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Venison Nacho Fries

20 May
There's lettuce on it, so that makes it healthy, right?

There’s lettuce on it, so that makes it healthy, right?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the worst. No like really, if the point of a blog is to create content, I am literally the worst.

Well, I still do ONE thing like a blogger; please believe my email signature still has redneckfresh.com in it! Right. So this is not a super fancy post, but it WAS a super delicious, cheap, and fast dinner. I had a bag of frozen (raw) french fries in my freezer for….ever and decided that it was probably time to go ahead and use some of them. And because of the redneck part of redneck fresh, I always have venison in the freezer, so the taco meat was easy.

Now, I’ve heard of what I made being called Irish nachos, or something like chili cheese fries…but the real part of this recipe that ought to interest you is the taco meat. It’s got nothing canned in it, it’s fast, it’s versatile, and it is delicious. There’s a bunch of it left in my fridge right now, and I made a taco salad with it for lunch today. I’m babbling. Let’s get to it.

stuff

taco meat

mmmmm.....frozen taters.

mmmmm…..frozen taters.

1 lb. ground meat (I used venison, you could use beef, chicken, turkey; since it’s taco meat you can get away with really lean meat because it doesn’t need to hold together)

1 T. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped (I used romas because they were on sale and have a lot of moisture in them)

1 c. chicken stock

1 t. dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you’ve got it)

3 T. cumin

1 T. Lowry’s seasoned salt (am I allowed to use brand names? Well either way, it’s delicious.)

everything else (all these numbers
are -ish, make your own how you like them)

4 c. frozen french fries

enough oil to fry in

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I shred block cheese, it’s way cheaper and tastes better)

1/2 avocado

1/4 c. shredded lettuce

2 T. finely chopped fresh jalapeños

steps

Put a tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat and chop up your veggies. If you’re in a hurry, say because you don’t start making dinner till after 8 when you get home from a meeting, start the oil on medium heat then chop veggies in the order you’re going to add them to the pan, because it’ll save you time. You’ll throw the onion in first, then the garlic, then the jalapeño. The goal is caramelized, but not burned.

Cast iron skillet, how I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Cast iron skillet, how I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Once the jalapeño hit the pan I added the dried oregano and let it cook for a second before adding the tomato. I think putting dried seasonings into oil before there’s a lot of water added helps them to release the most aroma and flavor (Indian style cooking does this). After 30 or so seconds, I added the tomato and then the meat, seasoned salt, and cumin.

So here’s the deal with taco meat; it’s awesome. There’s a different consistency to it than there is to other browned meat or to chili. It’s somewhere between the two. So once the meat is cooked turn down the heat to just above low, and you’ll use the chicken stock to make it the consistency you want. I have a freezer full of chicken stock I made when I was making a bunch of King Ranch Chicken for a church event. I didn’t ever make stock for myself before pretty recently; it’s awesome. You should do it. But I digress. I ended up putting half a cup of chicken stock in, then starting the frying oil, and adding the rest of it while I was frying up french fries.

I wok enough that I won't make any wok puns in this caption.

I wok enough that I won’t make any wok puns in this caption.

I decided to use my wok when I was frying up the french fries; because of the shape of a wok you can deep fry in significantly less oil than with most pots, which is good. Also because of the shape they get hot really, really fast.

When you fry french fries, they’ll always turn out better if they go into the fryer frozen. It allows the outside to get crispy right when the inside finishes cooking. This is why a lot of times when you go to burger places that brag about their really fresh french fries, you’re disappointed with how they’re soft and greasy.

So here’s the deal; while you should throw your fries into the oil frozen, you should also not throw things like blocks of ice into hot oil, because crazy splatter, and such. But this blog is called REDNECK fresh, so sometimes we have to do things that are…redneck. So maybe the french fries had been in my freezer for like a year and frozen into chunks of ice and potatoes.

You shouldn’t do stupid things like throw ice into 350 degree oil. Seriously, it’s dangerous. But I’m both experienced AND foolish, so I did, and I had my video camera running as I ran away from said oil and ice.

Right. So after not burning your kitchen down, cook up your fries in small batches till they’re golden brown and you have enough of them to start building your nacho fries. There’s enough meat here to make healthy portions of fries for at least five people. Lay down a nice layer of fries, then spoon some taco meat over the top.

