Stupid Easy Borscht

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 6:01 PM

Hey Dude,

So I was sick on Christmas Day, home alone and sick. It sucked. So I decided to postpone Christmas until the Julian calendar Christmas observed by Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs and so forth, and celebrate with my niece and brother in New Orleans.

So to mark the occasion, I also offered to prepare some Russian food for them. I made pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht, and blini. It was great.

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Today, I want to focus on the borscht, a traditional beet-based soup. Basically, my understanding is borscht can be prepared many ways, with the non-negotiable ingredient being beets (and arguably dill). As far as I know, just about anything else is up for grabs.

This recipe is essentially paleo, though some dogmatists would gripe about the dairy and legumes. But those people are turds. To make this vegetarian just omit the chicken stock and do more veggie stock.

Oh, and because I didn’t want to spend five hours in the kitchen, I rely heavily on frozen and canned foods. It’s so easy and really damn good.

Here goes:

Open a beer. Start drinking it.

4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chicken broth

Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Olive oil
1 package frozen potatoes, carrots, onion (“for stew”) in the frozen section (16 oz? 32 oz?)

Sautée for a while, then add to the broth.

2 cups frozen green peas
2 cups frozen cut green beans

Throw these in the broth. Drink more beer. Take a shot of vodka.

4 cans sliced beets (15oz.)

Drain, but save the purple beet water. Chop up the beets and throw them in. Add the beet water to the pot. You might want to bring up the heat a bit for a few minutes or whatever. I don’t know. I think I did.

Add 4 tsp. vinegar or so, you could also use lemon juice or something like that, I used apple cider vinegar
Maybe throw in some butter, I did, a few tablespoons or so, sounded like a good idea
2 handfuls of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook a little longer. Or whatever.

Sour cream to serve. Add more dill if you want. Take another shot of vodka. Serve. Stir in the sour cream. Sour cream is awesome.

This was killer. It makes a lot, so go halvesies if you want. But I think it’s fun to have soup to eat all week.

Merry Second Christmas,
Jamey

Jamey’s Food Philosophy Commitments in Order of Importance

1. Don’t be a dingus.

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2. Whole, unprocessed foods, preferably organic and ethical produce and meats.

3. High plant intake, especially non-starchy vegetables. Eat plenty of raw or fermented veggies, and cook other veggies gently. Moderate fruit. Eat some nuts.

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4. Eat nose-to-tail. Try to eat organ meats and/or shellfish, along with fatty fish (and/or supplement fish oil) a couple times a week.

5. Paleo no-nos: Avoid grains, legumes, added sugar, shitty oils, and dairy. Very modest intake of prepared legumes and full fat dairy may be an okay indulgence on occasion.

6. Watch the carbohydrate intake whenever possible. Fiber is your friend, eat safe starches, and minimize even natural sugars.

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

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Daniel Larkin: to Jamey Bennett

November 25, 2014

You like that email name?  I thought you would.

All stupidness aside, I’m really glad you picked Pho for the first throwdown.  It seems like nowadays I can’t look at any social media forum without seeing a hundred people with raging boners for the stuff, so I think the time is right to Two Dudes it.  The real reason I was excited that you picked Pho, though — and it’s time for some brutal honesty here — is that I’ve never even been in the same room as a bowl of the stuff.

This was a good primer into Pho, and to your credit, I was guided by your recipe.  I just tried to adapt it on the fly with the basic ingredients I could find at the local Food City; aka, Food Shitty. This may be like a blind man describing the color red, or Albrecht Dürer’s Rhino.  But whatever it was that I made, it was outstanding!  It was savory, but the spices were light and festive.  It was hardy, but still soft and comforting.  It was vegan, but had the richness of a steak.

The obvious first hurdle was the meat.  I decided that just going tofu instead of beef was a cop-out.  I hate when restaurants do that, because sometimes it’s just the lazy thing to do, so I wanted to avoid that trap.  What I landed on was mushrooms, but not just mushrooms, ponzu marinated portobello.

Ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce, that when made right, adds all five flavors; sweet, sour, tangy, salty, and savory.  (When Kikkoman makes it, it tastes like soy sauce and 7-Up.)  The spices in Pho seemed like they would be a good match for a slight lime taste, so I went with a ponzu and lime marinade.  (Depending on your noodles, the small amount of wheat in Ponzu can the only thing keeping this meal from being gluten free.)

Most of the work was done in the morning, when I started my broth.  I also cleaned the fans from the mushrooms, sliced them, and let them marinate all day.  In cooking the mushrooms, my general rule is that the longer they cook, the more flavor they give.  It just gets concentrated.  So with all of that in mind, let me give you my list of ingredients.  As you said in your email, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s all fairly easy.  And again, I found everything at the local Food Shitty, so there’s nothing weird or obscure here.

