Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Brisket A Tasket

Go Pro or Go Home...Probiotics, that is!

Pro + Bio + Ic = For + Life + Things

There's no better time than a Sunday evening to culture some life-giving organisms into tomorrow's breakfast.  Greek-style yogurt, my good friends!

I awoke early this morning and the first thing on my mind?  Coffffffffeeeeeeeeee.  Okay, well, the second?  Brisket!  I spent six months working for the foodservice corporation called Sodexo, and I will say that one of the key things I learned was how to do a brisket in the oven.  Brisket is the cut of meat from the front breast/lower chest of the cow.  And because cows use that portion of their bodies a lot, it's a quite lean and tough piece of meat.  Therefore, not to be treated with high heat and quick-cooking methods.  Texas people like to smoke it, New Englanders like to boil it.

The author here at 'Be Food' opts for oven-roasting it.  Because she does not own a smoker.  Yet.

After rubbing the meat with brown sugar and JD's spice rub (found at local grocery store), I placed in a roasting pan, on top of a rack insert that would keep the meat from touching the bottom of the pan.  I then poured water into the pan (half-inch max maybe?) and added some liquid smoke (because, shall I say it again, I don't have a smoker) for flavor.  I left the thick fat cap in tact, to add extra moisture as it melted over the course of the cooking.

I popped it into my 225 degree oven...and then I just freaking left the building for 10 hours.  Yep, friends, low and slow is the way to go (as is rhyming).  Truth be told, eight hours would have probably been sufficient, because my brisket temped out at around 150, 160 and that is way too done for my liking.

The color on the finished product is decent, and the meat practically fell apart when I tried to cut it...another sign it was overdone.  Sliced brisket should be extremely tender, but still hold together when cut.  Oh well.

Although, like I didn't smash this sandwich up when I made it ten minutes later.  As you can see, I very nearly forgot to take a picture of the damn thing before it was all in my belly.  Those are some roasted baby potatoes there attempting to square off against Mr. Brisket.

A cautionary note about brisket:  It is not a cheap cut of meat (although that can be said for any beef these days).  It's not a good idea to play around it a whole bunch of times if you don't really know what you're doing...unless you have a lot of money to play around with.  I mean, look at me, I worked with brisket a lot at Sodexo before buying it on my own...and I still messed it up.  Don't be like me, folks...get it right the first time.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Girl Meets Grill: A Happy Ending

Here in Iowa, if I decide I want to marry another woman, I can do that. It's legal here.  (Worth noting: the point is moot as I am already in a marriage state, according to the state of Iowa).  If I decide to engage in polygamy here in this state, that's illegal. However, I think the law assumes that if a person wants to engage in polygamy, it's because they want to marry another person. For most, this is a logical assumption.

However, how would the law interpret polygamy if the person wanted to marry an inanimate object...say, for example, her grill? Because she loves it SO much.

My birthday was last month, and just last week I was able to pick out and purchase my new grill.  It's a Char-Broil hybrid and not only can I do gas, but there's a removable tray for charcoal!  Whoohoo!

After a mid-week maiden voyage of burgers, it was time to really put my new appliance through her paces.

This pic I shall call Girl-Grill Selfie.  There's not much of my new toy you can see, but rest assured that she is beautiful.  I think we look quite nice together.

There's nothing that screams Memorial Day weekend like your parents bringing some marinated chicken quarters they found on sale at Fareway to do up on the grill.  I opted for a low and slow approach with the poultry, grilling it at 250 for about an hour. 

I didn't get a picture, darnit, but believe me when I say they turned out nice and brown ... two of the smaller pieces got a little too dark (think: carcinogen), but that didn't stop them from getting scarfed up.  The chicken went into my 170 oven while I cranked the heat back up on the Char-Broil for...

the veg course.
That is asparagus, wrapped in bacon.  Specifically, that is Des Moines Farmer's Market asparagus wrapped in bacon.  Does summer/late spring get any better than this?

I don't think so.

And naturally, I didn't get pictures of desserts.  I guess I was so euphoric over the chicken and asparagus that I forgot.  But...think thick slices of grilled pineapple with a lime creme anglaise sauce.

