Easy Peasy Pork Ribs (No photo, ate too fast)

from: Daniel Larkin
to: “Jamey W. Bennett” 

Just because the mother of my child is vegetarian doesn’t mean I can’t make ribs on Mother’s Day.  Jenny wanted to have her parents over for Mother’s Day and grill veggie burgers.  And since Jenny’s mother (who eats vegetarian 90% of the time) is always stealing one of my ribs when we go to Roadhouse, I decided to be the good son in-law and grill 3 lbs of pork ribs for Judy.  She ate one rib.

I’ve never done ribs before, (except this one time when my buddy John and I cooked a few racks in a stone smoker we built during a camping trip) but I’ve slow cooked my share of meats at home before, so I felt comfortable.  I just applied basic methods and common sense, and hit a home run.

  • First, I peeled off the silver skin from the back of the ribs with a knife and some elbow grease.  It’s the tough stretch stuff on the underside.  (Why the butcher doesn’t do this, I’ll never know)
  • Then I sprinkled the ribs with a mix of brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper and cinnamon.
  • Then, as the oven was preheating to 230º, I poured about two cups of vegetable stock and a beer into a stock pot, and squirted in a good dose of liquid smoke.
  • I laid the ribs in the stock pot with a tight fitting lid, but elevated them above the liquid by setting them on two ceramic pot-pie ramekins.  (For all my cooking, I don’t own a roasting pan.  Obviously, that’s the easiest thing to do.)
  • Then I let that shit go for 5 hours.  No need to baste or anything.  They were literally falling off the bone when I pulled them out.  And the juice!
  • I finished them off by brushing them with some BBQ sauce and grilling them on high flames for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce was caramelize.

I honestly should have taken a picture of these things, but I couldn’t stop eating long enough to wash my hands and get my camera.  Just trust me, they were friggin’ amazing!

Amazing Meatless (Spicy) Meatballs

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Well Dude,

You know how it is with the faux meats. It can be hit and miss. I’ve never actually tried the faux meatballs I’ve seen at the store, but I’ve read a few complains about them online. And I’m rarely satisfied in my kitchen if I don’t get to use a damn spice or two.

So enter the amazing (spicy) meatless meatballs I just made up. And they are easy as balls, because that’s how balls should be.

Start with one package of Gimme Lean soy protein sausage. This was an accidental stroke of genius, as I simply bought this the other day at Whole Foods, without any real plan of what I would do with it. When the meatball light went off in my brain, I knew what I had to do.

Set that aside, and get out the food processor, at least if you want to do this the easy way. Throw in 1/4 cup of chopped red onion (you might choose to omit this, but these onions will be cooked), and mince that shit up. Squeeze in the faux sausage (careful or your hands will get sticky).

Now, we’re making this easy, so just put in 1 teaspoon of each of the following: oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper (less if you want it less spicy, duh), and minced garlic (about two cloves if you’re going fresh).  Add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan/romano cheese, and 1/4 cup of bread crumbs. Then a few grinds of black pepper. Run the food processor until everything is mixed.

Then make balls. It doesn’t take a genius to do it. Kindergarteners do this shit with PlayDough.

Fry them until nice and browned.

Do whatever you want with them after that. I mean, they’re your balls. I dipped my balls in marinara and let them simmer for a bit before tossing them with some penne and marinara.

And there you have it. Tasty, tasty, faux meat meatballs.

Jamey

Thanksgiving Leftovers Texas-Inspired Kentucky Hot Brown

So dude I have got to tell you about this amazing sandwich I made! It’s a Texas inspired Kentucky hot brown openface sandwich’s mofo. If you’ve never had a Kentucky hot brown you need to remedy this immediately.

So this is perfect for a post Thanksgiving treat. You’re gonna need some leftover turkey, and you’ll want to make some thick turkey broth from the carcass or the neck and giblets.

