Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Supper Scones and Apple Bombs November 6, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 4:03 PM
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Meal No. 43:  Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce; Green Cabbage with Leek; Currant Scones; Baked Cinnamon Apples

This is the “Spring” meal I skipped back in March/ April because it was already 80 degrees. What with the baked apples and extensive oven time, it sounded more appropriate for a cool fall day, although I guess it was supposed to be for St. Patrick’s Day? Only Martha knows what is in her heart…..

Currant Scones:

I have gone through most of the last 80 years thinking I didn’t care for scones. I tried them in coffee houses, where they were stale. I tried making them at home, and they came out of the oven tasting stale. But I loved the ones we had at the bed and breakfast last month so I was cautiously optimistic that maybe, just maybe, these would at least be edible.

They were, in fact, quite edible! I made a half batch (4), lest they be hideous,but they were the perfect texture of dry/moist, and weren’t too sweet. I wasn’t sure about the currants as, after all, aren’t they just dwarf raisins? But they were fine. In fact, I think this is an excellent base recipe, and plan to make another batch using some dried cherries we have in the pantry.

Oh, did I mention that I made these in the morning, and we ate them for breakfast/brunch, warm from the oven? We tried them again later, with the meat per Martha’s recipe, and it was quite an odd choice to serve with beef and cabbage and horseradish. No, no, no. Eat these little lovelies on their own and let them shine.

Currant Scones

(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home):  

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour,
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup dried currants
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted,

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in currants. Add cream, and stir just until combined.  Dough should be sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently gather dough into a mound just until it holds together. Pat into an 8″ circle about 1/2″ thick. Cut into 8 equal wedges with a bench scraper.

Arrange wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Transfer scones to a wire rack, and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature .
*The recipe calls for 1/4 c wheat germ, which I didn’t use. I also forgot to brush them with butter until they were halfway done cooking.

MEEEEEAAAAT:

Well, it’s a bit of a long story, but my farm share co-op substituted an eye of round roast for the bottom round I had ordered. I wasn’t sure if I could still cook it the way the recipe suggests: browned, then roasted at 350 for a an hour or so with some onions. So, I perused the wisdom of the internetz and found this recipe, which also got rave reviews on the Chowhound boards.

I rubbed the roast with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then placed it in the 500 degree oven, immediately turning it down to 475. After 12.5 minutes (7 min/lb), I turned the oven off, set an alarm on my phone for 2.5 hours later and hoped for the best.

Curiosity got the better of me at hour two, so I checked the temperature, even though the recipe forbids opening the oven prematurely. The temperature seemed low, so I turned the oven up to 225 for the last 30 minutes. At that point, the meat thermometer still wasn’t registering 140 degrees (for medium rare), so I turned it up to 350 and left it in for about 10-15 minutes, as we prefer our meat medium. (Well, The Husband prefers his burnt to a crisp, but he can always put his piece in the microwave or oven).

The meat turned out perfectly! It was still pink in the middle and nice and tender. We liked the crust it got on the edge.

Martha suggested serving the meat with a sour cream/horseradish/lemon juice sauce, which I didn’t care for (STOP PUTTING SAUCES ON BEEF UNLESS IT IS AN AU JUS!) and The Husband thought straight horseradish was better.

Cabbage: 

The grocery store I shopped for this meal didn’t have leeks and I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere else, so we did without, just like in the Great Leek Famine of 1907. I was supposed to simmer cabbage wedges and a leek in chicken broth with peppercorns and a bay leaf. I added a potato, because everyone knows that beef needs potato, plus this is supposedly an Irish dish (I guess?) so why not?

The cabbage and potatoes were ok–nothing to write home or a blog about. I would have preferred some kind of good potato dish with the roast. Ah, well.

Baked apples:

I have never made baked apples before, as I am not a fan of hot fruit. But they have a special place in my heart because on our first date at the Coventry Arabica, The Pre-Husband had to leave after a couple of hours because he had left some apples baking in his oven. How cute is that? (I was worried that he would burn his apartment down, but evidently they turned out fine).

These did not turn out fine. At all!   And now my baked apple fondnesses are RUINED!!! First I melted butter in a skillet, then mixed in some sugar, ground cinnamon, and added the apples cut side down and a cinnamon stick. They were to bake a mere 12 minutes. At that point, two were tender and two needed more time. I put the non-tender two in for another four minutes. When I went back, the apples had exploded out from under the skin.

