I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Niman Ranch Pork Belly

Look what came in the mail today.

That is a Niman Ranch Pork Belly. I've got big plans for it. Details to follow.

Corned Beef Part 2

I took the beef out of its brine today. I decided to cut it into meal sized portions and package them for later use. The first thing you have to do is wash the brine off the meat. Then you need to dry it real well with paper towels.

Next cut the beef into meal sized portions. For us that is about a pound or so.

Next package them for the freezer. I think the best way to do this is with a vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver.

We got enough for 4 good sized meals. I packaged 2 pieces pretty square in shape with more meat than fat. I plan to use those to make deli style corned beef.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Flemish Wise Men - Vlaamse Wijze

I got this from one of my all time favorite cookbooks called Let's Go Dutch. We are all feeling a little under the weather so we wanted something not too spicy. Also we wanted something that would warm up the house a bit when it cooked. My wife found this great recipe for what is essentially beefsteaks braised in beer. It is served over fried cabbage and with a gravy made of the braising liquid.

As frequent readers of this site know, I am a huge fan of braising. Using this cooking method you can take an almost inedible and tough cut of meat and turn it into a delicacy. Tonight's dish was no exception. She bought the most garbagepail cut of meat and it was as good as a $100 steak. I modified the recipe just a touch to make it more consistent with good braising technique. This is cooked at low heat on the stovetop so it really isn't an oven braise.

Flemish Wise Men - Vlaamse Wijze

1 1/2 pounds very cheap beef steaks like sirloin
salt and pepper to sprinkle on steaks
4 T butter
50/50 mix of beer and beef broth - about 3 cups - enough to cover the meat halfway.
1 bouquet garni (see below)

a bed of fried cabbage with a few caraway seeds sprinkle in at the end

Trim the steaks of all fat and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a skillet with a tightly fitting lid. Brown the steaks on each side briefly. Next pour in enough of the beer/broth mixture to halfway cover the steaks.

Next prepare the bouquet garni by tying a string around a couple of stalks of celery from the very top part of the plant (leaves and all), a bay leaf and a few sprigs of parsley.

Drop the bouquet in the pan. Place the lid on the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Do not let it boil. Braise for about 2 hours.

Remove steaks from pot and place on a bed of fried cabbage seasoned with a sprinkle of caraway seeds. Make a gravy out of the pan juices by combining 2 T flour with 1/4 cup of water. Stir this mixture into 1 cup of the juices from the pan. Heat until the mixture thickens. Pour the gravy over the steaks and cabbage.

Serve with pan fried potatoes.

Here is a link to some great music to listen to while preparing your fancy feast!

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A few German Mixed Drinks

I have to say I am a huge fan of the Youtube video series Germany Vs. USA. Its really quite extraordinary. One of the videos is on drinks.

50/50 mixture of Fanta and Coke

We haven't tried that yet. I don't have any Coke or Fanta on hand.

A 50/50 mixture of beer and Sprite.

We were expecting this to be gross but we both loved it. It is a lot like ginger ale only much tastier and five times as naughty.


Mixture of apple juice and sparkling water.

This is very tasty. Not quite as sweet or strong as straight apple juice. It was a very refreshing drink. Highly recommended.

And this one is something I read about when making hard cider:

Apfelwine mit Sprite
Take hard cider and mix it with Sprite.

This was an extremely enjoyable drink. It was nice and refreshing and not too alcoholic. I used NJ cider #2 so there was an extreme amount of apply goodness.


Bratkartoffeln, German Fried Potatoes

I am a huge fan of fried potatoes. My wife made a Dutch dish tonight that calls for fried potatoes. I decided to see how the Germans would do it. In my research I came across a video on the subject.