You will also need some flour, butter, white cheddar, parmesan, pickled jalapeños, canned salsa, and salt-and-pepper for the gravy. I would also add some slices of tomato, a few pieces of bacon, and possibly parsley or cilantro for a garnish. Finally – garlic Texas toast! Texas toast is not hard to make but you can find it in the frozen food section of any grocery store and you can have it made in less than 10 minutes with little effort. (Any bread should work.)

So first the Mornay sauce or gravy. You just take a little bit of your thickened broth that you made from the turkey carcass, and add a little bit of hot water to kind of get it melted and stirred up. Add a pad of butter, some of the Parmesan cheese, and a few small chunks of the white cheddar. Stir that up real well with a little bit of salt and pepper and microwave it for a minute. Add flour to thicken it up, maybe a tablespoon at a time. Throw in some pickled jalapeños and a couple tablespoons of spicy canned salsa – you know the kind of salsa you can get for $.79 at Walmart in an 8 oz can. Stir well and microwave for another minute or minute and a half. If it’s too thick cut with a little hot water. Taste it and if it’s good you did it right – if it’s not good you didn’t do it right. That’s just the kind of f*ing precision my recipes entail.

Why you’ve been doing that hopefully you’ve been cooking bacon on the stove, have your Texas toast in the oven, and sliced up a tomato or two. Finally heat up some leftover turkey.

And here is how you get a homerun. Put the Texas toast on the damn plate. Top with turkey and bacon. Smother the shit out of that with your sauce. Lay the tomato slices on top, garnish with the green if you wish, and add a little freshly ground black pepper.

And thus you have a Texas inspired Kentucky hot brown.

I literally dictated this whole recipe using Siri.

Dictated, not read.

Sauteed Curried Sweet Potato

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

This is really easy, and I think you need to know.  I stumbled across the greatest method of making potatoes ever.  You can use regular potatoes with any savory spices you want, but I’ll used curried sweet potatoes as my example.

Cut two large sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes — approximately.

Mix (and these are guesses on the measurements)

  •     1tbs red curry powder
  •     1/2 tsp cinnamon
  •     1tbs brown sugar
  •     Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the potato cubes in a bowl with oil (safflower is a good option) and all of the dry spices.  Bake in oven at 400º until almost done — maybe about 15 or 20 minutes.

Pull these suckers out the oven and sauté in butter until golden brown.

The baking cooks the potatoes and melds the flavors, but the sautéing really gives each cube a solid outside that you don’t get any other way.  Use them as a side, or add them to other dishes.

These go GREAT in stir-fry, or you can use Mexican themed spices and put them in tacos!  Or use this method with regular potatoes, but sub in some garlic and rosemary!  Just do it!  Whatever you do!

That is all.

Shit just got out of hand! “Italian” Mac-n-Cheese

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey

I know I had mentioned to you about a week ago that I was planning on making some Southern Mac ‘n Cheese. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask) things got a little out of hand, and my simple comfort food spiraled into a whole different genre of dairy-and-pasta. Here’s how it all started.

I’ve made good Mac ‘n Cheese in the past, so good in fact that Jenny and my mother in-law both requested it for their birthday meals. Personally, I like my recipe, but I’ve never been a fan of fact that it’s kind of bullshit in that it’s just pasta, a roux with milk, and Velveeta. It tastes good. Obviously it should, Velveeta is engineered to hit every one of my fat-man sensors, but it’s too processed to warrant any real pride.

Well I recently found a squash “souffle” recipe that caught my eye, and its gooey consistency was perfect for what I wanted. So that’s where this all began. I say “began” because things really did get out of hand; I ran out of things, let time lapse on a few occasions, and ended up generally winging it.