I've always wanted to use an online GIF builder. Thanks, nacho fries!

I’ve always wanted to use an online GIF builder. Thanks, nacho fries!

If your fries are still hot and you’ve kept your meat simmering, you can then grate cheese right over the top and it’ll melt nicely. It also helps to have your cheese close to room temperature when you grate it, again, for the melting.

Okay, so you’ve got your fries, meat, and cheese down, time to add your garnishes. Put some chopped fresh jalapeños, some chopped or sliced avocado (or guacamole if you’re feeling extra fancy), and some shredded lettuce on top, and you’re ready to go. I meant to put some chopped onions on mine, too, but I forgot. They would’ve been tasty.

Like I said earlier, the worthwhile part of this recipe is the taco meat. The nacho fries were awesome, but the taco meat really came out great with the fresh veggies. Let me know in the comments what your favorite thing to do with taco meat is.

Let’s eat!

–N

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Pecan Mushroom Chiles Relleños

6 Jun

So….

Look at them, all oozy like that. They're taunting you.

Look at them, all oozy like that. They’re taunting you.

I haven’t posted in, well, many, many units of time. But in that time I have completed the most ridiculous semester of my life, graduated from seminary, and moved back to Texas. So maybe I’ll post more now, or maybe I’ll even get back on a regular schedule.

Anyways, I made these chiles relleños tonight and they were really delicious. So now I’m going to tell you how that happened.

Stuff

12 oz. Oaxaca Cheese (mozzarella if you can’t get Oaxaca)

8 whole poblano peppers

6 oz. mushrooms

So I didn't use the flour, or the egg, because I didn't fry them. Also you can't see the pecans. Basically this is a bad picture.

So I didn’t use the flour, or the egg, because I didn’t fry them. Also you can’t see the pecans. Basically this is a bad picture.

3/4 c. pecans

1 bunch green onions

3 T. Mexican crema (could sub cream and lemon juice, but you’d be sad)

1 T. cumin

1 T. smoked paprika (it needed color. Paprika is a color, not a spice.)

1 t. oregano

pepper

toothpicks

Garnish

queso fresco

1/2 bunch of cilantro

4 oz. Mexican crema

1 t. cumin

1 t. salt

Steps

IMG_2161

Sorry, wonderful cheese maker, if this is a copyright infringement. I’m just trying to spread the good word of your magical cheese!

First, take your 8 poblano peppers, put them into a produce bag, twist it shut, and microwave them for 3 minutes. “But Nathan,” I hear some of you saying. “Doesn’t microwaving stuff in plastic destroy my body or something??” I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that if you want to pre-steam poblano peppers painlessly, you’ll let Chef Mic do the heavy lifting.

While the peppers are steaming (and after they finish, since you can just leave them to continue pre-cooking as they cool down) shred 12 oz.  of Oaxaca cheese (also known as Mexican melting cheese). A word about Oaxaca cheese. It is magical, wonderful cheese. Have you ever noticed how quesadillas at Mexican restaurants taste way better than the ones you make at home? Oaxaca.

This is what it looks like out of the wrapper. It's stringy and delicious.

This is what it looks like out of the wrapper. It’s stringy and delicious.

Or how some enchiladas have magically stringy, melty but not greasy cheese in the middle of them? Oaxaca. Where people go wrong (I think) is that when they make Mexican food at home, they assume that jack cheese or cheddar or name-brand “Mexican blend” is what they should put inside of things. Don’t do that. If you can’t get Oaxaca, by far the most similar cheese is mozzarella. Yeah, I know, weird. But true. Okay so rant aside, grate 12 ounces of cheese into a mixing bowl.

I think my favorite thing about this recipe is the texture variation that the chopped pecans add. So chop some pecans and put them in the bowl with the cheese, or you’ll be missing the best part. A rough chop is fine, but make sure you don’t have any glaringly large pieces.

Don't be afraid to experiment with the filling. I'm certainly not.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the filling. I’m certainly not.

Chop up the mushrooms (with the same basic theory as the pecans, don’t leave any pieces so big that they won’t cook through while everything else does), and chop up the green onions, and throw everything into the mixing bowl. Add the cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, some black pepper and a little bit of Mexican crema to help mix it all together, and then, well, mix it all together. For those of you wondering, Mexican crema is a slightly sour cream that is really great in sauces and fillings. If you can’t find it, yogurt, sour cream, or regular cream would all do okay as a substitute.