Interesting side note:
When I watched this video I found out about a product I did not know existed - smoked salt. I am planning on making some in the very near future, perhaps when I smoke my home cured bacon. Here is a guide on how to do it:
Smoked Salt Guide

Bratkartoffeln, German Fried Potatoes
Peel several potatoes, enough to feed however many people you plan to feed. Boil the potatoes whole until they are soft. Cool and slice into thin slices. Meanwhile fry some strips of smoked bacon in a pan. How many strips you ask?

Enough so that the crumbled result will be proportional to the amount of potatoes you are cooking. It is a question of aesthetics. Leave the bacon grease in the pan. Cool and crumble the bacon. Next dice up some onion, again, an amount proportional to the amount of potatoes you will be serving. Saute the onion in the bacon grease. Remove onion from pan, leaving as much grease behind as possible.

Add butter to what is left of the bacon grease. Next fry/brown the potato slices in the pan. When they are browning a bit, add the bacon and onion back to the pan and cook a little more. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper to taste!

Serve nice and hot and tasty!

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Hot Ham and Cheese

When I was growing up the public school system always served hot ham and cheese sandwiches. I couldn't stand them because they weren't any good. Hows that for some circular reasoning?

I decided to make my own version with leftover Christmas ham, Swiss cheese, rye bread, an egg and some butter. I'll show the photos, you figure out how to do it.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Dutch Split Pea Soup

I am a huge fan of split pea soup. The Dutch are particularly well known for split pea soup. I have the bone and some of the meat from an entire ham that we made on Christmas Eve. I decided to make use of part of the bone today. I got the following recipe from the book Let's Go Dutch. I had to modify it just a little based on available ingredients.

Dutch Split Pea Soup

2 1/2 cups dried green peas
3 quarts water
1 ham hock
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
3 leeks, chopped
2 stalks, chopped
1 onion, diced
1/2 pound sausage of some sort (Jimmy Dean works well)
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
pepper to taste

Bring peas, ham hock, and bay leaves to a boil in water. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours.

Remove hock from the soup and pick off bits of meat. Dump meat, cooked sausage, onions, celery, leeks and parsley back to the soup. Simmer, uncovered about 20 minutes or until vegies are nice and soft. Add more water if needed. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

It really is a waste to have a ham and throw away the bone. You can make so many delicious things with a ham bone. You'll have to invest in a good heavy cleaver though. That bone is tough.

I tried to use my deer saw but it wasn't stout enough. That cleaver made quick work of separating the bone into smaller pieces for the freezer.


Ye Olde Christmas Ham

For Christmas Dinner we had ham. I found some great videos on how to best do it. To summarize:

1) put the ham in a roasting pan and make a tent of tin foil over the top. Bake at 250 for 3 to 4 hours.
2) Rub ham with Dijon mustard, then brown sugar. Next spray with a little bourbon. Finally rub again with ground up ginger snaps.
3) Glaze rubbed ham in oven at 350, uncovered, for an hour.

The best thing about ham is that the leftovers make great dishes, perhaps even better than turkey!

If you wish to watch the original videos, go to youtube and do a search for Alton Brown Ham.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home Cured Corned Beef

I am in the process of curing some corned beef at home. I got the idea one day when I was looking through the grocery store for some corned beef. For whatever reason, the corned beef around here sucks. I can do it better.

I did some research and found the book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. This book is a Revelation and I have many, many plans after reading it.

To home cure corned beef you are going to need a few things. First, you will need a well marbled brisket. These should be available at the grocery store. If not you can always order one from a butcher. I bought mine at Fareway.

The other thing you will need that is not immediately available is some pink salt. It is a salt for curing that contains sodium nitrite or some such thing. It is pink in color. I bought mine from Sausagemaker.com under the trade name Instacure #1. You will also need some pickling spice from the grocery store or you can make your own like I did.

First you have to make the brine for the corning of the naughty beef. You will want to make this up in a container large enough to hold your particular cut of beef. This recipe for brine makes enough for a 5 pound slice.


1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 ounce (5 t) pink salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T pickling spice

Combine all the ingredients in your pan and heat until salt dissolves.

