Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spaghetti & Meatballs

A couple of years ago my sister and her husband invited my wife and me over for dinner. When we walked into their house our noses were bombarded with the smell of deliciousness. Tim was making us meatballs. He graciously gave me the recipe and now I am giving it to you. I made it when we were up in the San Juan Islands this past weekend and we went to our stomachs' limit on this one. The secret to this recipe isn't the jarred sauce (choose whichever you prefer) it's letting the balls of joy simmer away for 3 hours, flavoring the marinara and making everything taste so good. Be cautious when you make this. You can easily eat too much.

Tim's Meatballs
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (casing removed)
1 egg (slightly beaten)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 T garlic powder

1 diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary & thyme

  • Mix the first five ingredients together by hand. Be careful not to overwork the meat.
  • Form the mix into balls about the size of a small egg.
  • Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large-bottomed pan (one that can also accommodate the sauce later) on medium low heat.
  • Lightly brown each side of the meatballs. If your pan isn't big enough to fit all the balls with a little space around them, do this in two batches.
  • After all the meatballs are browned, transfer them to a platter to rest.
  • Saute the onion in the same pan (with the oil & meat juices).
  • When the onions are translucent, add the garlic.
  • When the onion & garlic are sauteed, pour in 2 jars of a simple tomato sauce and 1 can of crushed tomatoes.
  • Put the meatballs back into the sauce along with the fresh herbs.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil then turn down to low.
  • Simmer the sauce for at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking on the bottom and burning.
  • Serve with spaghetti and plenty of garlic bread for sopping up the sauce. So good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Jucy Lucy Burger

Ever since I heard of the Jucy Lucy (when "Man vs Food" visited the Twin Cities) I've needed to try my own version. Stuffing the cheese inside of the burger, keeping it warm and gooey with every bite, makes the Jucy Lucy unbeatable. When you buy the meat, splurge for the more expensive, higher quality ground beef. It makes a huge difference. You can use any cheese inside with a perfect friend on top. The combinations are endless; blue cheese & bacon, swiss & mushrooms, pepperjack & roasted peppers...all inside of these homemade hamburger buns. Here's the first couple attempts at my version. I'll definitely be trying more.

Jucy Lucy Burger
(Big thanks to WasabiBratwurst for the perfect seasoning ratio)
For the Classic Cheddar Lucy...
1-1/2 lbs ground beef
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
4 thick slices cheddar

For the Feta Lucy...
1-1/2 lbs ground beef
3/4 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 t dried oregano
1/2 t garlic granules
4 T feta

Mix the meat and spices with your hands. Divide the meat mixture into 3 oz balls, two balls per burger. Each recipe makes about 4 burgers. If you don't have a scale, eyeball to the size of a large meatball.

Flatten each ball into thin patties that are a little larger than the bun. Sandwich the cheese in the middle of the patty and seal by pinching the edge with your fingers making a meat flying saucer. Make sure to seal it well. The last thing you want is all your cheese goodness to leak out all over your grill. You'll get a better seal by using a piece of wax paper to finish this step.

Rub each side of the patty with a dab of vegetable oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill and barbecue the burgers over medium high direct heat for about 7 minutes. Flip and grill for an additional 5 minutes.

Put them on your hamburger bun with all the fixins you like. I enjoy burgers with minimal toppings, so I had my cheddar Lucy with mayo & avocado and the feta Lucy with sliced tomatoes. Delicious!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hot Wings

     There's just something about eating a plate of hot wings that makes me feel good. Maybe it's the spicy tangy-ness in the mouth or the dipping into ranch dressing to cool it off...or maybe it's the licking of the fingers in between servings. Whatever it is, I keep craving more when they're gone.

Hot Wing Rub
(you could just toss them with salt and pepper, but try this rub to give them an extra kick)

1 t garlic powder
1 t cayenne
1/2 t ground mustard
3/4 t white pepper
3/4 t black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried oregano
1 T paprika
1 T kosher salt

2 lbs chicken wings (drummettes separate from wingettes)
1/3 c melted butter
1/2 c hot sauce (Use your favorite. I love Cholula in general, but I prefer Frank's for these wings.)
  • Toss the wings with the rub.
  • Chose your cooking method - oven or barbecue. Each has its own benefits. The oven method produces a crispier skin while the barbecue adds a touch of smokiness. I like both ways.
  • If you choose to cook the wings in the oven: heat to 425. Place the wings on a lined sheet pan, skin side down, and bake for 30 minutes. Flip to skin side up and finish cooking for 20 - 30 minutes. The skin should be nice and crispy.
  • If you choose to barbecue: grill skin side down, using indirect heat for 30 minutes. Flip to skin side up and grill for an additional 20 - 30 minutes.
  • When finished cooking, put the wings in a bowl and add the hot sauce & melted butter. Toss to coat.
  • Put them on a platter for you and your friends or just eat right out of the bowl. They're good on their own but best dipped in homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing. Make sure to have plenty of paper towels.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tacos Al Pastor & the Testing of the Barrel Barbecue

Despite the 80-degree days leading up to Barrel-Test-Day, it rained (hard) when we were all set to grill. With the addition of a friend's sun umbrella we went ahead with the test and we were very pleased with the results. I'll add more air vents and a smoke stack (for flare) before the next test. Thank you Washington State Unemployment Insurance for this wonderful barbecue.

