Saturday, October 31, 2015

Beef Chili Verde

Make pure and simple Beef Chili Verde in a slow cooker.  It's a variation on Chili Verde made with pork shoulder and is served with black beans and brown rice.  And salsa.  And sour cream.  And chopped avocado.  Perfect fall dinner.

No slow cooker?  That's fine.  Scroll to the bottom for directions to make it over the stove top or in the oven.

Beef Chili Verde 
Serves 6-8

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in 1-1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3-4 tomatillos (What are tomatillos?)
3 Anaheim or poblano chilies (or a combination)
1 jalepeño pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1  tablespoon chili powder (click here for my blend)
1 teaspoon oregano + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (skip if using a commercial chili powder)
1 14-oz can low sodium black beans, drained 
1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

  1. Salt and pepper beef and place in slow cooker.
  2. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  3. Peel husks from tomatillos. Wipe peppers with a damp paper towel.  Place vegetables on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and toss in oil.
  4. Roast at 425˚F for 20-30 minutes, checking vegetables and turning using long tongs.  Remove tomatillos when soft and place in a large bowl.  Remove peppers when skin is blistered on all sides.  Cover bowl and let stand 5 minutes.  
  5. Uncover bowl and remove tomatillos.  Chop coarsely and add to slow cooker. 
  6. Peel cooled peppers.  Seed and devein then chop coarsely.  Add to slow cooker.  
  7. Add chili powder and herbs.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  
  8. Cook on high for one hour.  Reduce to low and cook another 2-4 hours, until beef is tender. If mixture is dry after first hour, add 1/4 cup water.  (You may also cook this on low 6-8 hours.)
  9. Once meat is done, turn off slow cooker and stir in drained beans and cilantro. 
Make this without a slow cooker:
Follow recipe through step 7, adding ingredients to a heavy bottomed pot with a lid rather than a slow cooker.  Bring stew to a boil over medium heat then lower to simmer.  Simmer, covered, for 2 hours and check beef for tenderness.  Alternatively, the stew can be brought to a boil, covered and placed in a preheated 325˚F oven to cook for 2 -3 hours.  If using the oven method be sure to use a dutch oven or other oven-safe cooking vessel. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Baked Scotch Quail Eggs

A platter of Scotch Quail Eggs makes a convenient do-ahead football tailgate or fall brunch offering.

A Scotch Egg is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat.  A portable meal, they can be found throughout Europe as a fast lunch, snack or picnic food.  In the U.S. it is common to find them at English-themed pubs, served either hot with dipping sauces or at room temperature to accompany a beer.

Daylight Savings Time ends here next Saturday night. With the clocks being pushed back an hour, next Sunday is the best day of the year for a fall-back brunch.  Take that extra hour to enjoy a leisurely Sunday featuring graze Scotch Quail Eggs.

Scotch eggs are usually deep fried to cook the sausage but they can be baked.  Baking is far less messy but creates its own challenges.  We found that chicken eggs were a little too large to wrap and bake successfully.  The sausage meat slipped off the egg by the time the meat was cooked through and the amount of sausage needed for one egg was a larger snack than required.

Using quail eggs, about a quarter the size of a chicken egg, turned out to be the solution.  Their small size makes them easy to wrap and because they require less sausage, cook quickly enough to hold onto the inner hard boiled quail egg through the process.  I also prick a hole in the top, through the sausage layer, that lets steam escape and keeps the sausage sticking to the smooth egg.

Baked Scotch Quail Eggs
Yield: 8

8 quail eggs, hard boiled and peeled*
3/4 pound raw bulk sausage meat
2 cups bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F
  2. Cover a cutting board with wax or parchment paper to protect the board from raw meat. Line a small baking pan with foil and coat with a thin layer of oil or spray oil.
  3. Divide sausage into eighths.  Take a portion of sausage and spread it in a thin circle on board.  Lay egg in the middle and wrap sausage up around sides and top of egg.  Use your hands to form into a round ball.  It will look like a large meatball, about 2 inches in diameter.  
  4. Repeat with remaining eggs and sausage.  
  5. Spread breadcrumbs in a wide soup bowl or pie pan.  Roll each ball in the bread crumbs and place in the baking pan.  
  6. Give the Scotch Quail Eggs a thin coat of oil.  This is easiest to do with a spray oil.
  7. Use a skewer or toothpick to open a small hole in the top of each Scotch Egg.  This will prevent the inside from building up steam that could cause the sausage to slip off the egg. 
  8. Bake at 375˚F for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is cooked through.  
  9. Place cooked eggs on a paper towel to drain excess oil.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  Eat within 3 days.

