Saturday, October 19, 2013

Raspberry Chipotle Pork Chops

After a few hours of contemplating I finally decided on what to cook for dinner tonight.  I was hoping to find some nice thick cut bone-in pork chops, but unfortunately all I could find were some thick cut boneless pork chops.   Regardless, they looked good, so I grabbed them and some other cuts for a day of smoking tomorrow.

Pork chops, when cooked properly,  are extremely juicy and flavorful. Historically we have been taught that pork has to be cooked to well done in order for it to be safe to eat.  Unfortunately this meant cooking it to the point of dry and tasteless.  Fortunately we have come to realize that pork can be cooked to medium/medium well and they can be extremely juicy, and still safe to eat.  Unlike steak, while you can cook a pork chop to medium rare, it gets too chewy and isn't as good as when cooked to at least medium.

I had some asparagus that needed to be cooked so I chopped the spears in half and coated them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  I put them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

While the asparagus was cooking I preheated the grill to about 350 degrees and put the pork chops on the grill.  I cooked them on both sides for 3 minutes and then reduced the heat to low for another 6 minutes.

I then coated them in the raspberry chipotle and let them cook for another 2 minutes.   Once the sauce was heated up I pulled the pork chops off the grill and let them rest for five minutes.

Everything came out just right and it was awesome, the sweet and nutty flavor of the Parmesan asparagus, went well with the sweet and spicy flavor in the raspberry chipotle sauce.  As for a beer, I chose Firestone Union Jack IPA.  This was a great combination of sweet, spicy, and bitter (from the hops) making this a great pairing.  


Recovery Day

Today has been a recovery day around the house.  This may have been a short work week, but it felt like two.  It was nice to have an entire week's worth of meals planned out before I got started, but I quickly discovered that some of my choices for side dishes were going to take several hours to prepare.  This wouldn't be a problem on the weekend, but during the work week it is an instant no-go.  

For me, choosing cuts of meat for use during the week that will cook quickly, but still be packed with flavor is a requirement.  The window for getting home, cooking, relaxing and preparing for the next work day is so small, that I typically put together combinations that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less.  I am also trying to cook healthier during the week because we typically eat late at night, so we really don't want to be loaded down with a huge meal before bed.

Mandy and I used to down a 16oz steak a piece without blinking, but reality is that is waaaay to much meat for a single person to eat on a regular basis.  Now I will buy one steak that typically ranges from 10-16 oz and I split that between the 2 of us for dinner.  The reduction in the quantity of meat is now offset by more fresh vegetables and occasionally a starch or bread.

So as I sit and ponder my next expedition through the world of meat, I have some solid side dishes lined up, I just need the perfect meat and beer, or maybe wine.... for another week of magnificence!

There will be smoked meat tomorrow, followed by another 5 days of fantastic tasty treats.  I am really considering sausages, spicy Italian, hot links, bratwurst, even chicken basil sausages.... Not sure Mandy would agree with that, so maybe something a little more conventional is in order, like bone in pork chops, grilled lamb steaks, braised pork ribs (not really a quick meal, but worth it), we'll see.  This week is also Mandy's birthday so rack of lamb will obviously be on the menu for this week.

I definitely have some planning to do, but if there are things you want to see done, don't hesitate to make a recommendation.    

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 5 of the Fab 5.....Tender Tasty Filet Mignon

Tonight wraps up a fabulous week of steak.  Five days and five tremendously fabulous steaks that have not disappointed.  The star of the show for the evening was the Filet Mignon. This tender cut of meat comes from the tenderloin which runs along the back of the cow.  Due to its location it doesn't get much use and that contributes to the tenderness of this steak.  The downside, if you really call it that, is that it isn't as favorable as other cuts of meat.  

Today was a long day for a Friday.  For me it started at 4am, and it was non-stop until I left my office at 5:30 pm.   The highlight of the afternoon was a nice 3 mile walk along the waterfront of the San Diego Bay to meet Mandy after work.  Long day, yes, but what came next was more than worth it.

I started tonight by prepping the green beans.  I coated them in a light coat of olive oil and tossed them in salt, pepper, and shredded Parmesan cheese.  I put them on a cookie sheet and placed it in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

When there was 10 minutes left on the timer I tossed the filet on the grill at medium heat to start cooking the steak.  A Filet Mignon is extremely tender, and you should never, ever, cook it past medium rare...medium at most.... but for God's sake don't ruin this steak by overcooking it.  I cooked this steak for 3 minutes on each side and then on low for another 2 minutes before I removed it and let it rest for 10 minutes.

While the steak was resting a slid a couple slices of the White Country Batard bread.  This baby plated up nice, but it needed just a little something extra, so I did up a little red wine reduction to add some depth to the steak.

For the reduction I put a tablespoon of butter in a pan with a cup of red wine and  on high heat and added 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  I let it reduce until it was a thick sauce.  I used this to give the meat a nice tasty coating.

