Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm baaacckkk!

Hello once again everyone! I know some of you have been checking in over the last week only to find the blog un-updated (new word I think!), but now I am back from sunny vaca and ready to cook, type, and eat!

It is always interesting to me how the slightest mention of a semi-forgotten food, the sniff of a food memory scent, or seeing a dish go past in a restaurant can generate such powerful desires for that food. You can be calmly walking down your street and the Schwann's truck will be delivering to a neighbor when suddenly your mouth starts to water because you remember having their cheese and potato pierogies sauteed with onions and butter in college. And yes, it was delicious!

This is the situation Wife Zube and I found ourselves in upon arriving at our vacation spot. We were staying just off of Reuben Drive. We both see the sign and then pretty much suggest reubens for dinner at the same time. A street sign. That is all it took. Not even a fancy street sign.

I love every component of reubens; savory corn beef, cheese, Russian dressing, sauerkraut and bread. But even with my glee for those ingredients I have never, ever made a reuben at home! It never even occurred to me to do so. I love pastrami as well and yet have only made those a couple of times also. Just plain weird I think, that these two delicious, easy sandwiches so easily fall wayside to your standard turkey, tuna fish, or ham sammie.

Well despite my seemingly predisposed attitude to not make reubens at home, we sure did on vacation! Bread was toasted up, corn beef fried, sauerkraut was krauted and to-da! One scrumptious sandwich, if not a pretty one:

Feast your eyes on that. Yum.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My apologies on the recent dearth of postings. Wife Zube and I are on vaca and this is the first trial post from the Blackberry. Is this going to work?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dinner from the Fridge...

Time for an improv dinner/post it seems. Per usual we ended up with various tidbits in the fridge and they all need to get used up. I use to be not so good (read that:bad) at utilizing all my groceries and we would end up tossing rotten food. That is a bad Zube! So now I make sure to run the fridge dry before the end of the week. Then we start fresh!

Through my work I ended up chatting with a fella from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and more specifically from their meat department a.k.a. Wolfe's Neck Beef. It turns out that Wolfe's Neck is a humane, mostly grass-fed, beef source that Hannaford packages as their "Nature's Place" brand. I read something recently about Wolfe's Neck that did raise some question marks as to how earth-huggingily friendly they are or aren't, but I don't remember the details. Either way the fella provided great info as to how they are certified and and accredited for being antibiotic and hormone free! So the Zube household may find itself getting the occasional Nature's Place beef at Hannaford. We mainly try to give our business to Windy Hill Farms as they are VERY local and good folk!

To get back on topic, we had some Wolfe's Neck bistro steaks on hand. The bistro comes from the shoulder (I am pretty sure) and looks vaguely like a little filet mignon, but has much more flavor albeit not as tender. That is how it goes with beef by the way; the more tender, the less flavor, and vice-versa. I love flank steak for its deep, rich, beefy flavor, but a lot of people don't care for it due to chewiness.

After a quick forage through the supplies we came up with asparagus, red peppers, yellow onions, zucchini, and spaghetti squash. I also keep some pesto frozen for moments just like this! The squash needs to be roasted and will take about 30 minutes in a 300F oven, but what to do with the rest? Hmmm. It is almost 50 degrees outside, so let's grill 'em up! So the official name went from "semi-random stuff in fridge" to "Pesto Spaghetti Squash with char-grilled vegetables and Wolfe's Neck Beef bisto steak". The first name makes you wonder if you should eat it and the second name will get you $25 bucks a plate in a restaurant...

To roast the squash simply cut it in half the long way and scoop out the seeds. Give the cut edge a little rub-down with oil, salt/pepper it, and place it cut side down on a sheet pan. If you wanted to be a little fancier you could put some herbs, garlic, or lemon underneath the squash in the hollowed out part. For this dish I am going to skip that since the pesto is going to be a pretty strong flavor and would overpower anything else. To test for doneness I simply poke the outside and see if it has gotten somewhat soft. When it has I take it out, let it cool a bit, and then use a fork to scrape the "spaghetti" out. Mix it with pesto and ka-blam!

Do I want the bistros to be plain or should I add some flavor? I want more flavor so I consult my pantry of usual supplies. Rosemary, oil, salt, garlic. I don't know about you, but to me that screams yummy delicious flavor. I roughly chop up the rosemary and garlic, combine with a couple tablespoons of oil and some salt, and put in a baggie with the bistros for a couple of hours.