It's the beginning of a beautiful summer, and a beautiful relationship!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Post For All You Breakfast Lovers

And I know you are legion.  People who eat, love, and think about breakfast foods.  No matter the time of day, pancakes or scrambled eggs always sound good.

Where are all my brothers- and sisters-in-arms?

Here in the small town I live in, there are roughly four places to have breakfast.  One is a pastry/bakery, one is a kitchen within a grocery store, and two are restaurants.  The latter three all serve about the same thing: biscuits and gravy, pancakes, scrambled egg platters, etc.  Nothing too unusual...which concerns me, because eggs are a great creative vehicle.  Anyway...

I have spent a fair amount of time putting together a breakfast menu that I'd hope to implement some day.  There is no empirical data behind the menu development, so I really have no idea if some of these items would even go over that well.  I based the menu on things *I* would like to make and eat.  And I guess that's as good as a strategy as any, yes?

Let me know, breakfast lovers, what you think...would you stop and dine with me if you saw a menu like this?

TARTINES (a fancy French term for open-faced sandwich)
- The Kirby (cranberry mustard, spinach, fried egg, fresh-baked bread - toasted)
- Benedict (ham, poached egg, Hollandaise, bread)
- Apple + Cheddar (citrus butter, Granny Smith, Cheddar)
- Sunshine (bacon, scrambled egg, Cheddar)

- Spanish (chorizo, potato, red pepper)
- Mediterranean (artichokes, black olives, spinach, feta cheese)
- Iowa (ham, bacon, potatoes, Cheddar cheese)
- Vegetable (peppers, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, cheese)

QUICHES (egg pies!)
- Lorraine (bacon and Swiss cheese)
- Florentine (ham, spinach, Parmesan, and Swiss cheeses)
- Seasonal Vegetable

- Buttermilk
- Blueberry
- Maple-Bacon

YOGURT with granola or fresh fruit or both

- Bacon Cinnamon Rolls
- Muffin of the Week

I mean, I want to eat here...but I understand I'm insanely biased. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Y.O.C.O = You Only Culture Once

Spaceballs. Ahhh. One of America's classics. And here, the exact dish Dark Helmet was referring to:

Mwahahahahaha! Let's discuss yogurt for a moment, whom I feel is a victim of bad marketing and nefarious health claim ploys.  As delicious as Banana Cream Pie yogurt sounds, and no matter no healthy it seems like it should be (because it's yogurt), it's a rotten, rotten product.  Full of sugar and artificial flavors.  Even the fruit yogurts? Not as good as it's packaged to tell you.  And it's too bad, because most people hear the word 'yogurt' and think healthy and beneficial...but most varieties out there on the shelves are anything but.

Go with the plain (or vanilla-flavored if you must) Greek-style yogurt, add your own fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey.  You'll feel a whole lot better.

I've just recently found out how EASY making your own yogurt is.  This recipe was the jumping off point.  Once I got my milk to the appropriate temps, I let the stuff culture in the microwave.  The only problem is, the temp wasn't high enough in there to get the texture/consistency I wanted (thick thick thick) even after eight I popped it in the oven with light on for another four hours, and set my alarm for midnight.

Then, at the stroke o' twelve, I found I had the creamiest, most beautiful yogurt ever.  I am so happy.  Freshly made, three-ingredient yogurt makes me happy.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Spatchcocking: It Is Painful...But Mostly For the Chicken

Spatchcock is far and away my favorite culinary term.  Basically, it's when you split a whole bird open right before you cook it.  Very much like butterflying a piece of meat, but a whole lot cooler to say.

Spatchcock.  It sounds so dirty.  But it's not!

Using a pair of sharp and clean kitchen shears, I cut down the chicken's backbone and opened it up.  Now, I've reduced cooking time because there's more surface area to get heat to.  Perfect for grilling when you want to avoid cutting into a totally charred chicken only to see raw poultry.  Bad news all around.

The picture here was taken after I'd spatchcocked it...and sort of "put it" back together again for the photo.  But, you get the point, no doubt.

This was the recipe: Food Network's Aarti Sequiera's Orange-Cardamom Roast Chicken.  Excitement was the emotion of the hour, as I like roast chicken a lot and I have an excess amount of the spice cardamom in my pantry (for reasons unknown).  Anytime you mix butter herbs and spices and then rub it all under a chicken's skin, you figure it's going to be pretty good.