For the mushroom marinade:  

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  • 2 large portobello caps, de-fanned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup Ponzu
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (soy sauce as it should be, no wheat or sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 4 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
  • Juice of one lime

Mix in a gallon Ziplock bag, and stash the fridge, turning every now and then to ensure equal contact time.

For the Broth: aka, the star of the show.

  • 1 32oz box of veggie stock.  I always recommend Imagine No Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 onion rough cut — save the other half for the soup
  • 6 cloves of garlic whole
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 oz package of shittake mushrooms  (This is the key to that savory bump)
  • 2 pods of clove (Optional.  The flavor boils off, leaving good aroma – if you like clove)
  • Half bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 3 tbs Tamari
  • 2 tbs honey — or agave syrup if you don’t consider honey vegan.
  • 1 TBS rice vinegar
  • Half bunch of cilantro whole

Combine all of these into a stock pot, bring to a simmer, and let it go low and slow all day.  Strain all the solids off when it’s time to assemble the soup.  It’s really that easy.

Other miscellaneous ingredients:

  • The other half of that onion sliced
  • 3 carrots sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small stems
  • Jalapeño (Optional, but recommended)
  • 5 Spice Powder (Optional)
  • Noodles of your choice (I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles)
  • Cilantro, basil and lime wedges for garnish

With all of the prep work done, assembly is pretty easy when the time comes.

  1. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and sear on high heat in your preferred oil.  Once they are seared and have that light brown color on the outside, turn down the heat and go low and slow for at least 20 minutes, or unit they are half sized and easily chewed.
  2. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth, then add the other half onion for a two minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli and carrots and top off with the rest of the broth.  Simmer until the broccoli and carrots are tender but not mush.  (Hence the thin slice on the carrots)
  5. Taste and see if you need any five spice powder.  I added a little, but probably could have gotten away without it.
  6. Then you just stack it all, with noodles on the bottom, broth, a teepee of mushrooms, and the garnish herbs and jalapeño.

I’m serious, man, this is one of the most flavorful soups I have ever made.  And it’s one of the few soups that is as good the first day as it is the second.  The key is the broth, which is just a vault of scents and tastes that are neither timid or overpowering. One of these days I’ll actually get to try some real Pho, and then I can see how close I actually came. IMG_7333

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

[For the original, meat-based Paleo pho, click here.]

Paleo Phở with Bonus Slow Cooker Bone Broth

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from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,
I had a great idea tonight to try out a low carb and paleo pho. Last week I made some pastured organic chicken bone broth, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it, then it popped into my head to make some pho! I will definitely make this again. Also, while it kinda sounds like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, it’s quite simple.

Let me start with the broth. Of course, one could always buy a store-broth, but I like to have more control over that, and the health benefits are so much higher from a fresh homemade broth than the high sodium stuff you get in a can. I generally seek out grass-fed beef bones for broth, the omega-3:6 profile is so much better than with chicken, but this was a healthy chicken, so I feel good about it. Essentially, I just put a chicken in the slow cooker all day with a little bit of salt, strained out the meat at the end of the day and had that with dinner. I left the bones in, put in a few cups of water, and added the neck, carrots, celery, parsley, a bay leaf, and a handful of other brothy things, and let it go all night. Strained out the solid matter, and I had a delicious broth.

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I’ve never done pho at home before, so I did a lot of googling of what other people do for their pho and I devised my own from common themes. In no particular order, the ingredients I put together are:

  • 3 cups homemade bone broth
  • Shiritaki noodles (Miracle Noodle fettucini style, or if carbs are your thing, white rice noodles)
  • About 12 ounces thinly sliced sirloin or skirt steak
  • 1 portabella mushroom
  • Five Spice Seasoning Powder (several varieties should be available in the International Asian-ish section of most conventional grocers, just make sure it has at least anise and cinnamon)
  • 4 tablespoons Fish sauce (watch out for added sugars and either find one with little or no sugar, or just limit yourself to 2 tablespoons…four tastes so great, it’s a small sacrifice 😛 )
  • Two small to medium white or yellow onions
  • A heaping cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 radish
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • Two jalapenos (I got green and red for color)
  • Salt and pepper (I used regular sea salt and charcoalized black sea salt from Hawaii, but use whatever)
  • 4 Scallions
  • Minced garlic to taste
  • Cilantro (basil works, too, for cilantro haters)
  • 1/2 lime, cut into four pieces
  • Optional: Sriracha

Prep the meat by poking with a fork or pounding it with a meat mallet to tenderize it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of each piece, and set aside.

Slice the mushroom, onions, radish, jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro and set aside. Also mince the ginger and cut the lime.