The veggies get cut into slices or strips depending on which one, salted, and then simply grilled. I chop them up a bit after the grilling to make them more manageable, but you could keep 'em whole for a different presentation. You can't see the onions in the photo, but I assure you they are there.

The steak grills with the veg so we are ready to chow down and smack our lips! Total busy time for this is what? 20 minutes maybe? Easy, tasty, and pretty darn healthy to boot. See you soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

I have this thing for braising if you hadn't noticed (pork short ribs, duck confit, lamb shanks). There is just something about putting a a big ole chunk of meat in the oven and four hours later it has turned into a meltingly tender meal. The whole house smells so good and feels very homey... enough sappiness, let's talk about eating baby animals!

Lamb shanks are a tougher cut, full of bone and sinew, but very full of flavor. The secret is getting the toughness out and the deliciousness in. Braising tends to cook the flavor out of meat, so a marinade can certainly help keep the meat tasty in itself. It is also important to make a yummy sauce and serve the braised meat pretty hot. The temperature is even more important with lamb since most people don't like the fatty part of it. Personally I like to rub it on my chest and howl at the moon. Getting back to the marinade... I poured about half a bottle of Cab into a pot with sliced onion, bay leaves, garlic, salt, peppercorns, rosemary and brought it to a simmer. I should have burned the alcohol off at this stage, but I was negligent and didn't. Simmering the marinade allows for the flavors to better come out of the added ingredients and meld together. You need to let this cool completely before adding the meat. Just as burning the alcohol off prevents it from "cooking" the meat, you don't want any residual heat in the marinade to do any unwanted cooking. I did however burn the alcohol off after I had seared the shanks and even those these photos aren't in order... here is my first composite image:

After the marinade has cooled completely add your shanks (I put mine in gallon freezer bags) and let marinade 4-6 hours. See you in 4-6 hours... Welcome back! Take your shanks out, pat them dry, and save your marinade. Get your Dutch oven *snicker* nice and hot, add some oil, and sear the shanks on all sides. They look pretty gnarly don't they? Well just wait!

After they are nicely browned remove the shanks and add the marinade in. You want to bring this to a boil for two reasons 1) any impurities from the meat will coagulate and float to the top for you to skim off. Impurities is fancy talk for the brown scum you'll see 2) if you forgot to burn the booze off you can now! See the above image. Once the marinade comes to a boil, light it up! I recommend a stick lighter...

Your oven should be preheating to 350F while you are doing this. Add the shanks back in to the pot. The liquid should come halfway up the shanks. If not perhaps add some water or stock (chicken, veal, beef, veggie, whichever) to get the right amount. I braised my shanks for four hours. The meat is cooked in much less time than that, but the collagen and other chewy things take longer to break down and make the meat tender. It is a good idea to check your hydration level around 3 hours and perhaps add some more liquid in if it looks too low. And then viola!

Mine actually got too dry and I had to add more wine in to make a sauce. However, you pay more attention then I do so you will have a nicely reduced and full of flavor braising liquid for sauce. You can keep it chunky and just spoon it out of your pot with stuff still in it or strain it into a separate pan. I suggest the latter. You can control the sauce better in terms of flavor and consistency. Keep your shanks warm while you do this! Bring the liquid to a simmer and look for viscosity. Does it look thin? Reduce it some more. Does it look thick? Add some water. Once it looks like something you want to slather on your shanks give it a taste and salt/pepper as needed. Serve away!

The finished photos of this post shows the shank (that's the daddy portion up top, and the mommy portion down here) over some beans and stuff. I took a can each of roman and cannellini beans and heated them up with sauteed onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and chicken stock. They went onto the plate first, then a shank, and finally my sauce which was tasty was too thick. We'll call it a glaze.

We also had leftovers and guess what we did... the usual! Had some peeps over and our appetizer was braised lamb shank tacos! Jefe couldn't wait for the photo so the far one is missing a bite...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Broiled Bluefish

On a fancy pants menu this dish could read: "Wild, line-caught Wellfleet bluefish with lemon zest aioli" which it is, but it is also "the fish my dad caught on vacation and my mom's sauce". It is always funny to read a menu, get all excited about something new, and then be handed a plate and realize it's your grammie's meatloaf. Not to say grammie's meatloaf isn't good, but rather you can just make it fancy talk when it is actually meatloaf.

Bluefish is a rather strong, oily fish and if you catch them yourself it is advised to bleed them out. Draining the body of blood helps to lessen the "dark meat" and keep the fresh lighter. You're thinking yum-yum right now aren't you! All this talk of draining...