Now before I lay this all out, I want to express my disgust for food companies that think adding a tiny bit of olive oil and a smidgen of shitty parmesan cheese to an already substandard product makes it “Italian” and therefore “gourmet.” Bullshit!  Italian food starts from the beginning concept, and is always about freshness! That’s why I refuse to call this Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.  This was all a happy accident that ended up using a few “Italian” components. But it’s kind of Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  •     12 Ounces whole wheat pasta spirals – cooked al dente, cooled
  •     3/4 pint cherry tomatoes – halved
  •     Bunch fresh basil
  •     Extra virgin olive oil
  •     Good shaved parmesan
  •     Handful fresh parsley
  •     2 Eggs — separated

For the sauce:

  •     2 tbs Butter
  •     2 tbs All purpose flour
  •     8 oz. block of good cheddar – shredded
  •     One cup whole cottage cheese.  None of that low fat bullshit.
  •     1-1/2 cups whole milk
  •     1-1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
  •     3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •     Red pepper flakes to taste. (Late thought.  I didn’t try it, but it would certainly work wonders)

Toss your sliced grape tomatoes and chopped garlic in olive oil and roast them in the oven at 400º for 10 to 15 minutes — until they become fragrant.

Now, make the darkest roux you can with the butter and flour.  (Melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and cook on LOW stirring often, until you get the color of cardboard.  If it smells like burning cardboard, you went too hot and need to start again.)

Add the milk to the roux and stir while you continue to simmer.  This will turn into a velvety rich cream.

Adding the cheese will cause the sauce to cool a bit.  That’s fine, because we want it a bit cool before we add the egg yolks.  After you’ve added the cheese and egg yolks, take the egg whites and whip them until they’re nice and frothy.

The rest is simple.  Just toss everything together in an oven safe dish; pasta, cheese sauce, roasted tomatoes and garlic, parsley and egg whites.  Top it all off with a sparse, but noticeable layer of parmesan and cover it.  Place the covered dish in an oven that has been preheated to 350º and bake for 30 minutes.

NOW!  Like I said, some of my personal timing was off.  Like an idiot, I tried to work out while this was cooking, and I let it go for close to an hour.  While that made for good burnt cheese sides (yumm!) it also dried everything out a bit.  I rolled with the punches and tried to moisten it up with late addition of cold, clean olive oil, which really breathed a breath of freshness that elevated everything to the next level.

So serve, scoop out a good portion, top with some chopped fresh basil and a good drizzle of fresh olive oil.

There you go, dude.  It may sound like a bit much for Mac ‘n Cheese, but it turned out wonderful.  Jenny and her mother both said it was better than the Velveeta version.  And that’s something I can actually be proud of.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to me

YUM! I do not believe one can go too far with mac n cheese. I always tell people when raving about Stone Brewing Company to drop the $18 on their mac n cheese, because it’s worth every penny. Sounds like you have $18-grade mac n cheese!

As far as the roux and burnt cardboard…I think that’s where I went wrong on my mac n cheese back at Easter. I knew immediately what you meant when you said that.

Harissa (North African Hot Sauce/Paste)

Hey Dude!

Man, I am so excited. I finally tried my hand at harissa, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Don’t know if you’ve ever had harissa, but back when I was selling hummus, a company from D.C., called Cava, was demo-ing some harissa next to me, and I fell in freaking love with it.

What makes their harissa unique, and so damn good, is their use of stewed tomatoes. So I wanted to see if I could figure out a harissa with tomatoes at the base. And since I have several bags of smoked or dried peppers in my pantry, my brain put the following together

  • 10-12 sun-dried tomatoes (I used Bella Sun Luci)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 ancho peppers (dried poblanos, check a Mexican grocery store)
  • 1 smoked ghost pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Salt, caraway, ground coriander, parsley
  • Lemon juice
  • Red wine vinegar

My method was quite simple. I roasted the red pepper and sun dried tomatoes at 350 degrees. I pulled the sun-dried tomatoes out after about 10 minutes, then kept roasting the pepper about 20 more minutes. After it was roasted, I let it cool until I could handle it, and I pulled the skin off.

Meanwhile, I submerged the ancho peppers and ghost pepper in a glass of water. Likewise, I soaked the now roasted sun-dried tomatoes in a separate glass of water.

Then, I simply combined all the ingredients in my food processor, adding a few shakes of each of the seasonings.