The ones that didn’t explode were ok, but the skins were still tough, and the “butter sauce” was really closer to a taffy consistency. The ones that exploded had browned on their exposed edges, and had an oily taste. Boo!

OVERALL:

What an odd meal–it was as incomprehensible as a James Joyce novel.

Scones:   A    At last, a good baked dessert.

Roast Beast: N/A, as this wasn’t a Martha recipe

Cabbage: B-  Nothing special, or anything you couldn’t have come up with on your own

Apples:  F

 

Steaks & Cakes October 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 6:20 AM
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This week’s meal involved making a full dinner with a baked dessert in under an hour. But was it good?

Meal No. 42:  Skillet Rib-Eye Steaks; Broiled Peppers with Melted Cheese; Broccoli with Garlic and Anchovies; Molten Chocolate-Espresso Cakes. Recipes, from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home, can be found online here, but the dessert is called Chocolate Truffle Cakes, and is a bit different. Hmm.  

The steak:

The recipe called for rib-eye, which I couldn’t find, so I got a T-bone. Or maybe it was a Porterhouse. I don’t know–it was nearly a pound and had a bone in it.

The steak was salted, peppered, and pressed gently with rosemary. Olive oil was heated in a cast iron skillet with a couple of cloves of garlic, then the steak was tossed in to sear. It only seared in one spot, so I guess my steak wasn’t cut evenly, or my burner is crap, or probably both. Once the steak was done, it was removed, and more rosemary was tossed into the pan of oil until it sizzled, then the oil/herb mixture was poured over the steak.

The rosemary lent a nice flavor, but the oil was too much for me. Ew.

Peppers:

Oddly enough, the store didn’t have asiago cheese (although there were plenty of more exotic choices) so once I broiled the Anaheim chiles for five minutes I stuffed half with a string cheese stick and half with a Mexican cheese blend we happened to have in the house, and popped them back in the oven until the cheese browned.

These were ok–The Husband found the texture of the string cheese suspect, as I knew he would. The Mexican cheese melted nicely, but it needed something else to make it really tasty. I suppose I could have used a hotter pepper, but the Anaheim was one of the types she suggested. 

Broccoli:

Broccoli was sautéed with garlic and chopped anchovies in olive oil. It seemed a touch oily, and although the dish seemed seasoned, it wasn’t apparent that it was anchovies doing the work. I suppose that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about anchovies.

Molten Lava Cakes:

 At last! A “real” dessert! Too bad I couldn’t eat it, due to its chocolate content. These were very quick to mix up. I made a half batch, which made three little cakes. At first the insides were appropriately gooey, then, just as Martha foretold, they were fudgey on the inside after cooling to room temperature.

The Royal Taster/Husband says they were good, but he thought they were too alkaline in taste, due to the bittersweet chocolate and espresso powder. He thinks he would have liked them better if made with some semi-sweet chocolate instead. Note that this didn’t stop him from eating all three in one day.

The recipe in the above link is different, as it doesn’t have vanilla and involves more chocolate and fewer eggs. She says to make that one a day ahead for extra fudginess. I wonder why she changed the recipe for the menu?  There’s a similar molten lava cake recipe on the site that doesn’t contain espresso. Ah, well.

OVERALL:

I was quite pleased that the entire meal only took 50 minutes to make. It was all edible, so I will chalk this up as a win, although I don’t think I would make any of these recipes again without tweaking them. I also thought it seemed a bit heavy, what with the steak, oil on the steak, cheese, oil on the broccoli, and cake.  The Husband was wondering where the carbs to absorb the fat were.  Also, the photos were all very unappealing, so I didn’t add them.

Steak:  B  I think this would have been better cooked on the grill, and without the oil poured on top.

Peppers: B

Broccoli:  B

Cakes:  B

 

Pugilistic Soup, Wine Jello, & Some Other Food September 3, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:18 PM
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Menu No. 34: Blender Gazpacho; Grilled Steak and Blue (sic) Cheese Potatoes; Spinach and Grilled Corn Salad; Blackberry -Red Wine Gelatin

In which my tongue was assaulted and not in friendly ways….