However, as I had to work that night, my family was left to be the judge and jury on this particular dish.  The verdict: bland.  No flavor.  I had not seasoning the outside of the bird, because the recipe did not say to, and I figured the buttery rub would provide it.  Alas.  When I had the leftovers today, I got the orange, but not so much the cardamom.  A little salt and pepper perked the meat right up as well, and thus, lesson learned, always season roasted chicken.  Next time, I think I'll still do the butter rub, but also a rub on the outside as well.

So, kind of a failure...but not really, because I got to use the word spatchcock.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Attempts at Worldwide Domination

Checking my stats page every now and then is always an illuminating thing.  In the last week, I've had hits from not only the US, but from places like China, Indonesia, Belarus, and even freaking Sri Lanka!  Hell yes!

In all likelihood, these hits are purely accidental and are the result of a janky Google search for something NOT even remotely related to anything here at Be Food.  However, it matters not.

I noticed that two important countries were missing from the Stats-Hits page: Ethiopia and Mexico.  And I hope that changes right now.

A couple of days ago, some friends of ours suggested a new restaurant in a town about a half-hour from here.  Safari Ethopian-Eritrean restaurant.  Okay, I'll admit, I know nothing about Ethiopian cuisine...but I couldn't wait.

Our friends had gone once before and were really only able to tell us that it was a.) good and b.) bereft of silverware.  Truly, the ultimate international finger food.  This was a 15-inch diameter platter, so plenty of food, and under fifteen dollars too.  The teff flatbread is on the right, and that was the "silverware", so to speak.  I had the lamb, which had a curry and cardamom flavor to it, and it was delicious.  I was impressed...and I will be back.

The next day, I paid homage to our friends south of the border.  A slow-cooked pork loin, swimming in a yummy molé sauce.  Molé is a sauce found a lot in Latin American countries, and is typically a little darker, smokier, and sweeter than straight up red chile pepper sauce.

Naturally, as you all know, I have a hard time totally following a recipe in its entirety...which is both a blessing and a curse.  The recipe was pretty basic, and I decided to see what I could do with a favorite beverage of mine.

I sauteéd up some red onions before dumping a cup or so of New Belgium's Cocoa Molé beer.  Once that reduced down, I added the tomatoes, tortilla pieces, raisins, garlic, and jalapeño.  More beer was added, but not as reduced, before the whole lot went into the food processor with some fresh cilantro.  After about thirty seconds of puree, I had a yummy chunky sauce to pour all over my pork.  The two then spent the rest of the day getting to know each other in the crockpot before being shredded for carnitas (of sorts).

I just can't help but think what fools we all are if we content ourselves with (generally) bland American cuisine.  And frankly, I'm offended that we settle for McDonalds, and think the local Asian buffets are the best Chinese we're ever going to get.  And that's all I have to say about that.

In other news: I have a totally full day off tomorrow.  I seriously thought about trying a new place for lunch in my state's capital...but sometimes it's only fun to do that if you've got someone to go with you, and I don't.  Alas.  Don't feel sorry for me, though, I got a gift card to a local spa/salon, and I am blowing the whole amount on an hour and a half massage!

Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Almost Mother's Day

Yeah, I know.  A flurry of excitement for one week, and then I decide to take one day off.

To quote my fourteen-year-old...whatever.

Here's the thing about the foodservice industry... your weekends are my busiest days.  Your holidays are my longest days.  And it's totally cool, I don't mean to bitch...because that's how it is, and that's what I signed up for.

Anyway. Mother's Day is tomorrow, and it's no shocker that I'm working.  Our restaurant is serving a brunch, and since I'm the primary brunch cook, it stands to reason that I should be there.  But, I'm done by three, and then I've got the rest of the evening with my kids. I have no idea what they've got up their sleeve.

My husband thinks I should not cook on Mother's Day...but honestly, I can't think of anything I'd rather do more.  Especially since I saw a particularly inspiring episode of Bobby Flay's Barbeque Addiction whilst at the dentist recently.  So...if I weren't working tomorrow, and I had all the proper ingredients and equipment, this is what I'd be making (then eating)...

*Note: inspired by Bobby Flay, but tweaked by me.