At this point, turn your oven on to 425 degrees or so (if you have a convection oven, convecting is a good idea here) and it’s time to assemble peppers. I could talk you through that annoyingly, or I could just post bigger pictures with helpful captions. Let’s do that.

IMG_2168

Cut a slit down the side of the pepper with your knife. Don’t go quite all the way to either end, especially the top, as that would make the top of the pepper fall off when you clean out the seeds.

Take a spoon and gently remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper. The first one or two may take you a minute, but you should get the hang of it. Be thorough, poblanos are spicier than I thought they were.

Take a spoon and gently remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper. The first one or two may take you a minute, but you should get the hang of it. Be thorough, poblanos are spicier than I thought they were. Somehow, I forgot to include a picture of myself stuffing the peppers. So do that, with about 1/8 of the stuffing mixture per pepper.

Once you've stuffed the pepper, stick a toothpick through it to help keep it from totally collapsing while it cooks.

Once you’ve stuffed the pepper, stick a toothpick through it to help keep it from totally collapsing while it cooks.

Okay, now it’s time to bake. Put the peppers into a glass baking dish and throw them into your 425 degree oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes. My dish was just barely big enough, so I had to stagger my peppers, alternating which end was on which side of the pan. Keep an eye on them while they’re cooking; the outsides should start to blister and the insides should start to bubble, but you don’t want anything to burn.

While your peppers are in the oven, you can make the garnish sauce that you’ll see in the “finished product” picture at the bottom of this post. It’s similar to sauces I’ve put on here before, but really helped to tie the dish together. Put 1/2 a bunch of cilantro, 1 t. of cumin, 1/2 t. of salt and 4 oz. of Mexican crema in a blender, and blend till the cilantro has disappeared. This stuff is delicious on anything. I would put it on my cereal in the morning if I thought that was socially acceptable.

At any rate, it’s time for plating! I served my rellenos with some Spanish rice and corn on the cob, which was really only a side because we had some in the fridge. Serve your relleno with the cilantro crema sauce and some crumbled queso fresco.

I was feeling fancy, so i employed the, "spoon full of sauce traced down the plate" method.

I was feeling fancy, so i employed the, “spoon full of sauce traced down the plate” method.

Let’s Eat!

– N

Tomato Poblano Bisque

12 Nov

This barely qualifies as a post, but I haven’t actually made a post in months, so here we go.

So I did not take any pictures of this soup I made, but I made it and people thought it was pretty tasty. So I’ll write about it. I made enough to feed a small army, so the numbers can obviously be adjusted.

Stuff

12ish red tomatoes (I think it was 4.5 pounds of tomatoes)

3 poblano peppers

10 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 large white onions, chopped

1/3 can chipotles in adobo

1 small can tomato paste

3 T. cumin seeds

1 pint heavy cream

1/4 c. olive oil

3 T. butter

salt

pepper

hardware: immersion blender, large soup pot

Steps

Pull stems and stickers off of the tomatoes. Put them in the large pot and cover them with water. Put them over high heat and cook until they boil for 2 minutes. Fish them out of the water, set them aside, discard the water. While the tomatoes are cooling, turn the broiler on in your oven or turn on your stove and roast the poblano peppers. Set them aside to steam while you do the next steps.

Put the oil and butter in the soup pan over medium heat, and then add the cumin seeds and cook them until they start to brown. Add the onions, garlic, and a couple tablespoons of salt, and sauté until bordering on caramelized.

While the onions are sautéing, peel the skins off of the tomatoes and remove the stem bases, too. I left the seeds in my tomatoes because I didn’t want  a textureless soup, and needed the volume. Also, pull the seeds and stems off of the poblanos.

Dump the tomatoes and poblanos into the pot with the onions and friends. If you really want to have fun/speed up the process, smash the tomatoes between your fingers on their way in. Sauté all this for 10 minutes or so, then add about a quart of water and some more salt and some black pepper (probably 2-3 more tablespoons, but taste it). Let this simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

After the soup has simmered for 30 minutes or so, add the canned peppers and tomatoes and stir to combine. Now, it’s time to blend everything. I had all kinds of fun pulverizing soup down to a consistent texture with my blender. Make sure you don’t miss stuff, should take a couple minutes to get a consistent texture.