For this meal I decided to give a local brewery called Iron Fist a try and paired my steak with an Iron Fist 51/50 IPA.  While this was an extremely tasty beer, i may not have been the best choice for dinner.  This is a bottle of hops with a touch of beer.  I am a hophead so I enjoyed it, but it isn't for everyone.  


Thursday, October 17, 2013

DAY 4 of the Fab 5 Steak Exploration...The Sirloin!

I am four days in and I get more excited everyday about the next cut meat that I get to devour! Tonight I am cooking a sirloin, well actually two.  I found a small pack so this will give Mandy and I both our own cut of steak.  The Sirloin is a cut that is from the upper back portion of the cow just behind the short loin.  It is a leaner cut of meat than the Ribeye or New York Stip, but it is packed with flavor and when cooked properly is an excellent and inexpensive cut of meat.

I am paring this masterful cut of meat with Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes.  Since the potatoes will take between 25-30 minutes to cook I started those first by peeling and cutting the potatoes into approximately 1 inch cubes.  I placed them in a pre-greased pan and poured 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar over the top, and placed it in a 400 degree oven.

While the potatoes were cooking I seasoned the steaks with.... You guessed it olive oil, salt, and pepper! I let the steak sit out on the counter so it can come to room temperature before I throw it on the grill.  

When the potatoes were tender I removed them from the oven and poured a mixture of 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/3 cup cilantro, 3 tablespoons of Honey, and a tablespoon of Cayenne pepper to the potatoes and stir the mixture until all of the potatoes are coated and then covered it with foil.

I took the sirloins out and put them on the grill at a medium high to sear them on both sides for 3 minutes.  I then lowered the heat and let them cook for another 2-3 minutes until they reach the desired doneness of medium rare for me and just about medium for Mandy.  Because these are small cuts, and do not have the extensive marbling that a ribeye or NY strip does you do not want to over cook it or it will be a chunk of charcoal when it is done...  They are also a little more chewy than previous cuts, so don't expect butter smooth steak.

The magical selection of beer for tonight is a Stone Brewing Co. Gotterdammerung IPA.   This amazing brew is giving me flashbacks of German Pilsners mixed with the bite of an IPA.  This is a Growler worthy beer for sure!  It complemented the richness of the sirloin and the sweet/savory/spicy flavors in the sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 3 of the Fab Five, NY Strip Steak

We are now on day three of what I am now calling Steaktopia! Tonight's cut of steak is the New York Strip.  The New York Strip is a cut of steak that comes from the short loin. The Strip, prior to being cut from the bone, and when connected to the tenderloin is considered a T-bone or Porterhouse depending on the size and section of the loin that it was cut from.  

The New York strip is from a section of the "cow" that is not used "regularly" for movement so it is more tender than other cuts that come from muscles that are used.  The strip is tender and has a good flavor, but it is not a ribeye or tenderloin by any means.  However it is a very popular cut of meat.  

When I grill a NY Strip Steak I don't cook it the same way as a Ribeye.  I preheated the grill to medium high, 450-500 degrees.  I put the steak on to grill for 3 minutes on each side, then reduced the heat to low, and cooked it for an additional 5 minutes to a good medium rare.  Realistically you could cook a NY Strip to medium (another 2-3 minutes) and it would be just as tender and flavorful.   

While the grill was heating up I started the Parmesan Garlic Quinoa.  For this side dish I put a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot sauce pan and added 2 cloves of minced garlic.  After one minute I added 2 cups of water and one cup of rinsed quinoa.  I covered it and brought it to a boil.  I stirred the mix and reduced the heat to low.  

I also put two slices of White Batard Bread (yes batard, not Bastard) into the oven covered in garlic, basil, and butter.  

Once the steak was done I removed it from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes under foil.  Once the quinoa was done I added 1/2 teaspoon of basil, salt, and red pepper flakes as well as 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan to the quinoa and stirred it together.  

I plated this masterpiece and grated more parmesan over the top of the quinoa and added a dab of compound butter consisting of parsley and garlic to the top of the steak.  

As for beer, well tonight I did it up right and paired this fabulous cut of steak with a massive Scotch Ale that is perfectly engineered for pairing with a steak like this one.  I went with a Moylan's Kilt Lifter (mine has not lifted yet, but the night ain't over yet) which is an amazing rendition of a Scotch Ale.  Mandy even thought it was the best beer I have ever had her try, which is interesting because it is a strong ale, but tasty!!

 Hopefully you will try this amazing combination of steak, quinoa, and scotch ale. It is amazing.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fab Five Day Two....The Ribeye

This is day two of our five day exploration into the Fab Five of Steak.  Tonight was the my favorite cut of meat, the Ribeye!  The Ribeye comes from the Rib section (6 through 12) and is an extremely marbled and tasty cut of meat.

Most of the steaks I cook this week will be cooked the same, but the purpose of this exercise is, where does this cut come from, and more importantly, it is an excuse for me to eat steak for a week!!