Tacos Al Pastor
(it's enough for a big party, about 15 people, so if you're not serving a hoard cut this recipe in half at least)

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 c fresh lime juice
1/2 c white vinegar
1/4 c ground ancho chilies
1/4 c chili powder
1 rounded T kosher salt
1 T dried oregano
1 T cumin
2 large chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 T adobo sauce

6 pounds pork loin cut into 1/2 inch chops

  • Grind all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor.
  • Put the meat into 2 ziplock bags and divide the marinade between them. Squeeze the meat and marinade around to coat.
  • Let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  • Barbecue on your Barrel (or other BBQ, but charcoal will make a difference in the authenticity of the flavor) using direct heat until nicely charred on both sides - about 5 minutes per side.
  • Have your friend chop the meat into small, taco-sized pieces.
  • Serve with corn tortillas, cilantro pesto, a sprinkle of cojita cheese, and diced white onion that has been mixed with fresh cilantro. Good sides are spanish rice and pinto beans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making the Barrel Barbecue

Lucky for me on my last day of work at The Bakery, the 55-gallon honey barrel I'd been waiting for was finally empty. Getting laid off wasn't going to stand in the way of my dream to make my own barbecue.

First, I had to empty out all the excess honey and clean the inside (not exciting enough for a photo). Then I borrowed a grinder from a friend and cut the opening.

I had to make a base and the only things around were some old chain-link fence posts that I'd never taken to the dump and some scrap plywood I'd demoed out of a creepy room in my basement.

It all comes apart so that I can bring the barrel up to my deck or to a party at a friends.

I added brackets to hold the grills and to keep the lid from falling inside, as well as a lower rack to hold the coals and allow for air circulation.

I lit a fire in it to burn off any paints or coatings or who knows what. There may or may not have been a burn ban going on this day so I made burgers on my gas grill to disguise the smoke.

Last steps in the construction were to add a handle (plain wooden dowel from the hardware store), air vents, and a temperature gauge. I also decided to spray the barrel with a high heat resistant pant. Besides customizing the color a little, the paint helps prevent rust on the barrel. The only thing left was to test it in a real-life BBQ situation.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bread with Butter-Fried Garlic

I love a crispy loaf of bread slathered with garlic and butter. Whenever I make a pot of spaghetti with meatballs I always have plenty of this garlic bread to soak up the sauce. The best part is the bottom half of the loaf that has crispified in the butter that pools in the bottom of the foil.

Garlic Bread
1 stick butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 loaf bread (I like to use a really good baguette)

  • Put the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and let it bubble until the garlic turns light brown.
  • Cut the loaf of bread lengthwise. Spoon the garlic butter over the bread making sure you get the crispy garlic pieces evenly distributed to please everyone.
  • Put the halves back together and wrap in foil, sealing well to prevent any butter leakage (make sure the seam is on top)
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the bread up and eat. Delicious!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hamburger Buns

When I eat a burger, I like the bun to be able to stand on it's own next to the meat. I don't enjoy biting into a tasteless, squishy pillow, which unfortunately includes most burger buns in the grocery isle, so I've been making my own at home. I've tried out a couple recipes lately and I'm really happy with this one. It's not too crusty, like an artisan style roll, and not too soft. It's just right.

Hamburger Buns
4 cups bread flour
2 T Sugar
3 T powdered milk
2 t salt
1 t instant dry yeast
1 cup water
1 egg
3 T softened butter

  • Place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand up mixer and mix with the dough hook attachment for 2 minutes.
  • Add the egg and half of the water. Mix until the dry ingredients start to incorporate into the wet. Add the rest of the water and softened butter and mix on low speed until the wet ingredients pick up all the dry bits on the bottom of the bowl, about 3 more minutes.
  • Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes (the gluten is now moderately developed).
  • Put a towel over the bowl and let it sit in a warm room (70) for an hour for the dough to rest.
  • Divide the dough into 3.5 ounce portions. If you don't have a scale, eyeball a size larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball.
  • Form the dough into balls then flatten into 4 inch discs with the heel of your hand. It's okay to lightly flour your work surface, but avoid incorporating additional flour into the dough.
  • Place the flattened dough balls on a lined sheetpan. Cover loosely with plastic to avoid a skin to form and put in a warm place (80 - 85) to rise for an hour.
  • Bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes. When done baking, immediately brush tops of the hot rolls with melted butter.
  • When cool, slice in half and eat. Store the extra in the freezer.