Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Chicken Noodle Salad – Making Friends with Cold Spaghetti

The great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, once said, “You don’t make friends with salad.” This cold, spicy, and addictively delicious chicken noodle salad might be the exception. You bring a big bowl of this to the next big cookout, and you’re going to make all sorts of friends. The only people who might not be huge fans are the folks who brought regular pasta salads, in which case the best you can hope for is frenemies.

While I also love more traditional pasta salads, there’s just something extra special about this combination of tastes, and textures, as well as the always exciting aspect of spicy food served cold. Besides that, this recipe is a perfect catchall for all those summer vegetables we're supposed to be eating more of. No matter what you add, if you can make this ahead, it will always come out a little better, since the noodles and chicken will have time to soak up all that flavorful dressing.

As I mentioned, this salad usually gets made because you have some possibly dry leftover grilled chicken around, or other meat for that matter, but if you do want to poach some like I did here, I would watch this video for the proper technique. Or, in a pinch, just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store. Regardless of what you use, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
8 ounces dry spaghetti, cooked al dente, rinsed in cold water, and drained
1 large cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cup thinly grated carrots
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
1 cup packed mixture of chopped basil, mint, and cilantro

For the dressing (all amounts here are to taste, so add more if you want): 
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon fish sauce 
1 tablespoon sriracha 
1 tablespoon hoisin 
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Black & Blue Steak Burger – Wait Until the Guys Hear About This!

Chopping up perfectly good steaks to make burgers with is going to raise a few eyebrows, and that’s just one of the reasons to do it. The great taste and texture are a couple other ones, not to mention it’s always nice to know exactly what you’re eating. Besides, imagine the mileage your dad’s going to get out of the story about the time you hand-chopped a rib eye just to make him a burger for Father’s Day. That’s pure chatting with your buddies at the hardware store gold.

This will also work with cheaper cuts like chuck, or round, but there’s a certain luxuriousness starting out with meat that’s already tender before it’s even chopped. By the way, using premium cuts for burgers is nothing new, and steakhouses have been doing just that with their trimmings for decades, which reminds me, if you can find some extra flavorful dry-aged beef, this will be even more memorable.

Above and beyond the taste, as long as you’re using cuts with enough fat, hand chopping the meat to a course grind will produce a very tender burger. Most hamburger meat from the store is too finely ground, and horribly overworked, and by the time you form it into patties, it can’t help but be a little tough. That’s not a problem here. By using a sharp knife, and partially frozen meat, there will be little to no fat smearing, which is one of the things that makes for a chewy burger.

Feel free to use no cheese, or a different variety, but the sharp, slightly salty funkiness of the blue cheese really works perfectly here. And the glorious crust we get as our meat sears in that melted fat is a wonder to behold. Homemade buns will also add to the experience, and here’s the link for making your own, but even if you’re going to serve this on a store-bought bun, and really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients to make 4 normal, or 3 giant Black & Blue Steak Burgers:
3/4 pound fatty rib eye steak
3/4 pound top sirloin steak
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup not packed) crumbled blue cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-Sear about 3 minutes per side in a dry, very hot cast iron pan set over medium-high heat.

For the red onions:
1 red onion, sliced
big pinch of salt
enough red wine vinegar to cover
- Combine ingredients and let sit in fridge overnight, or until the onions turn color and soften slightly.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Million Dollar Dip – Worth Every Penny

When I heard there was a recipe called million dollar dip, I knew it was something I had try, especially since it was invented by a fellow upstate New Yorker, named Helen Corbitt. Apparently, the original name was Neiman Marcus dip, which at some point evolved into million dollar dip, although I’m not exactly sure when, or why. I’m guessing Pinterest had something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, I do like the new name better, and not just because recipes shouldn’t be named for department stores, but also because million dollar dip is so darn accurate. I’ve had more than a few cheese-based dips in my day, but this is, by far, the richest one I’ve ever enjoyed. I mostly credit the semi surprising addition of almonds, which makes sense, since that’s the best part of any holiday cheese ball. Yes, I’m that guy at the party who whittles off all the crushed nuts it was rolled in.

By the way, I wanted to expand on a cryptic tip I gave during the video, when I said to use a sharp knife for the green onions, so they taste better. The reason is, if you use a dull knife to slice or chop onions, you’ll be crushing instead of cutting, which releases volatile sulfuric compounds, and makes the flavor much harsher.

In fact, I have a theory that most people who don’t like onions, had parents who used dull knives to cut onions when they were kids. If that’s you, go buy sharp knife, and give them another try. That aside, this dip is extremely simple to make, profoundly satisfying, extremely additive, and sure to be a huge hit at your next party, which is why really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 3 cups of Million Dollar Dip:
1/2 cup chopped crisp-cooked bacon (6 to 8 slices)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds, very lightly toasted
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
pinch of cayenne

Friday, June 7, 2019

Pineapple Pulled Pork Al Pastor – Holy Smokes This Was Good

When I roast, or smoke a pork shoulder outside on the grill, I usually break a few rules, and by a few, I mean pretty much all of them. I use too high a heat; I don’t wrap my meat halfway through; or even bother mopping the meat with a marinade; and yet despite ignoring all those best practices, I’m always thrilled with how it comes out.

Maybe it’s the brine, or that I’m just easily satisfied, but it’s been my experience that if you season aggressively, and cook the meat over smoky coals to an internal temp of 195 F., you’ll be rewarded with tender, moist, and very flavorful meat. By the way, this was inspired by the famous al pastor taco’s spice blend, and pineapple element, but I wouldn’t want anyone to expect this to taste exactly like that magical meat.

Having said that, this particular flavor profile really works here, especially when the pulled pork is topped with grilled pineapple salsa. In fact, that stuff was so delicious, you should make it even if you’re not barbecuing the shoulder. It’s great on anything, including ice cream; so don’t let the last of those hot coals go to waste.

The only real challenge here is maintaining a steady temp in your grill of between 300 and 325 F. I try to keep it just above 300 F., which is accomplished by adjusting the vents under, and on top of the grill, or smoker. I also like to start with a good amount of (real) charcoal, so I don’t have to reload it halfway through, but that depends on your set-up. Thanks to the brine, and spice rub, even if you end up having to do this in the oven, I still think it comes out quite well. In any event, there’s nothing like a juicy, pulled pork sandwich, and this is one of my favorite versions, which is why I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 portions:
1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 9-10 pounds)
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1 quart pineapple juice
3 quarts water
For the Rub (will make extra):
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup ancho chili powder, or any ground chili pepper
1 tablespoon ground chipotle
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin optional
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the Pineapple Salsa:
2 cups chopped grilled pineapple
1 finely diced Serrano chili pepper
2 tablespoons diced roasted red pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon spice rub, or to taste
additional salt to taste