Smoked Adobo Brisket Tartine (instead of Tortas) with a Creamy Horseradish Spread
Roasted Tomato Marmalade
Grilled Asparagus
Grilled Fruit: Bananas, Peaches, Pears, etc.
Coconut Margaritas

Inspiration here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Red-Letter Day! A Banner Day!

Things happen in threes, right??  Well, I'm sosososo glad to report three good things.  Or..maybe two good things and one sort-of-we'll-see-what-happens thing.

1.  After pestering my boss for three-plus weeks about reducing my amount of hours, the ultimatum I gave her this morning finally worked.  Next week, I've only been scheduled for 28 hours.  I actually have a WHOLE DAY off.  My head is spinning.  This is fabulous news.

2. My oldest son turned 16 about two weeks ago, and just yesterday, got his driver's license.  Then, I bought my dad's 1998 Dodge Dakota pickup/rustbucket from him and bequeathed it to my son...with explicit instructions that he doesn't kill anybody or himself.  My life as a taxi is about to get easier.

3. Our Amazon Echo came in the mail today...after like four months of anticipation and a special invitation from Amazon to be able to buy it.  We're not usually Keep Up With The Joneses-type people...but well, there's always an exception.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kitchen Nightmares

I'm not as good of a sleeper as I used to be...and I suspect that has something to do with my pesky subconscious.

I only remember this dream because I wrote it down, and it's not a nightmare, per se.  At least, *I* don't consider it as such.

It's the night before my Grand Opening of my dream café, and Dwight Schrute (from the TV show "The Office") is helping me make chicken noodle soup. 

Since then, with the increasing dissatisfaction with my job, my dreams have become more nightmarish and more frequent. Usually, they consist of a sequence in which I'm making a customer's order, but there's just one or two little things preventing me from completing it...and usually, it's because I can't reach the plate or I can't quite get to the cooler where, say, we keep the bread.  Stuff like that.  Last night's dreams consisted of me trying to fill orders, all the while realizing that the restaurant isn't EVEN OPEN during the hours I'm trying to WHY do I keep trying to slave away??

Ridiculous, right?

The kicker one was about two weeks ago.  For some reason I don't know, I'd brought my youngest son (10) to work, and he was just sitting out in the dining room, reading or something.  Anyway, I was busting my butt around the kitchen, we were slammed, and I'm on my way to a cooler when I see two of the line cooks sitting on top of the prep table in the back, just chatting away like nothing was up.  What?!  Then, minutes later, I realize the chef had pulled my son from the dining room and was having him work back in the kitchen...and she's screaming at him about how he cross-contaminated everything.  I yanked off my apron and quit right there on the the middle of my dream.

I woke up from that one in a cold sweat and I did not go back to bed for quite some time. 

Yes.  Chefs have nightmares too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Powered By Diet Coke and My iTunes Playlist

Today's Kitchen Shenanigans, that is.

Tonight's a restaurant work night, so roughly 45 minutes today was spent preparing dinner for the minions. 

I thought it might be nice and lend a little flavor to the dish if I were to play music off my playlist whilst I worked.  So, I put the thing on Shuffle and away I went...

Clocks - Coldplay
Wonderwall - Oasis
Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 - Pink Floyd
Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye
Carnival - Natalie Merchant
Cry to Me - Solomon Burke
Willow - Joan Armatrading
Fayth - Tori Amos

Someone could probably have quite a field day analyzing the symbolism of all those songs.  Or maybe not.  At any rate, I enjoyed Kitchen Shenanigans today.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Today's Post...Sponsored By...

80s hair band Warrant, who found stardom with their smash hit "Cherry Pie" (bet you thought I'd break my five-day streak, eh?).

It will all become clear momentarily.

Monday mornings are a good time for me to grocery shop, as the stores aren't so packed and if there's something I need to prepare for my family's dinner that night, I've got most of the morning to prepare it.  Win-win.

Today, a bag of Bing cherries caught my eye.  I'm not sure why.  If I work with cherries at all, I go with the frozen ones.  Fresh cherries have pits...and they are rather time-consuming to remove.  But, I dunno, the planets were in perfect alignment, my zodiac sign was in the rising aspect...who knows?!  I was probably having delusions of grandeur (May the Fourth Be With You reference).  At any rate, I bought a damn bag.