Gazpacho:

I don’t like gazpacho. It’s usually like eating liquefied salsa without the fun of the tortilla chips.  I thought I was the only one, but several fellow gazpacho-haters have come out of the closet to me when I mentioned having to make this. I didn’t have high hopes, and I am not sure why I didn’t just make a half batch or quarter batch, even. This recipe made a bucketful. 

The recipes calls for pureeing garlic, red wine vinegar, water, day old bread, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and half an English cucumber with a bit of oil. While it didn’t taste like salsa, it wasn’t good. The first day I tried it, it tasted odd–one bite would be tomato-y, the next would taste like bread. By the second day, the red pepper taste took over and it was so acidic it burnt my tongue!  Yeouch. 

Salad:

Super simple: baby spinach, grilled corn, red onion, and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. What, no Dijon mustard? Unthinkable!

Lucky for me, I didn’t even have to grill the corn. Earlier in the summer I was a bit of a corn hoarder. One day, my giant pile of corn fell over and I was missing for a week.

For real,  I did somehow end up with 17 ears at one point, so I grilled them all up and then cut the kernels all off and froze them. So that is what I used for the salad, which turned out well. The flavors really paired nicely with the steak and bleu cheese.

Steak:

The cookbook says to marinate skirt steak in Worcestesrhire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil for 15 minutes or overnight. I marinated ours for about 12 hours, then grilled it. Our grass-fed skirt steak was super thin on one end, and nearly an inch thick on the other.

The first piece I tried was from the thin end and I hated it! Hated. It. All I could taste was the Worcestershire sauce, which might as well have been A-1. As you might remember, my people don’t believe it mucking with a nice piece of meat. The Husband, on the other hand, thought it tasted good. (He has no cattle rancher relations, so his naivete is forgivable.)  The thicker pieces of meat were less atrocious, as the sauce marinade hadn’t totally overtaken the beef flavor. I still would never do that to the meat again.

Potatoes:

I boiled some red skin potatoes until they were tender (which, by the way, took twice as long as Martha says it should), cut them in half, brushed them with olive oil and tossed them on the grill for a few minutes. After they had some nice grill marks we spread them with blue cheese. By the way, is anyone else irked that everyone seems to be spelling it “blue” nowadays, including Ms. Stewart?! Hate. 

 I thought these were tasty, but The Husband thought the cheese overpowered the rest of the meal, while the potatoes themselves were bland.  The bleu I got did have a lot of POW.

Gelatin:

Finally, some more booze desserts! This concoction is devised of unsweetened apple juice, water, unflavored gelatin, a full-bodied red wine, sugar, and a pint of blackberries.

Guess what? The Husband actually made this several years ago, when I saw it in MS Living magazine! It was sooo boozey that I couldn’t eat it. The Husband, however, really liked it. Needless to say, I excused myself from making it again.

OVERALL:

Did you notice that this meal involved five dishes? I could have done without the soup, for sure. And the gelatin. If she had  not marinated the meat, and paired it all with a nice peach cobbler* it would have been so much better.

*I made one the other day I may post about.

SOUP:    F   It was weird and burnt my tongue with its acid, but was it as bad as the raddichio horror of last winter? The flavor was not as bad as the salad, but it caused me bodily harm. It’s a toss up as to which is worse.

STEAK:   B-   We were split vastly on this one– Mr. SP gave it an A, and I thought the thin, over-marinated parts were horrible, but not as offensive as the star anise beef recipe of winter.

POTATOES:  B

SALAD:  A

GELATIN OF MEMORIES:    C

 

Cheeseburgras and Cuppycakes July 5, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:03 AM
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This was our Independence Day menu, and, as in any democracy, we were split along party lines.  

Meal No. 28: Pancetta Cheeseburgers; Balsamic Mushrooms; Tomato, Basil and White Bean Salad; Coconut-topped Cupcakes  

(Again, this menu and all recipes are available on Martha’s website here)  

Burgers:  

Grilled Polyface Farm ground beef! Pancetta crisped in the oven! Melted fontina cheese!  

Sounds amazing, yes?  

Well. I thought it was actually a smidge odd. The meat was seasoned with chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper, all things I like. Yet, something about it tasted kind of off. The pancetta was lovely, as always, but I couldn’t taste the cheese. I have a couple of better burger recipes (chipotle turkey burgers, and kefta burgers) that I could have made instead.  It’s pretty hard to mess up a burger, and yet, they were not quite right.  