To help lighten the oily/heavy side of this really tasty fish we pair it with a light, citrus sauce. It just happens to be a sauce that goes on thick instead of thin. We are talking about a lemon zest-red onion aioli. First you need enough mayonnaise to cover your fillet. I like it thick, but you can choose your amount freely. Then you need finely minced lemon zest, garlic, red onion. You want a fine mince because the cooking time will only be a few minutes and you want it all to cook up a bit. How much of each? About this much:

In a completely non-scientific way I am going to recommend a tablespoon of red onion per guest. Use the photo for comparative portioning? Sorry, I really need to get better at measurements.

Mix these three ingredients with the mayo and lather your fillet up. Make sure you put the skin side down and lather up the flesh side... It is important that you pull your fillet out of the fridge (or icebox for our foreign readers) and let it come to room temp. As I mentioned previously the cooking time is short and having your fish all at room temp will help ensure even cooking.

Put your lathered up fillet on a tin foiled covered baking sheet (ease of cleaning tip right there) and chuck it under the broiler, bub! You need to watch this as the aioli (read that the mayo mixture of garlic, zest, and red onion) will start to brown up real quick and will get away from you faster then you can potty break. Once I see adequate browning I turn the broiler down to 400F and close the door. After 7 minutes or so (I totally just made that number up) I pull my fish out and check for doneness. How do I do that? Welp, when fish is cooked past medium the flesh will start to separate easily in what they call "flaking". Due to bluefish being rather oily you can overcook it a bit and it will still be moist and succulent. I look for this much browning on my "wild, line-caught, Welfleet bluefish fillet".

This is a quick post, but it is to help illustrate the fact that this is a quick dish! Don't have bluefish? This technique would be great on salmon, tuna, swordfish, grouper, monkfish, etc. Bon apetit, enjoy, and keep it snappy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Once again a new post is down the page a bit. I started it earlier this week and I haven't figured out how to bump an old draft to the top of my posting. Please feel free to advise for those of you in the know!


Follow up for the first roasted local chicken...

It was a delight to enjoy. Local, chem-free chickens are usually referred to tasting "extra-chickeny" and I understand why. This one was from Mainely Poultry in Warren, Maine and it was really tasty. Unfortunately, I have no photos due to poor planning and immediate consumption.

I mentioned brining the bird in the original post (The Declaration) and that certainly lent a hand in flavor. Into a 4 quart pot I put 3 quarts of water, some bay leaves, peppercorns, 4 whole garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of salt (brines should taste like the ocean), and 1/8 cup of honey. Bring this mixture to a boil so it all dissolves and flavors mingle, then cool completely. I put my bird in a gallon freezer bag, poured the brine over, sealed it, and refrigerated it for 6 hours.

After the allotted time I removed the bird from the brine, rinsed it off, and then patted it as dry as possible. The bird was trussed and then sent sailing into a ripping hot saute pan with a light coat of oil. When the bottom was nicely browned the pan and bird went into a 400F oven for about 45 minutes. One note concerning the browned bottom *snicker* of an all-natural bird... They brown fast! I actually, embarrassingly, burned my chicken while browning the bottom. I have done a dozen or so birds this way and have my internal timer pretty well set. However, that was for mass-produced chickens and not my local "girl next door". My only thought is that the all-natural bird isn't injected with any solution so you deal solely with skin, fat, and meat. A processed bird has solution/brine in it and as you sear it, the moisture must come out and inhibit the browning process for a bit. Whether that is correct or not, I don't know, but I do know that my new poultry gets crispy in a hurry.

To test for doneness in your roasted chicken you can 1) guess 2) use a thermometer, aiming for 150F in my opinion 3) shake a leg and see if it moves freely. I like option 3 as it makes me feel like I got sweet moves on the dance floor. You know, shakin' a leg and all that!

When Mrs. Chicken was done I took her out and let her rest under foil while I made gravy. Proteins have carry-over cooking that occurs after the direct heat has been removed. The outside of your chicken/roast/steak is still really hot and letting the meat rest before serving does two things. First it will cook the meat a bit more, and the bigger the cut the more it will rise in temperature. You take a three pound roast and it might go up ten degrees in fifteen minutes while chillin' under some foil. Secondly, the juices inside will redistribute back into the meat and keep your slices much juicier. You see the opposite of this when you yank a steak off the grill, rip a chunk out with your teeth, and then the juice pours done your hands/arms as you dance around trying to cool your burning mouth. This is a classic Zube move, just so you know.