Yes, it took me most of an hour to pit the suckers.  But, then...

Sometimes it's worth it.  The Cherry Crisp recipe is modified from the one available at Taste of Home.  I noticed there were no spices whatsoever included in the sugar/cornstarch I took it upon myself to add nutmeg and cinnamon.  And so much's the better.

I seriously considered cherry pie at first.  I really did.  And while crisps are ten times easier, I actually prefer them (and cobblers) over pies.  And this one's beautiful.  There's a nice, cookie-ish crust on the bottom, followed by cherry goodness, topped off with a rich, buttery crumb topping.

Sometimes, readers, life really is just a bowl of cherries.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Garden Party, Pt. 2

6:30 is too early for a Sunday, ne c'est pas?  Alas, that is the time I arose this morning, and while my body wanted to fall back asleep, my mind was already off and running.  So, up I got.

Something tells me I'm going to regret this when I'm trying to watch the new Avengers movie tonight.

Last Sunday was my last day off, and that was only at my request.  There are no more days off in the foreseeable future, between the part-time bar job and the near-40 hour demands of the restaurant.  It's a hard-knock life, I reckon, but that's how it goes when you're in search of The Dream.  So we savor the tranquil moments while we can.  Like yesterday, for example.  By some stroke of excellent luck, it was just me and the youngest son in the house for a few hours.  I took him out for lunch, and then I made him do yardwork with me.  I showed him how to mow the yard, and he discovered it's not terribly fun nor easy.  Ah, yes. Tranquility.

Then, as shown in the picture above, we got the rest of our home garden in.  As you can see, the kale is doing nicely. Tomatoes and peppers are now in.  Peas are just about ready for trellising.  From here on out, it's just maintenance work now.  In what is usually known as excellent timing, it rained yesterday evening, just in time to welcome the new plants.

And that brings me to this morning.  It's a rather sensual one, to be honest.  And I mean sensual in the sense that all my senses are appealed to (how many times can one use the word 'sense' in a sentence?).  I'm enjoying a cup of java and a green smoothie on my porch, listening to the twitters of the birds, trying to count the different shades of green I see just in my backyard, and inhaling deeply the good smells of clean, healthy, growing earth.

It's a good day to be alive.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Garden Party!

Spring has sprung.  Young men's thoughts turn to those of fancy.

The rest of us?  Turn to thoughts of gardening.  Of turning earth.  Of nurturing verdure. 

Yeah yeah yeah.  I think a little about that, but my spring garden thoughts run the plant-harvest-eat-preserve gamut.

I'd mentioned awhile back, I think, that in addition to a few things in our own, shade-laden garden, we were doing a joint garden with my parents.  So far, it looks like this...

From right: garlic (planted last November), green onions from sets, onions from seeds (the puny-looking half-row) and radishes (the instant gratification vegetable), and a row of cabbage and cauliflower, and from seeds (and therefore, not seen as of yet), green beans and kohlrabi.

This morning, we added tomato, pepper, zucchini, and eggplant plants as well as planted cucumber and sweet corn seeds.

Thus, the garden at my parents' is now all in.  Time to maintain and reap the benefits some seventy to eighty days from now.

I also purchased more tomatoes, green pepper, and Brussels sprout plants today to complete our home garden.  I hope to tell you all about that tomorrow!

Friday, May 1, 2015

No Plan B, Really...Is That Okay?


I'm making a major decision today.  Without trying to sound all Vaguebookish, but not get into excruciating detail, I'm leaving a job (or notifying the boss, really, of imminent departure) that has little by little made me very unhappy.

And while I'm unburdened that I've finally resolved to do it, I definitely feel guilty.  I usually do whenever I quit something of this magnitude...I always second-guess myself and wonder if I should toughed it out or taken a different tack of coping.

And while there's probably always a chance to pick up more hours at my other job, I really have no other work in place.  I've said it here before, but there's a possibility of some opportunities down the road, but nothing terribly immediate. However, maybe with a free-up in my work schedule here in a few weeks, I'll have more time to devote to developing those opportunities more.

Naturally, I'm dreading today's conversation.  Especially since I do not think the news will be received well.

But, otherwise, Happy Friday!  Enjoy whatever various recreational activities you participate in today...and think of me!