Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches


Last night I didn't sleep well.

I often have that problem (and see from Facebook that many of my friends do, too!). My thoughts just seems to get going in the wee hours of the morning, and I cannot fall back to sleep. Hard liquor keeps me up, too, though last night neither my thoughts nor alcohol were the culprit—it was food.

In a moment of efficiency, I started making bbq beef last night. Ah ha! It will be done by morning, and voila, no cooking tomorrow! (Making time to build a water heater for my chicken coop).

Sometime around 1 a.m. I awoke, the smell of barbeque meat wafting into my nose. In most cases that should be pleasant, but it wasn't. I couldn't stand it, and spent the next hour trying to get back to sleep by covering my face with blankets. Then I started to worry that the crock pot was going to catch fire, or that the food was burning. I imagined our fire exit plan, and wondered if I could make it out a window in a robe without tripping.

Finally, at about 2:30 a.m., I went down to the kitchen, and discovered that the vent on the crockpot lid was open. Nothing was burning however, so I closed the vent, added a touch of water and finally managed to get to sleep.

I wish I had slept better, but I tasted the final product, and it is beyond delicious. BBQ beef sandwiches tonight, and a day off from cooking! Maybe I'll go nap...

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Amounts are approximate—taste it and adjust!

1 hunk of beef (I used flank steak)


1 large clove garlic (huge), chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 small can tomato paste

¼ to ½ cup apple cider vinegar

3-4 tsp yellow mustard

few shakes Worchestershire sauce

few heaping tablespoons brown sugar

some salt and pepper

2 tsp adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)

2 tbsp ancho-honey marinade (unless you made this for another purpose, I wouldn't go to the trouble. You could just process 2 soaked, deseeded peppers, with a bit of honey and a squeeze of oj)

¼ cup apple cider

Ancho-honey Marinade (great with pork!)

3 dried anchos

one onion

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp each cumin, oregano, thyme, crushed hoja santa

½ cup oj

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp worchestershire


Preheat skillet or dutch oven on stove w/ some oil

chop onion and garlic and set aside.

Mix other ingredients and set aside

Sear meat in dutch oven until browned on both sides (about 3 minutes/side). Sprinkle with salt.

Add onions and garlic for last minute.

Place in crockpot, pour sauce over.

Cook on low for 9 hours.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Five Great Uses for Apple Cider




1. Drink it

Hot Toddy

My favorite is simply warm apple cider with Yahara Bay apple brandy.



2. Dress it up

Balsamic-Maple-Cider Dressing

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp apple cider

2 tsp mustard

1/3 cup oilve oil

1 tsp maple syrup

½ tsp minced gartlic

¼ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and adjust flavors to your liking.


3. Spice it up

Apple-Chile Chutney

2 tbsp butter

4 tart apples, peeled cored and diced

½ white onion

4 poblanos, roasted and peeled

1 habanero, seeds removed, finely chopped

1 tsp chipotle sauce

¼ cup sugar

1 cup apple cider, reduced to ¼ cup

marjoram

Heat butter, add onion and sautee until soft

Reduce heat and add chopped chiles, apples and sugar, sautee 10 minutes

Add reduced cider, marjoram and adobo sauce.

Remove from heat and cool.


4. Spread it

Jalapeno-Cider Aioli (adapted from tasting a yummy sandwich at the Alchemy)

1/2 cup mayo (the real deal!)

½ jalapeno, minced, or to taste

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic minced

¼ cup reduced apple cider (Reduce ½ cup by simmering about 10 minutes)

Mix and enjoy!

5. Glaze it (2 for 1 recipe)

Pumpkin-Apple Cake with Cider Glaze

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch nutmeg clove,

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp ginger powder

½ cup butter

1 cup roasted squash

¾ packed brown sugar

2 eggs

3 tbsp milk

2 tbsp apple sauce

1 apple peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar. Add mashed squash, eggs and other wet ingredients.

Mix dry into wet ingredients, stirring just until mixed.

Fold in apples.

Bake about 50-55 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.

Let cool before glazing.

Glaze

2 tbsp butter melted

2 tbsp cider

1 tbsp apple brandy

1.5 cups confectioner's sugar

Stir together until it has a thick but pourable consistency.