Once you’ve got consistent texture soup, it’s time to add and cook in the cream. With the blender on, trickle the entire pint of cream into the pot.

At this point, you should taste what you have made and make sure it’s actually delicious. Is it missing something? Nobody is stopping you from exploring the depths of your spice cabinet. I was a little light on garlic, so I added some of the powdered variety. Not spicy enough? There’s cayenne for that. Have some fun.

Anyways, let the cream cook in for another 15 minutes or so, then serve this soup with some good french bread.

Lets Eat!

–N

PS: I really hope to put out a real post sometime soon, but I make no promises.

Mediterranean Chick Pea Salad with Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

6 Mar

Sorry about the focus here. I still haven't mastered photo taking in my apartment, the lighting is kinda wacky.

Redneck Fresh goes Mediterranean for this week’s posting. I realized I hadn’t made anything that bordered on healthy in way too long, so I decided that I should probably, you know, fix that problem. I bought some really good feta cheese at that magical cheese shop I keep talking about, I had some chick peas in the pantry I’d been looking to cook, and so here we are. I ate this stuff for the better part of a week — it was cheap, healthy, and delicious. Also, go ahead and make this stuff a day or two in advance, as it marinates in the dressing, it just keeps getting better and better. Anyways, let’s get to it.

Stuff

Salad

1 bag (2 cups dry) chick peas (garbanzo beans are the same thing)

1 red onion

2 Persian cucumbers (or 1 regular cucumber, deseeded)

So many herbs. Mmmm, herbs.

3 sprigs of mint

1 lb. of grape tomatoes

Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

1/2 bunch parsley (curly or flat leaf)

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 T. cumin seeds

1 T. dried thyme

4 garlic cloves

1/4 c. olive oil

1 T. red wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1/3 c. greek yogurt

1/2 a serrano pepper

1 t. salt

1 t. pepper

Steps

Salad

Before I go on, let me explain to you why I specifically said to use dry chick peas and not the crappy ones from the can. I will ALWAYS tell you that you should use real beans and not dry ones. Always. However, this time I went ahead and had a friend test the recipe, and he used canned beans. He said that, while it was a good recipe, the beans were a little overwhelming and mealy. Mealiness, aside from being one of the grossest words in English, is near the top of the list of reasons that canned beans are the worst. For something like a salad where the beans will be the primary vessel for all the flavors, you can’t be messing with that crap. Right.

So make the beans the way the bag tells you to, or do what I did and boil them, unsoaked, on high in a heavy pot with a bunch of water and 3 tablespoons of salt for 3 hours. It worked well. You want the chick peas done but not mushy. Also, what’s the deal with chick peas and black eyed peas? Do they really think they’re fooling anybody? We know you’re beans, give it up.

Anyways, drain the beans and throw them into a big salad bowl/mixing bowl/whatever you’re going to want to keep this salad in. Take the red onion and dice it into small pieces that are fairly uniform. I actually got in a hurry with this part and was not pleased with the fact that there were awkwardly sized chunks of onion floating around on my plate, be less lazy than me. Throw the onion into the bowl with the peas, and now we’ll cut up other fun things.

The reason I used persian cucumbers is because I didn’t have to skin or deseed them before I cut them into quarters and then cut those quarters into little slices. If neither of these things bother you, use real cucumbers. Cut all the grape tomatoes in half and throw them into the bowl, too. Now it’s time to learn the only interesting thing about this recipe from a technique perspective: How to chiffonade mint! I’ll line up some pictures, check the captions for the how-to.

Pull the leaves off of a mint sprig and stack them neatly on your cutting board.

Roll up the mint leaves like a tiny, tightly-wrapped burrito.

Cut thin slices off of your mint burrito, making beautiful little ribbons of mint.

Take this pile o’ minty goodness and sprinkle it over the top of everything else that’s already in your bowl. Wait to put the cheese in till the last minute so when you’re mixing you don’t turn the cheese into goo. Now, let’s make some salad dressing.

Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

Remember, leafy plants like herbs are mostly water anyways, so they'll turn into liquid no problem.