On the other hand, The Husband quite enjoyed them! He liked that they were seasoned, but not so much that it interfered with the taste of the meat. Go figure.  

The buns, made by Kolache House Bakery and sold at  local produce stand, were delicious, if a tad too big.  

Mushrooms:  

These were simple enough: mushrooms were sautéed in olive oil, then cooked with balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper for one minute.  

They were good–the amount of balsamic (2 T for 8 oz of mushrooms) was not overwhelming like it often can be. Because Martha’s dishes have so often lacked seasoning I was slightly heavy-handed with the red pepper flakes, but then I kept choking on the pepper as I ate them. Ha!  

Although tasty, we felt they were somewhat incongruous with the rest of the meal. They were heavy and “dark” tasting, if that makes sense. And even if it doesn’t.  The Husband got a bit philosophical about mushrooms in general, wondering if they ever really have a lot of flavor or pack a punch.  

  

Bean and Tomato Salad:  

This is Martha’s take on a mozzarella/tomato/basil salad, substituting white beans for the cheese. That’s alright in my book, as I love beans.  

I think this was my favorite dish of the meal, but mainly because I used some amazing local heirloom cherry tomatoes (Martha had suggested plum tomatoes), and basil plucked fresh off my plant. I sautéed two cloves of garlic in olive oil, and that served as the dressing.  

  

I thought it had a ton of flavor; the tomatoes and basil were very fresh-tasting– the epitome of summer food– and melded well with the creamy beans. I only made a half batch because we only had one can of beans, and I so wish we had leftovers. It would be good with some grilled bread and salad, while sitting on a patio with a glass of sparkling white wine.  

The Husband liked it, but he thought it needed more garlic and basil. He always thinks that, though.  

Cupcakes:  

I made two batches of these. I saw that the ingredients called for coconut extract, and I made myself bananas running all over town trying to find one that wasn’t artificially flavored. The closest I came was at Ellwood Thompsons, but they were charging $7 for a tiny bottle of cottonseed oil and ‘natural flavors.’ I have read Omnivore’s Dilemma, so I know that ‘natural flavors’ are often anything but, and not even food, necessarily. So, what could I use instead?  

I thought about cream of coconut, but the ingredient list looked suspiciously like that of toothpaste. While you can ingest toothpaste without dying, you probably don’t want to eat a lot of if. So, no cream of coconut. I could have used the coconut milk in our pantry, but that would have been too easy, and I was worried about adding more fat. So, I got a can of coconut water.  

In the first (half)  batch of cupcakes I tried to infuse the cake with some coconut flavor by substituting the coconut water for the milk. They didn’t puff up as much as regular cupcakes do, but they were ok in terms of texture and moistness. There were very vague hints of coconut flavor in the cake, but not a lot. The Husband thought they were good. Instead of using the extract in the frosting, I used a bit of vanilla extract and some coconut water. It tasted like your average cream cheese frosting.  

Since I wasn’t bowled over by the coconut flavor, I decided to make the second (half) batch according to Martha’s recipe, with the fakey fake extract in the frosting. It was fine, and tasted like coconuts. Better living through chemistry, right? The cupcakes made with milk puffed up more, and were pleasant. All in all a good cupcake, topped with flaked coconut, but nothing that will change my life or anything.  

Happy birthday, America! You don't look a day over 233!

 

OVERALL:  

Everything went together well with the exception of the mushrooms. The meal was relatively easy to make, but it did take longer than an hour.  

Burgers:    Mr. SP says they are an A, I think they are a B at best, so B+  

Mushrooms:   B+   

Bean Salad:      A  

Cupcakes:       A  

OVERALL:   A-

 

Chimichurri Showdown: Emeril vs. Martha May 8, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes,Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:52 PM
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 Sorry, mom.  I had to put some more stuff on steak. I hope this doesn’t ruin Mother’s Day for you. 

Menu No 19: Steak with Chimichurri; Roasted Potato Wedges; Sautéed Spinach with Vidalia Onions; Torrijas 

 

 

Steak: 

The recipe calls for 2 lbs of strip steak. I never make steak so I have no idea what cut is what, unless it’s a a T-bone, which, you know, has that T-shaped bone in it. Turns out strip steak is damned expensive; if you want a free-range piece it can go for more than $20 a pound. Since we are not millionaires, I decided to go with 1 lb of rib-eye, which was considerably less expensive. 

