled lined sheet pan, add the pork belly (with rack) on top of the chips. Crimp the foil creating a tent.





7. Place the belly in the oven 1 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the size of the pork belly until it reaches 150 degrees. (NOTE: the two pound belly was done in 1 1/2 hours)



8. Cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic and cool in refrigerator overnight before slicing.



9. The good news is that you can cut super thick slices and make big bacon bits (lardons).




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cheeseburger Cauliflower (Low-Carb Comfort Food)

Raise your hand if you've had at least 1 box of "Hamburger Helper" in your lifetime. We all love those one pot meals! I've discovered a simple low carb version. I've made this once a week for the past three weeks and we love it. The possibilities could be endless by switching up the ingredients. Stay tuned. I'm sure I'll post more versions. Note: it is easier with one pot and one pan, and no box of "Hamburger Helper" is required!




1 to 1 1/2 lbs of hamburger
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, diced
1 minced clove of garlic, or garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper
1 large head of cauliflower
4 oz of cream cheese (use low fat for South Beach or regular for The New Atkins)
1/4 cup of half and half (use fat free for South Beach or regular for The New Atkins)
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded (use low fat for South Beach or regular for The New Atkins)
1/2 teaspoon of dried mustard
1/8 teaspoon of tumeric

1. Set a pot full of salted water (2 - 3 quarts) to boil. Chop cauliflower into small florets.



2. Brown hamburger in pan.



3. While hamburger is browning boil the cauliflower for 8 - 10 minutes (until al dente).

4. When hamburger is almost done (most of the pink gone) push the hamburger off to the side of the pan and add diced onion to the hamburger fat.  Add garlic, salt, and pepper to the hamburger. When the onions are soft mix everything together. Keep on low until you add the cauliflower and cheese.




5. Drain cauliflower and set aside. In the same pot we cooked the cauliflower in melt cream cheese with half and half over medium heat.  Add the shredded cheddar cheese, dried mustard, and turmeric stirring continually.







6. Put it all together in the frying pan. Add the cauliflower to the hamburger and stir. Add the cheese sauce and stir. Turn up the heat briefly to bring to a serving temperature.




7. Dish up!






Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gas-Grilled Chicken Thighs and Broccolini with an Asian Flair

I thought I bought 3 packs of chicken breasts. No, turns out I bought boneless skinless chicken thighs. I must say that thighs are not my favorite. As a matter of fact, it's only in the last couple of years that I've started liking dark meat chicken. One of the first thigh meat recipes I liked is the Bourbon Chicken you  can get in food courts. I've tried to make that a few times at home using copy cat recipes, and it just doesn't turn out he same. If anyone out there knows of a good recipe for that please let me know! I did an Internet search for what to make with chicken thighs and I came across Rachel Ray's "Grilled Sweet-and-Sticky Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Harissa." They looked delicious and I had most of the ingredients. I improvised. Thanks to Rachel Ray I'll actually buy boneless skinless chicken thighs on purpose!




Gas-Grilled Chicken Thighs and Broccolini with an Asian Flair 
(adapted from Rachel Ray's Grilled Sweet-and-Sticky Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Harissa)

8 - 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of quality balsamic vinegar (use GF if sensitive)
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of Canadian Steak Seasoning
(or equal parts of fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic and a pinch of fennel seed if you have it)
1 orange, juiced
1 bunch of broccolini, ends trimmed and stalks peeled
scallions for garnish (optional)

1. In a small bowl add olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, crushed red pepper, spices, and orange juice. Whisk the marinade until blended.





2. Pour the marinade over chicken thighs and marinate 10 to 20 minutes (or until your done prepping the broccolini and the grill).



3. Trim the ends and peel the stalks of the broccolini.




4. Blanch the broccoli in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, drain and gently rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.


5. Prepare your grill by heating it on high for 10 minutes. Scrape the grates and brush them with olive oil using tongs and a couple of paper towels dipped in a bowl of olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade to a plate. Place the marinade in a small pot on the stove. Place the chicken on the grill. Turn down the heat to medium and grill the chicken on the first side for 6 minutes.




6. While chicken is cooking on side one heat the marinade until it boils then immediately turn the heat down to a low simmer. The marinade should continue a low boil.  (If you have one of those barbecues with a spot for a pot that would be perfect. I don't so I boiled the leftover marinade in the house).



7. Flip the chicken and grill on the second side for six minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill onto a cutting board, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes while the broccolini is cooking.




7. Arrange broccolini a grilling vegetable tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Grill the broccolini 2-3 minutes per side to reheat and get a little charbroil.




8. Slice the thighs in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.



9. Plate chicken slices around a couple stalks of broccolini, and drizzle a couple of spoonfuls of the reduced marinade over chicken and broccolini. Add the scallions if you have them. I didn't but I know I would like them as a garnish. I think cilantro would be good too. (Note: if you have left overs they are great in lettuce wraps the next day for lunch. We didn't even reheat the chicken. Delicious.)

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