So this recipe is very simple, but requires some equipment. Namely, it requires a blender. I have an immersion blender which I call a stick blender, but my friends make fun of me for not using its proper name. I have weird friends. Anyways, I really just took all the ingredients listed for the dressing and then proceeded to blend the crap out of it. I didn’t do any pre cutting or anything else, I just threw it all in a cup and let my stick blender do its thing. Oh, and spilled everywhere. Yeah that was kind of crappy.

If you’re using a regular blender, be sure to put all your liquid ingredients at the bottom of the blender and mix things around with a spoon several times to make sure you get everything.

The color you’re looking for is almost neon green — as the yogurt and herbs emulsify, the color becomes really cool. Once you get there, give it one more stir to check for lumps (especially garlic, stems of herbs, or pieces of the serrano) and then you’re ready to dress and toss the salad.

So I had a little less dressing than the recipe calls for (since I kind of dumped the rest all over my counter when my blender exploded) but I feel like the full amount would have been even better.

There really isn’t a lot to dressing a chick pea salad; pour the dressing in and mix everything up. I added the cheese after I had done a quick toss with the dressing to keep from beating it up too bad. If you’re using pre-crumbled feta, just dump it in, if you’re using a brick of feta, crumble it up with your fingers.

As I said earlier, this stuff can sit for a few hours or even overnight to be super double awesome. If you want to serve it with a little bit of pizzaz (what a great word!), save some of the cilantro and parsley and cut it up and throw it on top as a garnish. In terms of serving suggestions, I made a ground venison thing that I served this on top of, and that was a fantastic pairing. If you want the recipe for said ground venison, share this post with somebody and let me know you did (with a comment or a post on the facebook page or something)

Seriously, the ground meat stuff was a perfect compliment. You want to reshare.

Let’s Eat!

– N

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

27 Feb

Gumbo sticks to your ribs better than any other soup ever. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Alright friends, this time, I’m managing to make my weekly post quota a whole two weeks in a row! Gumbo is one of my all-time favorite foods, and it’s a lot of fun to make. Also, the moment that you dump your cajun trinity into the roux and it sizzles is my all-time favorite smell in the world. Yes, I’m aware I have an oddly specific all-time favorite smell.

Anyways, we had an awesome luncheon at the church where I’m an intern after service, and I made this gumbo. It went over pretty well, but I was amazed how few yankees have ever had gumbo! It’s not that hard to make (other than roux, but it’s more intimidating than it is difficult), and is a great way to get rid of extra stuff sitting in your fridge. So let’s get on to that gumbo. Also, this is a big recipe, you can definitely scale it down for, you know, groups smaller than 30-40 people.

Stuff

4 lbs. chicken (I used boneless skinless thighs, because dark meat is the best.)

Cooking in the church's big, new industrial kitchen was way nicer than cooking in the kitchenette in my apartment.

3 lbs. andouille sausage (any smoked link sausage will do, andouille is just the most authentic cajun one)

3 large onions

3 large green bell peppers

7-8 stalks of celery

10 cloves of garlic

2 lbs okra

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 T. fresh thyme, chopped

3 T. cajun seasoning

1 T. cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves

4 oz. chicken base

1 c. vegetable oil

1 1/2 c. flour

Steps

Mmm....chopped veggies.

I was cooking on a pretty tight schedule, so I made this gumbo faster than normal. However, it was the best chicken and sausage gumbo I’ve ever made, so maybe that was a good thing. First, you have to cut up your cajun trinity.

The traditional French trinity of vegetables is onions, carrots and celery. The French Canadians that moved to Louisiana modified their French methods, substituting bell peppers for the carrots. The inclusion of these three vegetables in the base of most cajun and creole foods adds the distinct flavor that makes it all so good. So. Good.

Chop up the onions, celery and bell peppers. I’ve already taught you how to cut onions, so we’ll move on to the celery and bell peppers. Celery is pretty easy to cut up, you just, you know, cut it. Sometimes with bigger stalks you’ll have to do more than just cut across, do this by putting some slices parallel with the stalk through the thickest part of the celery, then just cut them up in thin slices. Celery breaks down quickly when you cook it, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Bell peppers actually take some work and are a little counter-intuitive the first time you cut them, so I made a handy diagram:

Chop! That! Bell Pepper!