I resisted the impulse to grill them, and followed Martha’s simple recipe: dry with a paper towel, salt and pepper both sides, place in cast iron skillet and cook over medium high heat until it has a nice crust, then turn. It rests for 10 minutes, and is sliced against the grain, then topped with chimichurri sauce. 

Chimichurri Sauce(s): 

Evidently I have never had chimichurri sauce–I thought it was a type of Argentinean salsa. but that’s not how it works at all. My grilling cookbook has two recipes for it, as does my Emeril Lagasse grilling cookbook (Emeril at the Grill), so I decided to pit Emeril vs. Martha and make both sauces. I made half of hers, and a quarter of his. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! 

Martha’s is as follows (adapted from Dinner at Home): 

1/2 c minced red onion 

1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley 

1 T coarsely chopped fresh oregano 

1 T minced garlic 

1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil 

3 T red wine vinegar 

1/2 T crushed red pepper flakes 

1 T finely grated lemon zest 

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season with 2 1/2 t salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

Hers is supposed to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, while Emeril advises to let his rest for 2-6 hours. Here is his.  And the drum roll please! 

>  

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We actually liked Martha’s better! 

Did you faint? Yes, us, too. But hers was less acidic, with a better oil to vinegar ratio, and had a better flavor overall. That doesn’t mean I actually enjoyed eating either one on my actual steak. Ew–too vinegar-y.  See, mom? You raised me right after all. 

The Husband enjoyed Martha’s version with the steak, he liked the “oniony whatnot” of it.* He also said it reminded him of A-1, without the molasses flavor. A-1 is an abomination, and I don’t recall what it tastes like, having had it so long ago and never since. To me, the chimichurri reminded me of tabouli without the bulgur. Or like a parsley salad. I don’t know why you would put this on meat, but there you have it.  Sorry Emeril! 

*The Husband’s Helpful Household Hint: the chimichurri would be good to serve with a wine that’s about to go bad. No one would notice the vinegar-y taste of the wine after tasting the sauce.  The tempranillo we opened with it, however, was no match, sadly. 

Roasted Potatoes: 

The “recipe” called for slicing three Russet potatoes into 12 wedges, tossing them with olive oil and minced garlic on the cookie sheet, and roasting them. We clearly have an oven temperature issue, as I checked on them quite a bit earlier than the time she gave, and they were already overcooked on one side.  They tasted pretty much like all of her potato recipes have tasted. 

Spinach with Vidalia Onions: 

I don’t normally think to eat spinach with beef; usually it’s eaten with chicken or fish in the Squeaky Peanut house. We cook it with lots of garlic, and maybe some red pepper flakes, and then add lemon, so this was unusual for us. The Husband was already biased against it after I mentioned the Vidalia onion part, thinking it would be too sweet. 

This “recipe” called for sautéing a sliced Vidalia onion in olive oil, then sautéing baby spinach until it’s wilted. I will say I liked the Vidalia onion with it, as it managed to taste buttery to me. The chimichurri was so acidic, it wouldn’t have worked to cook the spinach as we normally do. 

However, as The Husband pointed out, any idiot could cook this, so why bother with a recipe? 

Torrijas vs. Some Pretty Ok Cookies: 

Dessert was to be torrijas;  a bastardization of a Spanish Lenten treat similar to our French toast. Guess who doesn’t like French toast? Squeaky Peanut. And Mr. Squeaky Peanut! 

In Martha’s version, a loaf of French bread was to be cut into four quadrants, dipped into sweetened condensed milk, and then pressed like a panini in a pan. That seems somewhat geometrically impossible. Also? Sweetened condensed milk is creepy. Milk + sugar. But in a can? Traditional torrija recipes call for milk, honey, sugar, etc. So, I decided not to waste our money, time or calories on the nonsense. 

Instead, I made Martha’s Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, from her website, because we went a bit strawberry crazy at the farmer’s markets last week. I messed them up a bit by forgetting to add the butter until after the cream was added, and I found out too late we don’t have any parchment paper, but they are forgiving little things. 

They turned out pretty nice even though they aren’t much to look at. I also forgot to sprinkle the tops with sugar, which worked out well because they weren’t too sweet.  No one is going to be fooled into thinking this is actually strawberry shortcake, but it’s the kind of thing where you eat one, and think, “Oh, this isn’t bad” and the next thing you know you’ve eaten half the pan. They are good with tea or milk. 