Serving suggesitons:
Serve with a mustard-spiked mayonnaise dip.
Cut in half to add to an appetizer platter.  Their small size makes a manageable mouthful.
Slice Baked Scotch Quail Eggs to nestle inside a warm roll for breakfast.

*To hard boil quail eggs, place eggs in a medium pan and add enough water to cover by an inch.  Bring the water to a boil then remove from the heat and cover the pot for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, drain and add cold water to stop the cooking process.  Peel eggs immediately.  Their skins are very thin and will be easier to peel right away.  Be patient, they are more delicate than chicken eggs.  Do not be surprised by the greenish-blue color under their shells.  This is the inner membrane and commonly has a blueish tint. 

What else can we wrap in sausage? ¡Scotch Jalepeños!
Cream Cheese-Stuffed Jalepeños can be baked alongside Scotch Quail Eggs.  Allow these to cool completely so that the cream cheese is firm when sliced.  Or enjoy an oozing Scotch Jalepeño. 
Core seeds and membrane using a grapefruit knife. Tin foil allows you to bake the whole pepper without tearing.  Peel the blistered skin after baking at a high temperature, 400˚F, turning the pepper once or twice. 
Sausage sticks to a peeled jalepeño better than an unpeeled one.  An uncooked pepper will not cook further once wrapped in sausage.  Use a plastic sandwich bag to squirt cream cheese or any filling into the pepper.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Slow & Low Baked Salmon Fillets

Cooking slow and low is a controlled technique for protein.    Our salmon version uses a very low temperature oven (300˚F) to cook the fish to a delicate, silky texture.  The fish is lightly flavored with black pepper, scallions and lemon zest.

Season salmon or any other large fillet of fish with your favorite flavors and enjoy a perfectly cooked tender fish every time.  The key is to allow the fish to soak in the flavoring and some olive oil for 10-15 minutes before baking and to bake uncovered at a low oven temperature so the fish cooks evenly.

Slow and Low Salmon Fillets
Serves 4, recipe may be halved.

4 eight-ounce salmon fillets
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper
4 scallions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.  Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes to preheat the oven for even cooking.  
  2. Line a roasting pan or baking sheet with tin foil and coat with a thin film of olive oil.
  3. Lay out the fillets and top with lemon zest, a good coating of freshly cracked black pepper and scallions.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
  4. Let fillets sit 10-15 minutes.
  5. Bake, uncovered for 18-20 minutes.  If cooking a whole fillet, bake for 25-30 minutes.
Serve immediately.  

When is fish done?  The flesh of the fish will turn from transluscent to opaque at its thickest section.  Use a fork to probe into the center of the fish.  Cooked fish will flake easily. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Zucchini Noodles

This is not a new trick but with gardens in their final moments you may find yourself with an awful lot of zucchini just as cool weather recipes beckon.  Substitute zucchini "noodles" for egg noodles and papardelle in stews, spaghetti dinners and soups. 

All you need is a vegetable peeler to get started  If you like the results, look for some of the slicers coming out of Asia and Europe where vegetable pastas are so popular that traditional wheat pasta manufacturers are starting to offer them.  Here is is a shredder I bought in a Korean grocery several
years ago that makes thin oval zucchini noodles.

To make a great noodle using a vegetable peeler, wach the zucchini and start peeling.  As you near the seeds, turn the zucchini to start a freash side.  A small zucchini will yield about a cup of peeled noodles.   Boil a pot of salted water and place the zucchini in the hot water.  Lower the heat and simmer 45 seconds, until the zucchini is limp.  Use it to repalce all or some of your noodles.  Enjoy it cold douced with a light rice vinegar as part of a salad with other greens or grains.