Okay, now your vegetables are cut up. Smash your 10 cloves of garlic and throw them in with the veggies, and set this aside while you make yourself some roux. Before you make your roux, remember one thing: it is not as hard as you think it is. People are all so scared to make roux, but if you’re paying attention it’s not particularly difficult, I promise.

Here it is right after the flour was added. Make sure you stir all the lumps out, but that will happen anyways since you will be stirring for many units of time.

If you read that and you’re confused, either you have been making roux for a long time and also don’t buy the hype, or you are saying, “Why does he keep using the word roux, what in the world is a roux, and how do you pronounce it??”

A roux (pronounced rue) is a basic gravy and one of those French holdovers in Louisiana cooking. Basically, you’re browning flour in oil in approximately equal parts. I guess equal parts are maybe supposed to be by weight, or something, because by volume I always end up using more flour than oil.

Put a big, huge pot on medium-high heat and put the oil into it. After it gets warm, dump the flour into the pot, too. I used a whisk this time, a lot of salty vets of the Cajun world will tell you that you have to stir roux with a wood spoon. I usually take their advice, because they’re saltier than I am. If you don’t like wooden spoons or, like me, you didn’t have one, a whisk works well too. The hardest part of making roux is that you have to stand in front of the stove for 10-15 minutes stirring almost constantly. NEVER let roux sit untended for more than 20 or 30 seconds or you will be making burned flour instead of roux.

This is the roux right before I added the vegetables. At this point, things move fast, I was scared to pause long enough to take a picture even.

A lot of people measure the length of time it takes to make roux by the number of beers they drink while it’s cooking. Because I was at a church and it was 9 a.m., I measured how long the roux took by looking at it. Good gumbo roux is a two beer roux, which means it’s a very dark roux, toeing the line between dark and burnt, even. The color you are looking for, as the picture tries to show, is chocolate brown. Somewhere closer to milk chocolate than dark chocolate. However, if you cross from dark chocolate to black, throw out what you have made, for it is burnt and will taste awful.

The aroma is intoxicating. No but really, so good.

You will probably be concerned at some point that nothing seems to be happening even though the flame is on and you are stirring. However, once the color of the roux really starts to change, it will change FAST. I cannot over-ephasize how quickly you’ll need to work once you hit that magic chocolate point. When you get there, quickly grab the vegetables and throw them into the pot in order to release that magical, magical smell that I was talking about earlier. Seriously, if they could bottle that I would wear it as cologne every day and not care what everybody else thought. Stir the veggies in quickly, then add almost a gallon and a half of water. Turn the heat up and bring everything up to a boil. As you cook, taste for salt level, and add water if things are too salty. Remember that your sausage will make everything saltier, too; that’s why there’s no salt in this recipe.

Once all your veggies are in the pot, go ahead and add all your herbs and spices including your chicken base. I had never used chicken base before, only bullion and broth or stock; chicken base is super, super good, I’m now a believer. Obviously, you could use bullion or stock instead of water if that’s what you had and or wanted to use, but, like I said earlier, this is definitely the best chicken and sausage gumbo I have ever made.

Cuttin' chicken.

Let this mixture cook for like an hour while you prep everything else and, if you work at a church, go to the first half of the worship service and give the “words of liberation and grace.” Cut up your chicken into one inch cubes, slice your sausage into rounds, and set them aside.

Throw the chicken into the pot, but hold off on the sausage for awhile. Smoked sausages like andouille come fully cooked, and you want the sausage to retain some of the sausageness, snap and flavor. After the chicken has cooked for about ten minutes, add the sausage and prep your okra.

Some people don’t like okra. When people say that, sometimes I have to quench the desire to shoot back, “Well I don’t like you.” After I escape this tendency, I explain that, for stews like gumbo, a thickener like okra helps to make sure that the broth has the proper consistency and that some of the extra fat is absorbed.

Sorry it's a little out of focus, I took all these pictures with my iPhone.

Rinse the okra thoroughly, because sometimes it is very dirty. Cut the okra into round slices, and throw the caps away. Keep the bottom tips though, because they will quickly dissolve into thickener.