OVERALL: 

I suppose everything went together ok, if you like that sort of thing. We both thought the idea of torrijas after the chimichurri sauce sounded particularly unfortunate. Other than chopping the herbs, potato and onion, there isn’t much prep work to this meal, so it took about an hour. 

Steak w/Chimichurri: The Husband gives the sauce a B. I am deferring to him because I didn’t like it in a philosophical context, not necessarily the thing itself. 

Potatoes:   C    Tastes fine, nothing special and no recipe needed 

Spinach:  C     Tastes fine, also nothing special, and no recipe needed 

Cookies:   Should I grade things that aren’t in the cookbook? If so, A-

 

Culinary Indignities & Good Party Food April 26, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes — squeakypeanut @ 9:39 PM
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This time it wasn’t Martha’s fault. We took a road trip up to Cleveland for my dad’s birthday party this last weekend, so no Martha menu yet this week. Along the route, which cost an outrageous $30 in tolls,  there are very few decent food options. I was subjected to wilted lettuce in one salad, stale croutons in another, and undercooked pizza crust.

Thank goodness we ate well at the actual party. My dad is a total meat and potatoes kind of guy; Tex-Mex and BBQ are his favorites, so that’s what we made.  We had guacamole , cheddar thumbprint “cookies” with jalepeno jelly, BBQ brisket, potato salad, Ranch Style beans (which I had to bring with me from VA since they aren’t carried up there), and grilled vegetables marinated in some basil olive oil.

I cheated on Martha, and used a Paula Deen brisket recipe that she got from someone else. I’ve had trouble getting briskets to turn out tender in the past, so I made this in advance so I’d have enough time for a Plan B if needed. It turned out tender, so we hauled it up to Ohio in a cooler. The first day it was really spicy. We couldn’t even use the au jus that cooked off the meat because it has so much chili powder in it. The heat seemed to have tamed down a bit after it sat for a day, or maybe that bite we initially had just had more rub than the rest.

The recipe didn’t call for marinating the meat in the rub, but it seemed like a good idea. If you are short on time it should be fine to skip that step. It also said to cook at 300, but we lowered the temp to ensure tenderness.

Texas Oven-Roasted BBQ Brisket (adapted from Paula Deen via Tom Perini on foodnetwork.com)

2 T chili powder (I used a combo of regular and chipotle)

2 t kosher salt

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 T ground black pepper

1 T dark brown sugar

2 t ground mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed

4 lbs beef brisket

1.5 c beef stock

Combine dry spices and rub onto both sides of meat. Wrap in cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple-few hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Place brisket in a roasting pan, fat side up, and roast for one hour. Reduce heat to 250, cover pan tightly with foil, and cook for 5 or so more hours, checking after four to gauge tenderness.

I concocted a BBQ sauce to serve with it–not sure what all I ended up putting in it, so I can’t help you there.

Cheddar Goodness:

These were a big hit at the office Christmas party, so I made some for the birthday party. The youngest and oldest guests regarded them with suspicion, so if you are cooking for people between the ages of 18 and 75, it should be ok.

The cheddar thumbprint recipe I used is available here ( I don’t use the pecans, as I think it detracts from the cheddar flavor.) Don’t skimp on the quality of the cheese (I usually use a couple different cheddars), and use hot jalapeno jelly for best results.

This is my favorite guacamole recipe, which I’ve made for other occasions and it’s always popular. My family laughed at me for making a bucket of it, but they damn near ate all of it!

 

Dear Cow: I’m sorry March 14, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 12:13 AM
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You had to die only to be served up covered in some licorice. At least you got to spend your life on a farm, pastured and nibbling on grasses.

Menu No. 13: Spice-Rubbed Beef Filets; Golden Potato Puree; Port-Glazed Pearl Onions; Chocolate Truffles

Prep Schedule: make truffles and refrigerate; simmer and glaze onions; boil potatoes and steep bay leaf in milk; rub filets with spice crust and sear; puree potatoes

Truffles: In a fit of rebellion, we declined to make these.  Of late I can’t eat chocolate, especially dark chocolate, without getting a migraine or at least a regular headache. The Husband is similarly afflicted at times. I made chocolate truffles at Christmas for a treat exchange and this recipe appears similar, except that it seems like more of a pain in the ass because it demands using an ice bath. When I made them, the chocolate mixture was refrigerated, then scooped into balls. Moving on…

Looks tasty, yes?