Heat up a skillet, super hot, use whatever fat you want, lard, coconut oil, whatever…we’re going for smoke point here. Breaking some rules. It’s okay though. Just this once. Sear the thin beef, 10-15 seconds on each side, 30 seconds if you aren’t blazing hot. Take the pieces aside, and slice thin-ish strips against the grain.

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Oil that skillet back up with some lard or whatever, reduce the temperature to low to medium. Throw in the onions. Give them a minute or two head start. Add the sliced radish and mushroom. Eventually After 4 or 5 minutes, whatever, just make sure you like how the onions are looking, slowly add the garlic and ginger. This is one of those low heat is best treatments. When everything is looking good, slowly stir in the bone broth. Up the heat, bring to a boil, and then scale back to simmer.

Now it’s time to work on the noodles. If you go rice noodle, just follow directions on the package. But I prefer my shirataki noodles, and here’s a brief primer on preparing them. The ones I buy come in a bag, wet, with a solution that smells fishy at first. So what I like to do is rinse them in a collander for about fifteen seconds, and I like to take kitchen scissors and put a few cuts in the middle to make the noodles a bit shorter. Boil them for one minute in water, strain them again in a collander, then throw them back in an empty pan for about thirty seconds to sort of dry them. Set aside.

Now you’ve had five or ten minutes go by with the simmering vegetables and broth. Throw in the jalapenos (deseed them if you want a milder pho), stir in a teaspoon of the seasoning powder, a little bit of salt, and four tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste the broth. Tweak as necessary, but it should be tasting pretty darn good now. Give it a few or five minutes. Add the beef. Give that a couple minutes. Add the bean sprouts.

After about a total of twenty minutes (from the time you added the broth), you should be good. Separate the noodles between bowls (this amount is about four bowls of pho), and spoon out the goods. Garnish generously with scallions and cilantro (or basil), squeeze a lime on top, and if you need an extra kick, add some sriracha.

If you’re willing to accept the challenge, this could be our first paleo-vegetarian challenge. You could easily up the mushrooms and axe the meat, but finding a fish sauce and vegetable broth sub might be more difficult.

Let me know! And enjoy.

PS. If I had it to do over, I’d do more broth, and would have to adjust the seasoning and fish sauce.

Sent from my iPad

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

When the hell did Sriracha become optional?

I did a little research, and it looks like veggie fish sauce does exist, so I’m going to try this. If I can’t find any packaged vegan fish sauce, I’ll try to make it. (That may be a blog post in it’s own right.) I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to crust up tofu like a good seared steak. This may be the time to do it, although I may have to use the tofu as a topping rather than cooking it in the sauce for the last few minutes.

Who knows? I can plan all I want, but I know it’ll all be made up as I go along on the day of.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin 

Yeah, I think a couple of the recipes I read said to just mix the beef in at the end, and I think I even saw one that said to serve the beef raw. I just wanted to make sure the beef was served warm!

Philosophy of Sausage Making

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

I’m so far behind in my TwoDudes emails that I don’t even know where to begin.  Luckily for you, I made sausage the other weekend, so this seems like as good a place as any to pick up the ball.

I don’t know if you’ve ever made sausage, but I hadn’t, and I assumed it was going to be ridiculously difficult.  I had always thought a fun and easy way to do it would be to buy some ground meat, mix in some spices, and make “sausage” patties.  Well, when an old cast-metal, hand-crank meat grinder showed up at our neighborhood yard sale, I knew that plan was shit.  It was time to go all in.

None of us really knew what spices make “sausage.”  We knew that sage makes good breakfast sausage and that you can’t make Italian sausage without fennel, but that’s where our recipe knowledge stopped.  We each did a small amount of research online, but in the end, we decided to just avoid a recipe and just make it up as we went.  This approach, along with morning beers, led to a very distinct lack of note taking.

The spices consisted of a small amount of dry spices along with a handful of fresh herbs from my garden.  Here’s how we collected our meat:  I went suburban and bought a 3-1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder at the grocery store.  (I looked for the best/most marbling I could see.)  Brandon had a trip coming up to see his family in the country, during which he bagged a rabbit with a .22 rifle.  John went to Lay’s meat market in the backstreets of Knoxville (aren’t the best meat stores always in a crappy building in the PJs?) and bought a 5 pound bag of “pork fat.”

We started out with around 10 pounds of flesh, bone and skin, but after we cleaned the rabbit, carved the bone out of the shoulder, and pulled the skin off the pork fat, we were down to about 7 or 8 pounds.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, we cooked the skin in a cast iron pan to render the remaining fat and make cracklins.)  As we were cleaning our respective meats, we chopped them into small pieces — around 1/2 to 1 inch cubed.  Into this, we mixed our haphazard assortments of herbs and seasonings.