I used the lemon juice and red wine vinegar for flavor, preservation, and pasty consistency, 1 tablespoon at a time. In all, I think I used 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1-1/2 or 2 of red wine vinegar. Added a little more salt, and bam. I have a delicious African condiment. Goes great on sandwiches, meat, pita bread, mixed with hummus, whatever!

I’m not sure roasting the sun-dried tomatoes was necessary, so next time I’ll probably try it without and see how it compares.

World Peace Currywurst Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I think I may have just done more for world peace than any U.N. peace treaty ever could. I made a currywurst taco.

I don’t remember where I first heard about currywurst, but it’s important to note that I’ve never actually had currywurst until today. Even when I was in Germany, I had plenty of sausages, but never had currywurst. I guess that’s a sort of disclaimer, since I have nothing to compare it to. But if authentic German currywurst tastes like what I whipped up, I can see why it’s popular.

The legend of currywurst is that a simple woman in post-WW2 Berlin traded some booze with British soldiers for ketchup, curry, and Worstchestershire sauce. She threw them together in her kitchen with a few other spices, poured it over sausage and the rest is history. Now the stuff is everywhere over there.

Still, there’s plenty about the dish online, and I found this Wall Street Journal article quite enlightening. After scouring various articles and recipes online, it’s clear that few people agree on how to make the sauce that makes currywurst so delectable, and there appears to be some difference of opinion on what one should serve with currywurst.

Well, in adapting this for a taco, essentially I did this. For each taco: one Hofbrau beer brat from Trader Joe’s, served on a medium wheat tortilla, topped with a curried tomato sauce, and sauerkraut. It was amazing.

First the sauce. There are many simple recipes online that amount to essentially currying ketchup. I wanted something a little more refined than that, and I really didn’t want anything as sweet as ketchup. So here’s what I came up with. I found this recipe and made several twists and omissions, all changes I think were important.

I sauteed about 2/3 cup of chopped onions and 1 clove of minced garlic in oil for a few minutes, then I added a small amount of water and stirred to kinda clean up the pan. I turned the heat off, and added: 10 cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), 1/4 cup vinegar, 6 ounce can of tomato paste, 2 tbs. honey, 1/4 tsp of ground allspice, 5 tbs. curry powder (yeah, I said FIVE freaking tablespoons), 1 tsp. ginger powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 bay leaf, and a little salt and pepper.

I turned the heat back on, and simmered, adding quite a bit of water, probably about 1-1/2 cups, but I only did it a quarter cup at a time. Over the course of 25 minutes or so of simmering and occasionally stirring, a lot of water dissipated. In the end, the consistency I wanted with a chunky, slightly thick ketchup. And damn, it was tasty.

Meanwhile, I browned the small wheat tortillas in a separate skillet, doesn’t take long, and set them aside. I threw the brats in the skillet, and ended up breaking them down by chopping with a knife and separating them with the spatula until it had the consistency of ground meat.

Once everything was cooked thoroughly, I removed the bay leaf, spooned the sausage onto the tortilla, topped with a generous helping of sauce, and sauerkraut. I served with a big glass of water, but a large mug of German beer would have been even better.

As far as quantities…I used about a full brat on each tortilla, though the Trader Joe’s brats are relatively small, and I think the amount of sauce would work well for 4-6 tacos of this size.

Who woulda thunk? India, Great Britain, Germany, and Mexico, united in one damn fine dish.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

That looks thoroughly delicious.  And that’s something I could easily do camping – freeze and vacuum seal the brats ahead of time, and then dehydrate the sauce.  Either way, home or in the woods, this is happening.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

It’s super good. I just had some leftovers, and it was great. I took the sausage out of the casing this time, and it was much easier to break apart (duh). Full disclosure: I actually wanted to slice the brats to give it a more traditional (German) appearance, but my cuts were ugly, so I decided to go with the ground meat look! I think that actually was better, especially because it created pockets in the taco for the sauce to fill, likely making it less messy.

These things are pretty juicy, between the sauce and the kraut. Take some big paper towels for a cleaner experience.