Cool to room temperature and drop in the beef. Weight down the beef with a plate to keep it submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days.

Mine is in the fridge now. I'll finish the recipe when I am on the next step.


Puff Pastry Cheese Twists

I got this recipe from the Emeril cookbook Emeril's Delmonico. I had to modify it a little.

Puff Pastry Cheese Twists
Thaw some puff pastry dough and roll it out on a floured counter until it is about 12X18 inches.

Beat 1 egg with 1 T water. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle 1/2 of the dough with a little Greek seasoning or seasoned salt. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Fold dough in half and roll with a rolling pin lightly to seal. Cut into 1/2 inch strips. Twist it up a few times and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes, until puffed and a little brown.


Twice Baked Potatoes

This is my version of the all-time classic. I add cream cheese.

Twice Baked Potatoes
8 potatoes, fully baked
1 cup sour cream
1 t garlic salt
6 ounces cream cheese
a little paprika

Slice the top off of each potato and scoop out the inside, leaving a nice thin shell behind.

Dump the potato insides and all the rest of the ingredients (except the paprika) into a mixer. Mix until smooth. You might have to add a little milk. Pack the potato mixture back into the potato shells. Sprinkle with paprika.

Return to oven and bake at 425 until lightly browned on top.


The Infidel

The other night I made a pretty tasty pizza. Its components violate the taboos of several major religions - thus you can be sure it is a real crowd pleaser!

To make it, just make some Gino's East Pizza and top it with sausage, ham and bacon.

Devils on Horseback

One of my new favorite appetizers is an ancient one - Devils on Horseback. I have a somewhat simplified version.

Devils on Horseback

Slice strips of bacon in half. Wrap a piece of bacon around a fig and skewer with a toothpick.

Bake at 400 until bacon is done.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Baked Bratwurst, Swedish Style

I got this recipe from The German Cookbook.

I modified it a little to make it tastier.

Baked Bratwurst, Swedish Style

2 1/2 pounds potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup cream
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese
8 brats
Dijon mustard
2 to 3 T crushed saltine crackers

Peel potatoes and slice very thin. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Make a layer of potato slices in the bottom of of a buttered baking dish. Top each layer with salt, pepper and grated cheese. Dot generously with butter. The top layer should be sprinkled with salt, pepper and cheese and dotted with butter. Whisk together 1 T Dijon with 1 cup cream. Pour cream mixture over potatoes.

Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack at 450 for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile boil the sausages for 5 minutes in some beer. Cut lengthwise down the center of each brat and fill the gash with mustard. Place sausages on top of potatoes. Brush sausages with a little melted butter. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Sprinkle cracker crumbs over sausages and potatoes. Bake uncovered at 450 until potatoes are soft and sausages are nicely browned. It takes between 30 and 40 minutes or so.

It was really nice to have something so tasty in the dead of winter. Having the oven on made our house nice and toasty.

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Avocado with Vinegar Dressing

Another recipe from the Hemingway cookbook. This is a tasty appetizer and it is even better in the middle of winter. It helps take your mind off the crummy weather.

Avocado with Vinegar Dressing

2 avocados
lime juice
6 T olive oil
1 T white vinegar
1 T wine vinegar

Cut avocados in half and remove pit. Sprinkle with lime juice. Whisk togetther olive oil, vinegar and salt. Fill the hollows with dressing.


Hemingway's Artichoke Vinaigrette

I got this tasty recipe from The Hemingway Cookbook.


3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic

Whisk ingredients together 2 hours before serving so that the flavors can steep.


4 artichokes
4 lemon slices
2 T lemon juice

Clean artichokes by plunging them repeatedly, upside down, into cold water. Cut the stems off, leaving a flat bottom. Break off any tough bottom leaves. Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and trim the top 1/4 inch off the remaining leaves with scissors. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon slice. To prevent discoloration, tie a slice of lemon to the bottom with a piece of kitchen string.