Potato “puree”:

The recipe is a tad unusual in that you steam some milk with a bay leaf in it while the Yukon Gold  potatoes are boiling. Using her ratio of milk to potatoes would have left me with a pile of dry boiled potatoes. I used twice as much of the milk, and a bit of the cooking water, per her suggestion, along with a bit of butter. The bay leaf flavor was so, so subtle that the potatoes were really just kind of boring, and definitely not creamy enough; they were a touch watery. More butter and milk were needed.

Port-glazed Pearl Onions:

I used some red pearl onions, but Martha says you can also use white.  I am a bit confused about why both Martha and the package say the easy way to peel the onions is to blanch them then squeeze the onions out of the peel. Am I the only one who thinks boiling another pot of water (and then washing the pot) is more trouble than using a paring knife to cut the skins off raw? It didn’t take that long ,even though I cut off the tops when I only needed to cut off the bottoms. Live and learn.

This was the the best part of the meal, although her directions were somewhat outside the realms of reality and science.  The onions and wine were simmered until the liquid was reduced to a thin syrup. Then, a bit of sugar, beef stock and red wine vinegar were added; supposedly it would reduce and thicken if just simmered gently for 10 minutes. The directions specifically said not to boil it. Well, of course it hadn’t reduced at all after 10 minutes of a simmer, so I had to crank up the heat and boil it, for more than 10 more minutes, to get it to thicken and for the onions to become tender. The house didn’t explode when I boiled it against her instructions, but there was quite a bit of thunder outside. Hmm.

This was the best thing on the plate. It was a tad sweet,  a bit spicy from the onions, and it had a rich flavor. Here’s the recipe (adapted from Dinner at Home, by Martha Stewart):

2 c pearl onions, peeled

1.5 cups tawny port (we used a sweet red wine, labeled as such, from Trader Joe’s)

1 T sugar

1 c beef stock, low sodium if store-bought

1 T red wine vinegar

2 T unsalted butter

Bring onions and port to simmer in a medium saute pan over medium heat; cook, stirring ocassionally, until liquid reduces to a thin syrup, about 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook until dissolved, about one minute. Pour in stock and vinegar, and cook until reduced and thickened, and onions are tender. Add butter, stirring until melted. Add salt and pepper.

Beef Filets:

Oh, I was so not looking forward to this recipe. I haven’t been eating beef for a variety of reasons, then I just read Omnivore’s Dilemma, which made me even less inclined to eat meat. The recipe calls for rubbing star anise on a filet mignon. My aversion to licorice-y substances is well documented in this blog, so there was no way I was going to eat this one.  Mr. Squeaky Peanut likes beef and licorice, and was, in fact, having a licorice-y cocktail while I made this. Ew.

I managed to procure a filet from Dragonfly Farms via the Fall Line Farm co-op I mentioned last week. All of the farm’s meat is grass-fed and finished, so I at least felt good about that. However, the recipe calls for grinding up some star anise, peppercorns, and coarse salt and using it as a rub. Why, oh why, oh why, would you want to ruin a lovely, expensive piece of meat by putting that terrible spice on it?

The filet was seared on both sides, then put in the oven at 450 for ten minutes. It was supposed to be medium rare at this point, but even though I took it out a minute early, it was overcooked. I was worried because grass fed beef has to cook lower and slower than corn-fed beef.  The Husband likes his beef well-done, so he didn’t mind.

The anise flavor was pretty noticeable, and I didn’t like it. That aside, it really had nothing else to recommend it. It definitely needed more pepper. The Husband said it would have made more sense to use an herb de Provence mix to get an anise-y flavor, with some other herby goodness along with it.

OVERALL:

This meal made me sad, but Martha calls this a “celebratory dinner.” You know what I’m celebrating? The end of the Winter recipe section!

Beef: C Too plain, yet too licorice-y at the same time. A waste of a nice piece of meat.

Potatoes: D I mean, seriously, who can’t make good mashed potatoes?!

Onions: B+ In the context of the meat, it’s an A-, since it helped the meat tremendously. This is the only thing we’d make again, but paired with something better.