Add the okra to the gumbo pot. Stir it occasionally for 15-20 minutes, and then you will pretty much be ready to serve the okra. I made a hotel pan full of rice in the oven while I was cooking the okra, because you traditionally serve gumbo over rice, piping hot. Gumbo also keeps really well, the flavors keep on mixing and deepening over the course of a few days. The two things I did not have for this gumbo are file powder, which you serve with the gumbo, and crusty French bread, because I forgot to buy it. Have I mentioned I love gumbo? Man, I love gumbo. This is a little bit spicy a recipe for people who like bland foods, you could probably cut the cayenne down quite a bit if you do not like spicy food.

The gumbo, sitting on rice, being awesome.

Let’s eat!

–N

Chipotle Chimichurri Steak and Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

15 Aug

Mmmm....steak

Hello friends! Sorry about the delay between entries, I’ve been traveling and not really had access to the internet. So I was on the move from Phoenix back to Texas, where I’ll be for a couple weeks before I head back to NYC. This past week I got a chance to make dinner with some friends in Houston that are on the paleo-diet, and so I went a drastically different direction than my recent vegetarian-friendly entries. Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce heavy on cilantro and garlic that is spicy and delicious.

Ordinarily, I would save the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus for a bonus recipe, but because I’ve been a lazy person and not posting for awhile, I’m just going to give it to you at the end of the post. It was particularly delicious. Anyways, a big thanks to Dana and Pat for giving me stuff to cook, a place to cook it, and a fun meal! On to the stuff.

Stuff

for the steak

This is a terrible picture. Dana has a super nice camera that I'm not smart enough to use. She took most of the pictures, they are very good. This one, she did not take.

4 steaks (I used 3/4″ T-bones, and ended up being pretty pleased with them)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 c. of soy sauce

4 T black pepper (yes, a whole tablespoon per steak)

1/4 c. olive oil

for the chimichurri

2 bunches of cilantro

5 cloves of garlic

2-3 chipotle peppers

1/2 c. olive oil

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

I've been told more pictures = better blog. Here's more pictures.

1 t. black pepper

1 t. salt

for the asparagus

2 bunches of asparagus

8 thin slices of prosciutto

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. dijon mustard

1 T. black pepper

1 t. salt

Steps

Steak

This is a very simple marinade by my standards. I generally leave good steak alone.

First, marination. For the steak, take all the ingredients that aren’t steak and put them onto the ingredient that is steak. Traditional South American steaks aren’t cut super thick, but I do not think that you would be detracting from your experience by using thicker steaks than I did here. Also, get a good solid dusting of black pepper and garlic onto each steak — I actually put a little bit of marinate on each one individually, I didn’t just throw them all into a bag like I often will. With steak, you’re trying to create the right kind of texture to sear well, and an even coating of seasonings aides in that process. At this point, let your steaks sit for an hour or 2 (or even overnight if you feel like refrigerating them), and go do other things, like make the chimichurri and asparagus.

Now, grilling. When I grill steak, I try to grill steak on as hot a grill as I possibly can. This is because I believe that

The photography here makes me look like I'm flipping a steak like a pancake. I'm not. Really cool picture, though

steaks should be seared to lock in all the delicious juices and then cooked not a minute past medium-rare. If you ask for a steak cooked medium, I will scowl at you and then go ahead and make it, but I won’t be happy about it.

I was using a propane grill at the apartment complex that got pretty stinking hot. I let it heat up for about 15 minutes before I started cooking the asparagus, and then cooked them for awhile before the steaks hit. Once I was ready to put steaks on, I cooked them for two minutes a side on a fire that was probably close to 525 degrees. By the time you get everything flipped and then pulled off the fire, that’s close to 5 minutes total, which is not a lot of time, but remember that I was working with fairly thin steaks. Also, for those of you who are environmentally prevented from grilling things, I’ll do an entry on cast-iron skillet steak cooking when I get back to NYC.

One last thing about steaks — let them sit for at least 10 minutes before you serve them. Meat does this crazy thing where it reabsorbs its natural juices as it cools off, so if you let stuff cool some, it turns out way more juicy flavorful and tender. It’s worth the wait, don’t get impatient.

Chimichurri

Not pictured: garlic.