Bring a large pot of water, salted with lemon juice added, to a boil. Add the artichokes and boil for 30 minutes. Drain upside down in a colander, untie and remove the lemon slices and rinse the artichokes in cold water. When cooled, open them slightly, remove the very thin center leaves, and scoop out the choke with a spoon. Serve whole, one per person, with vinaigrette for dipping the leaves.

I actually like this lady's method of preparing artichokes better.

It takes a LONG time to cook artichokes, at least the flywalk ones I can get up here in the middle of winter.


Blackberry Cobbler

I made a cobbler based roughly on a video I found on Youtube.

I changed it by using canned blackberries and I lowered the baking temperature to 375.

Blackberry Cobbler

filling: two 14 oz cans blackberries in syrup, drained
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar

Bring to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

3 T flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg

Dump the contents of the bowl into the filling and stir until thickened.

Pour the filling into a cast iron skillet.

Make a batter out of:
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Drizzle batter over the top of the filling.

Place into 375 degree oven and bake until top is browned. Serve with ice cream.

Our little one wanted a cookie for desert until I told her that the cobbler came with ice cream. Then she found out she really likes cobbler.

It was nice to have the oven on because our town is getting killed by snow.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parker House Rolls

I was looking around and found the original recipe for Parker House Rolls. We made them and they were pretty tasty. I used them as buns for some tasty Crabby Patties.

Parker House Rolls

6 cups all-purpose flour (about)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks), softened
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; add 1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick). With mixer at low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot tap water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F.) into dry ingredients. Add egg; increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in 3/4 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so that top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough is doubled when 2 fingers pressed into dough leave a dent.)
Punch down dough by pushing down the center or dough with fist, then pushing edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make smooth ball, cover with bowl for 15 minutes, and let dough rest.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In 17 1/4-inch by 11 1/2-inch roasting pan, over low heat, melt remaining 1/2 cup margarine or butter; tilt pan to grease bottom.
On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. With floured 2 3/4-inch round cutter, cut dough into circles. Holding dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted margarine or butter pan; fold in half. Arrange folded dough in rows in pans, each nearly touching the other. Cover pan with towel; let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Bake rolls for 15 to 18 minutes until browned.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

7 Layer Bars

Seven Layer Bars

1 ¼ c crushed graham crackers
1 stick butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 c butterscotch chips
1 c coconut
½ c nuts
1 c eagle brand milk (evaporated?)

Melt butter and poor into a 9X13 inch pan. Stir in graham cracker crumbs and pack down. Sprinkle chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and nuts. Poor milk over top. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.

Seven Layer Bars


Chicken Okra Gumbo File

Its so darned cold up here! I haven't been this cold since at least 1997, my last year in Iowa City. If I remember right those last couple years in Iowa City were warmer. From there I went to Chicago and it was sheer bliss in comparison to Fort Dodge weather. Honestly, this is the coldest, crappiest weather out there.

To warm up, I decided on some gumbo.

Chicken Okra Gumbo File

1/2 pound chicken
14 oz can okra, drained
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 t thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 t black pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1 tomato, diced
1 t gumbo file (optional, you probably can't find it. I had to go to New Orleans for mine.)

Brown chicken in oil and remove from pan. The consensus for the ideal gumbo pot is a cast iron Dutch oven. Next drop in the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Saute gently until starting to turn translucent. Meanwhile back at the ranch, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour to the butter and stir frequently over medium heat until the mixture turns dark brown. Add the flour/butter mixture to the onions/celery/green pepper/garlic and stir. Cube the chicken and add it back to the pan. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour until thickened. Add the tomatoes and continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Finally add the okra and cook for a couple minutes until heated through. Turn off the heat. Add the gumbo file if you have it and stir. Serve over rice with a nice roll to mop up the naughty juices. Be sure to serve with some hot sauce.