I started by seasoning the steak with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  This is the most simple of seasoning for meat, but when it comes to a steak that is full of flavor on its own, nothing else is needed.

Since the steak was going to take longer than the asparagus to cook, I prepped all of the ingredients for the asparagus and started the grill.  I am cooking these steaks at 500+ degrees, so the grill needs to be on as high as it will go to get a good sear and crust on the steak.

I put the Ribeye on the gill for 4 minutes and then flipped it and left it on high for another 4 minutes with the lid closed.  Because this massive Ribeye was pushing 2 inches thick I turned off the heat and left it on the grill for another 4 minutes.  This gave me a perfectly cooked medium rare steak.

Holy crap this was an awesome steak!! Mandy can back that up for sure, but not yet, I still have to cook the side.....

I took the steak inside and covered it with foil to let it rest while I cooked the asparagus.  If you have ever cooked asparagus you know it doesn't take much to ruin it, or to make it awesome. Tonight I put it in a hot pan with a tablespoon of hot oil. After four minutes I added 1/2 Teaspoon of smoked paprika, garlic powder, and salt to the pan and cooked it for another minute stirring it frequently.  I then turned off the heat and added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the mix.  This gives it a kind of spicy/sour flavor that is awesome!

To top it all off (on the side) I made some compound butter using some of the spice mix I used on the asparagus and put it on the plate as a side for dipping.

Now the part you are all REALLY looking forward to, I know I was, the beer.  Tonight I picked a Double IPA, yeah, yeah, Double IPAs really aren't perfect for steak, but this one was!  I chose a Stone Enjoy By 10/25/13 for this meal and it was fanfreakingtastic! No that is not the beer talking.... it were guud!  Seriously, this Double IPA as a smooth flavor with a bite of hops that really complemented the sour/spice of the asparagus and the rich flavor of the Ribeye.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Fab Five... A Steak Lover's Journey!

Last week Mandy and I joked about doing steak every night for dinner, and it sparked an idea about doing a 2 part series on steak.  This week we will be focusing on the "popular" cuts of meat that are most often found at your local meat counter in the supermarket.  Cuts such as porterhouse, Ribeyes, Sirloins, New York Strip, and the Filet.  I will also be cooking up a side dish and selecting a beer pairing for each night and cut of meat.

Part two of the series will focus on less popular, but no less tasty cuts such as Chuck, flat iron, flank, top round, and hopefully, if I can get one, a Delmonico.  This will be an exciting journey and I hope it brings some joy to your palate as well.

Tonight's focus will be the mighty porter house steak.  The porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin it is comprised of a tenderloin and top loin (aka New York Strip). The porterhouse is essentially an oversized T-Bone steak, hey sometimes bigger is better....

This amazing cut of meat will only be seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. It will get a nice rest to bring it to room temperature, and then be seared on both sides for 4 minutes each.   Since I can't bear to cook it beyond medium rare, if you want yours to be medium cook it for an additional 4-5 minutes at medium heat.  

We  put together a side of  spicy creamed corn and Parmesan knots.  I paired this powerful steak with a Firestone Walker's Reserve Porter.  This was an excellent choice and added depth to the dish.

Fortunately for me, Mandy could not finish her's, so I have leftovers for lunch!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ode to Smoke

This is a dedication to the omnipotent smoke that weaves its way in and out of rows of meat, permeating it with its sweet bitterness.  The changes that occur underneath that shroud of steel bring joy and satisfaction to not only the master of the pit, but those who are honored to partake in tasting the smokey magnificence.

Today I threw a few items on the smoker to pre-make some lunch items for the week.  I prepped some beef back ribs, a whole chicken, 10lbs of bologna, and 2 pizzas (one of which went on the smoker).

When you plan on smoking multiple meats on the same smoker you have to plan out space and consider where everything will go prior to loading it up.  Ribs are long and will take up quite a bit of room on their own.  A chicken takes up an enormous amount of surface area, and 10lbs of succulent bologna, while not huge, is awkward based on the number of pieces. It is also fully cooked so you do not want raw meat and cooked meat touching.

I know that for me I can fit 2 racks of ribs and a chicken easily on the main rack, and since the chicken will take longer to cook, I placed it closest to the fire box and the ribs on the opposite side. That leaves the entire top rack open for the bologna.  

All of these dishes cook for different lengths of time as well.   So time management is essential so you do not ruin a smoker full of meat.  Ribs need 3 1/2 hrs, chicken 4ish, and bologna 2hrs.   In addition, I threw on a pizza after I removed the bologna to add some smoke to the cheese topping.


I have a notebook that I use for documenting times and temperatures while I cook.  This serves two purposes, one, because I am easily sidetracked.... and two because I like to be able to refer back to previous smokes to compare smoke times and temperatures.  

I have covered several of the meats I did today in previous posts, this weeks chicken was amazing and is worthy of a page of its own (coming soon).

Obviously, an ice cold beer or 2 aids in creating a fantastic day of smoking.