Apple Cider Roasted Squash (from Good Life Eats)
adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

1 acorn squash

1 Tbs butter

1 cup apple cider or apple juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

dash nutmeg

fresh rosemary, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut acorn squash in half from stem to opposite end. Scoop out the seeds. Cut off the stem end and discard. Cut several slices 1 inch in width. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a oven safe pan or dutch oven. Add squash slices, toss to coat with butter.

In a bowl, combine the apple cider or juice, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Pour over the squash. Add fresh rosemary, to taste (I used about 2 tsp, coarsely chopped). Stir to coat. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle sugar on top of the squash and cider mixture. Transfer pan or dutch oven to the oven and roast until squash is tender and liquid has caramelized, about 10-20 minutes. Serve!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies


I love peanut butter and chocolate. And so does my family apparently!

I made a batch of these perfect peanut butter cookies yesterday, and we're already running low.

I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen exactly. They were extra special because I used peanut butter from my our family's farm in Africa. (Yes, it has lasted this long in the fridge.) Smooth, deeply roasted and grown by family.

Mmmm....winter bliss.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Everything is Better with Lard-SlowPig Madison 2011

“I've cured 13 vegetarians with the power of pork,” said Greg Nadasdy, the bartender from Roots restaurant in Milwaukee, as he stood among the four other mixologists vying for the SlowPig “craft punch” win. Joining them were four chefs, Tory Miller of Graze, Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero, Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, and Paul Zerkel of Roots in Milwaukee, also hoping for the grand prize—a hand-crafted, pig-shaped skillet.

Vegetarians were probably not drawn to the carnivorous event, which was held at Madison Club and organized by Executive Chef Dan Fox. But if they had been, I'm certain the amazing selection of pig-based dishes would have “cured” all of them. Each chef came up with 5-7 dishes from a locally-raised heritage pig. From Sanford's Corn Dogs with Foie Gras Mustard, to Root's Lard Gingersnaps (I got stuck way too long upstairs enjoying samplings from Sanford and Osteria Papavero--and a huge pile of caviar--that I completely, and sadly, missed Root's spread of food.) the samplings went far beyond the pork chops or hot dogs that most of us typically enjoy.

The names of some of the dishes, such as “head cheese” and “tongue confit”, might sound less than appealing even to meat eaters. However, I liked the bold name Tory Miller bestowed upon one of his appetizers-- “face tacos”. The deliciously simple crunch of a fresh tortilla chip, topped with perfectly seasoned shredded meat (from the face of the pig, obviously), garnished simply with radish and pickled onion made it one of the stand-out dishes of the night.

I also enjoyed the Sopressana Toacana w/ Balsamic Braised Cipollini (Osteria), and the Crispy Pork Belly with Kimchee and Lettuce (L'Etoile). My favorite dish of the event was Sanford's superb dessert—Laquered Bacon Roast Apple and Fig with Cider Cream and Cranberry Broth. The broth had an imperceptible note of clove, with savory overtones. After a few minutes of playing food detective with those around me, I realized that I could simply ask the chef! Fresh cranberry juice, white wine, bay leaf and mace, he said, along with a pinch of clove and some sugar.

This event brought together farmers, chefs, foodies and food producers in a way that felt, for lack of a better word, awesome. Micah Nicholes, who raises heritage pigs near Blue Mounds and supplied the chefs with their pig of choice, was dressed up and accompanied by his radiant and pregnant wife, Patty. Micah looked equally at ease in the crowd as the Madison Club members.

Representatives from Black Earth Meats, Willow Creek Farm and Underground Food Collective, among others offered samples of their meat selection—and unexpectedly connected me to my own food traditions. I haven't eaten Braunshweiger since I was a kid, when my dad spread it on bread with mayo. And seeing the dry-cured sausages from Bulzano Meats brought back memories of the homemade Tyrolean sausage that my mother's family used to make in Pennsylvania.

Isn't that what slow food is all about: Connecting us to our roots and communities by honoring food traditions and the people in our communities who that make that possible? Though only two skillets were handed out, there were many, many winners at SlowPig Madison 2011.