The final mix went something like this. 

  • Meat and fat mix
  • Two tall stalks of rosemary
  • Two tall sprigs of oregano
  • Six sage leaves
  • A handful of thyme sprigs
  • Whole bundle of garlic, roasted
  • Powdered coriander (Maybe 2 tbs?)
  • A good coating of Kosher salt
  • Plenty of red pepper flakes
  • Lots of cayenne pepper
  • Black and white pepper
  • 6-8 ounces of Muprhy’s Irish Stout

We chopped the fresh herbs, sprinkled the dry herbs, poured in the beer, and mixed it all into the cubed meat.  Then we put the mix into the fridge while we drank more beer.  You want the fat to be cold, so that it chops easier.

Once everything was chilled, we ran it through the meat grinder on the coarsest setting.  We proceeded to case half the mix in hog intestines, but we were so unprepared for that process, and it was such a disaster that I don’t feel qualified to give any tips.  Well, maybe one tip — buy a sausage stuffer!  Faced with the prospect of stuffing more intestines, we decided to leave the other half as a loose mix which we split evenly between us.

We sampled the sausage in patty form just after grinding, and again as links at the end of the day.  Both times were fantastic, but we noticed that the heat of the peppers drastically declined the longer the sausage sat.  The most surprising thing was how sausage-like the flavor was!  It was incredible!  I’ve got about 8 ounces of loose mix in my freezer now that I’m going to use for spicy cheese dip for the CochFord Chicken Fry.

I realize that I was kinda weak on the details here, so what I’m about to give you is a brief Philosophy of Sausage Making — a term that I actually Googled beforehand, but sadly discovered does not exist.  If you ever find yourself with a meat grinder and a day to spend elbow deep in pork fat and beer, just follow these instructions.

  • Pour yourself a beer, because you’re on your way to Awesometown.
  • Whatever animal/animals you choose, make sure you have a good fat-to-meat ratio — good being at least 30% fat.
  • Remove everything Kosher before you start — because it’s about to look like a pig exploded in your kitchen.
  • Make sure the mix is chilled before grinding.
  • Add a little liquid to help the texture through the grinder.  Beer is a good option.
  • Make a small patty to sample your recipe after grinding.  Then you can make minor adjustments.
  • It doesn’t matter what spices you use, just as long as you use a ton of them.  Sausage is supposed to be flavorful, dammit!
  • If you want spicy sausage, use a lot of peppers.

There you go, dude.  Daniel’s Philosophy of Sausage Making.

IPA-Crusted Pizza

Dude,
It was good to talk to you tonight, and a bit of an encouragement just to share stuff with ya.

So the verdict is in. The pizza was really good. I’m still way amateur when it comes to homemade pizza, but theconsistency and presentation on this one was pretty good.

Basically, I kinda just winged it. I really wanted pizza, but I wanted to stick with my October Unprocessed commitment. So at Trader Joe’s I picked up unbleached whole-wheat flour, and some good, basic mozzarella with no crazy anti-caking agents or anything. I had bacon from Whole Foods, local hot sausage from the farmer’s market, and some jalapenos I pickled myself (inspired by your pickled eggs bit).

For the dough, I used 4 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder (this is the only iffy thing on processed foods), 1-1/2 tsp. salt, a packet of yeast, 2 tbs. olive oil, and a can of beer. Mixed it together (had to add a little water), kneaded it and covered. After about 2 hours I split it in two, rolled it into a ball, and then flattened that shit.

I did my own pizza sauce, too (sorta). I got the idea from AllRecipes.com, but I did things my own way. Basically, I took about 4 oz. tomato paste, 3 tbs. grated parmesan, a couple garlic cloves, 2 tbs. honey (instead of sugar), ¾ teaspoon onion powder, and ¼ tsp. of each of the following: oregano, marjoram, fresh basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. Then I slowly poured crushed tomatoes into the mix, stirring constantly, until it tasted how I wanted. I also salted to taste. It was sweet and yummy.

One pizza was a spicy Hawaiian-style. I used bacon, sausage, pineapple, and jalapeno.

The other pizza was full of caramelized goodness. I caramelized slices of heirloom tomatoes (!!!!!) in my skillet, and caramelized some onions – all with my local, organic, raw butter. Threw that on a pizza with cheese. DAMN. I think tomorrow I might just caramelize some tomatoes to eat like candy.

Sprinkled oregano on top, then baked at 400 degrees. I always bake in a pan, then for the last couple minutes I pull the pizza off the pan with my pizza peel and put it directly on the rack.

I’m interested in your pizza tips one day.

Cheers,
Jamey

P.S. Oh yeah, and I brushed melted butter on the crust. It was awesome.