After resting and gravy production we feasted, reveled, and grinned with chicken tooth smiles and gravy smeared chins. I am sold. Local > Supermarket.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Glazed Carrots (yeah, I have that much to say about them)

Imagine my excitement when I learned that one of my favorite Ma Zube's recipes was also a technique favored by Thomas Keller! That's like finding out the magical seed you found in the woods grew to be a Bacon Tree! In Bouchon Keller talks about the ease and deliciousness of glazing root vegetables. But you know what? I already knew all about this thanks to Ma Zube and a little side reading. Take that, TK!

Even people who don't like cooked carrots have tried this dish and gobbled 'em up like Hungry Hippos that drank too much coffee. This is actually alchemy due to the simple carrot being transformed into candy. This is a combination of two culinary techniques at the same time. This is easy and you will never look at a carrot the same way again. A Bugs Bunny snack elevated to Really Yummy Dish status.

Smaller carrots work best for this dish as they have more natural sugars. After you peel them, cut them into equal sized pieces. Keeping the pieces equally sized will ensure that they cook evenly and uniformly. You don't want small mushy bits and rock hard chunks. In the past I would cut my into the standard disc that you naturally cut a cylinder into, but now I am fancy! Yup, in my new fancy pants style my knife wielding hands render the whole carrot into tasty morsels via the oblique cut.

To describe the oblique cut accurately...hmm. Welp, the finished product is the photo behind my fond logo. Take your peeled carrot and place it in front of you as you would normally, (If you are a Super Ninja then it goes behind you while levitating). Instead of cutting perpendicular to the axis of the carrot (read that: the long way) cut it at a 45 degree angle. Now roll the carrot a quarter-turn to you. The next cut will also be at the same 45 degree angle, and the cut starts at the top of the carrot where the previous cut ends. Repeat. I hope that makes sense. I might try to video link a demo of this. Mostly just for fun and getting to use our new Flip video. Anywho, you should end up with little two-sided pyramids with a rounded bottom. Again, reference the title photo behind my logo. Also, you can't make too many of these scrumptious treats.

Place your pile of odd pyramids in a pan and add water until just the tippy-tops are peaking through like expectant little children on Christmas Day. (...not sure where that came from...) Plop in a couple tablespoons of butter and turn your heat to medium. The culinary trip you just embarked on is that you are going to make a simple veggie stock in the pan as the water simmers. The sugars in the carrots will dissolve out into the water and make a happy little place for the carrots to cook in.

The goal is to have all the water evaporated at the exact time the carrots are tender and perfectly cooked. So, it is almost better to start will a little less water and then add more at the end if it is needed than having too much and pouring off coveted carrot-sugar water. When the water is gone the next culinary adventure starts in the form of caramelization. Did you just blink and wonder how caramel found its way into the pan? It was there all the time! The simmering water pulled sugars out of the carrots, realized you were only interested in the sugars, got all huffy and sullen about this, and decided to evaporate away leaving the sugars behind. Now those sugars are coating the outside of the carrots and the butter you put in is keeping them greased up and the continued heat is caramelizing the simple sugar into more complex and tasty sugars. (That is one tasty run-on sentence.) You can see this happen as your carrots brown on the edges. Browning = caramelization = Srum. Diddily. Ump. Tious. After you see enough brown edges that you feel good about yourself, chuck your carrots on a plate and feast away! And yes, my spell checker hates me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adam Sandler and Thomas Keller?

Yo yeah! Adam Sandler's movie Spanglish was about this chef (Adam Sandler) who suddenly hits it big and begrudgingly enters into the spotlight while his private life falls apart. He comes home late one night and needs a comfort snack so he makes himself "the world's greatest sandwich". The consulting chef for the movie was none other than Thomas Keller himself and this is a video link showing Keller instructing Sandler on how to construct the world's greatest sandwich. I think my favorite part is when Keller talks about laying the bacon down in opposing directions so the fat/meat ends compliment each other.
On a complete sidenote, Keller has a Utopian philosphy where there is no "line" or head chef and in its place there are simply people with a like-minded ideal of culinary excellence who get together each day and feed people. You can see this in the movie as the kitchen where Sandler consults his crew has tables seemingly strewn about and not the typical kitchen line setup. Also take note of the omnipresent blue tape that labels everything in the walk-in.

The World's Greatest Sandwich