Chimichurri sauce is delicious. It is also very easy. Essentially, you combine all of the ingredients in the blender and blend it until it’s not chunky anymore. If you wanted to half the recipe I used, you totally could, because we had a bunch left over, but extra chimichurri sauce is not a bad thing to have in your fridge for a few days.

We don't need no stinkin' stems.

In terms of little things you may want to know, I broke the ends off of the cilantro, as demonstrated in this lovely photo, before I put them into the blender. I threw the stems away. While cilantro stems taste good, they’re more watery than the leafy parts are, so they would have made the sauce runny. However, I definitely didn’t cut up the cilantro and remove the stems from in the leafy part, I just got rid of the bottom stems. I did this with a twist and rip method, which is much quicker and easier than a “use a cutting board and a knife and make more stuff dirty” method.

Not only does getting some serious lean into your blending stance make you look cooler, it also greatly increases blender performance.

Chipotle peppers are delicious, and were great in this sauce, but if you can’t find them you can use any dried chiles. Because of the oil and vinegar, if the sauce sits for 30-45 minutes the peppers will become reconstituted enough to be delicious instead of papery. Also, our chimichurri was pleasantly spicy, but if you’re a chilehead like me you would have preferred that I put 4 chipotles in it.

Lastly, if you do something dumb, like forget to put the garlic in the blender before you make the chimichurri, don’t panic. (Note: I might have forgotten to put the garlic in the blender before I made the chimichurri.) Just chop whatever you forget (assuming it’s solid and not liquid) and then throw it in. You’re chopping it so that you don’t have to over-process everything else just to get what you did wrong small enough for consumption. Anyways, let this delicious sauce sit for at least 30 minutes, which should be enough time to prep the asparagus and grill everything.

Asparagus

Break me off a piece of that asparagus...that isn't really edible...

Some of you may not love asparagus. I say to you, “stop being dumb.” Stuff’s crazy delicious, and apparently good for you.

Before you cook asparagi (probably not the right plural, but it is very fun to say), you have to break off the tough and woody ends. This is the end of the asparagus that does not look like a little tree. to break them, hold the asparagus by the end you want to break off in one hand and the middle of the stalk in the other and bend it till it snaps. Throw away the crappy part, and put all the not crappy parts together in a casserole dish facing the same direction. You’ll thank me for telling you to make them all face the same direction later. Once you’ve snapped all of the asparagi, it is time to marinate them.

I actually stole the idea for prosciutto-wrapped asparagus from a friend that had them at some restaurant, but those were seasoned very basically. I like really big flavor, so I combined my normal grilled asparagus marinate with the prosciutto wrapping technique and this is what we got. To marinate the asparagus, put you vinegar, oil, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper on top of the asparaguses (see, that’s siller looking than asparagi) and then swirl them around to coat. Remember though, keep them all facing the same direction or face grave inconvenience at the next step. These things could keep overnight in the fridge at this point, but as long as they sit for 10-15 minutes they will be fine.

bundled 'gus.

To make the little bundles of aspara-joy you see in the pictures, simply take a piece of prosciutto out of its packaging (the stuff is thin and delicate, so be careful) and lay it on your cutting board. Take a section of the asparagus —approximately as many as you think is a reasonable sized serving for one person — and set them on top of the prosciutto about 1/4 of the way from the left side of the prosciutto to the right. Now, fold the left piece of prosciutto over and then roll the whole bundle all the way to the end of the prosciutto carpet. Repeat until you are out of asparagus. Also, a little too small is going to be much easier to manage on the grill than a little too big, I had one blow up and was really embarrassed.

Gus on grill. Dana takes awesome photos, yes?

When you’re grilling these things, they will tighten up as they cook, and you’ll need to be sure not to beat them up too much or they’ll fall apart. Ours took about  15 minutes on a hot grill, turning 1/4 turns frequently. When the asparagus started to look done (flecks of black on the ends and more wilted and, well, cooked than they did before), I moved them to the top rack of the grill so that I could make my steaks. You could achieve the same results as my 10 minutes high/5 minutes indirect heat method by cooking 20 minutes or so on a more medium grill.

Once I had everything done, I tried to plate the steaks with the chimichurri sauce in a way that looked really pretty. I did not succeed, but I do think that this stuff looks pretty tasty.

Medium rare achieved.

Let’s Eat!

–N