English roast

•June 28, 2011 • 4 Comments

For our latest dinner party, we knew we wanted to try roasting a relatively cheap piece of beef to see if we could get it to turn out as well as other cuts we have done, like the standing rib roast. We visited a local butcher and saw a massive, appealing looking “English roast” for less than half the price of the standing rib. Because it looked a little lower in fat content, we picked up a small package of frozen pig fat to help the roast along.

This was the first attempt at something called “larding”, a technique which I loved the minute I read about it in Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking.” Essentially, larding means pushing strips of fat through a large piece of meat to help it stay moist. Apparently you can get special needles for doing it, but since our lovely pig fat was already frozen, we just cut some slits into the roast and inserted some freshly sliced frozen chunks into the slits along with some garlic cloves.

english roast sunday beef larding

slits cut in the roast for larding

Then, the entire roast was smeared with chopped rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the top covered with more slices of pork fat and placed on the rack of an uncovered roasting pan.

rosemary english roast beef larding

the roast is ready for the broiler

Before being cooked at low heat, it went under the broiler on high for five minutes on each side. After the broiler had nicely browned each side, we turned the oven down to 275 and let it roast uncovered for at over 4 hours, basting occasionally with the fat drippings in the bottom of the pan. We pulled it out when the internal temperature was 140 and it was perfectly done.

While the roast was cooking, we were all sitting around starving and knew it would be a long time before dinner was served. We put together an awesome snack platter to munch on consisting of granny smith apples, red grapes, two kinds of crackers, boars head salami, and garlic herb cheese ball. That’s right, gotta love the cheese ball… though sadly you can’t really see much of it in the picture.

fruit cheese crackers salami apple grape platter

the best lunch ever.

We attempted to make some pommes souffle, but they weren’t cut correctly and didn’t puff at all. They were delicious as regular fries anyway – we mortar-and-pestled some lemon zest with salt to put on them and they all got eaten before I could even take a picture. I also had a pretty failed attempt at making rolls from scratch, but I realized later that the dough was ridiculously over-proofed… stupid high altitude and desert heat. They were edible, but not picture-worthy.

As the roast was finishing, we put together some tasty wedge salads with big chunks of bleu cheese, gently cooked Irish bacon, roma tomatoes, boiled egg, and dressing.

bleu cheese wedge iceberg bacon

bacon makes everything better.

Then the roast came out. It was surprisingly tender and quite tasty–I was worried because I had read that English roasts should only be cooked with liquid (like a pot roast) because they would be too dry otherwise. However, ours came out quite moist and tender.

english roast meat beef rosemary sear juicy delicious


It was so good that my dog, who is usually very well behaved about stealing food, actually managed to steal part of the roast off the counter! Luckily, all the guests had already been served. Also, he didn’t chew on it at all before he was discovered and scolded, so we’re going to use it for some Philly cheese steaks tonight.

bad dog cute guilty

he's too cute to stay mad at...


fish fry

•August 30, 2010 • 3 Comments

we went fishing at cochiti lake the other day and ended up with our best catch this summer: two pretty large catfish and a little bluegill (my only catch).catfish calabacitas zucchini macaroni

we got home and were exhausted, but knew we had to deal with the fish. tim had never filleted a catfish before, but we agreed it sounded easier than the option of skinning and cleaning the entire fish. the filleting went ok – i did the smaller one, then he did the larger one and did a better job than i did. but we got some nice fillets out of it. (and on the plus side, i think i managed to gross out my parents and brother completely when they came in to the kitchen and i was halfway through a fillet, blood all over the place.)

i rinsed and dried them, dipped them in flour, dipped them in an egg and lemon juice mixture, and then coated them in a mixture of yellow cornmeal, salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika. they went into a skillet with a shallow layer of hot, already-browning butter… and they turned out delicious. best catfish i’ve ever had. the breading was light and crispy, the fish tender and tangy. i didn’t use any sauce or topping on it and it was perfect.

we cleaned the bluegill, descaled it, and wrapped it in foil with butter, salt, and pepper and grilled it. it was small but tasty.

to accompany, we used one of the gigantic zucchinis from my parents garden to make calabacitas. i had tim dice the zucchini, a whole onion, and two tomatoes and then mince some garlic. i threw everything except the tomatoes in a pot with olive oil and salt over medium-high heat until it started to cook down. i added some frozen corn and continued cooking. once everything was starting to soften, i turned down the head and added tomatoes, dried oregano, some green chile sauce, and cumin. i continued to cook, adjusting salt and seasoning as neccessary, until everything was tender but not yet mushy. right at the end, i added some butter and milk for a creamy touch.

the 50 cent box of macaroni and cheese we made as our other side is hardly worth mentioning as a cooking adventure, but i will say that mac and cheese goes extremely good with calabacitas 🙂

barbecue pork ribs

•August 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

zucchini baked potato pork grill

a couple nights ago, tim had the energy to grill (i was completely spent after a long day of meetings at school). we had some boneless pork ribs, gigantic potatoes, and plenty of zucchini from various family and friends’ gardens.

we threw the pork ribs in a bowl with olive oil and a bunch of salt and pepper and let them sit a while before putting them on the grill. likewise, the zucchini got cut into spears and was put in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning and left to marinate. the potatoes were just wrapped up in foil and thrown right on the grill.

the grilling part is pretty simple, and something we repeat pretty often with various cuts of meat. tim grills the pork on pretty high heat until the outside is nicely seared, flipping as needed. then, he bastes it with some sauce (today it was barbecue sauce, which i secretly adorned with a little honey and a little bacon fat–we’re not trying to grill healthy here!). he continues basting on each side until the pork is completely done and the sauce becomes a sticky glaze. the potatoes came off the grill when they felt squishy under the tongs, and the zucchini only needs to go on long enough to get a little seared and slightly “bendy” (i don’t know why but i can’t think of a single other word at the moment).

it was quite a feast, after we opened up the potatoes and covered them in butter, bacon, cheese, salt, and pepper. didn’t even come close to finishing the plate but now i have lunch today!

broiled balsamic zucchini

•August 1, 2010 • 4 Comments

broiled balsamic zucchini with parmesan and basil

my parents’ garden has been flooding me with 3 varieties of squash this summer – yellow squash and both light and dark green zucchini. i returned home from camping yesterday to find three new light green zucchini sitting on the counter.

when i was a kid, zucchini was sliced and thrown into a pot with a jar or can of tomato sauce and cooked until basically falling apart. though that dish holds nostalgic charm, i’m glad i’ve found a couple other ways to prepare zucchini, including calabacitas. i love calabacitas and i’ve made it three or four times already this summer, so i really felt like trying something new.

what i ended up with is based on a recipe i saw on epicurious.com. the most important detail i pulled from the recipe was to use a zucchini that is fairly uniform in diameter across the entire squash, instead of one that has a fat end and thin neck-like end, so all the slices are about the same size.

i took one zucchini and sliced it into 1/2″ thick round slices (it’s very important to have even slicing). i tossed the slices in olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and balsamic vinegar. then i arranged the slices on a rack and broiled them. i did this in my toaster oven because i hate heating up the big oven in the summer, but a big oven would work fine – just place them as close to the broiler as you can.

after one side had started to become golden brown and fairly dried out, i flipped them and continued broiling until golden brown on both sides, and tender when i poked a fork in. then, i put some grated parmesan on top and broiled until the cheese was melted, and sprinkled with a little chiffonade of fresh basil.

mmm! it was fast, easy, and really good. the flavors went well together. mine came out a touch oily – make sure you only use enough to coat it. also, make sure not to go crazy with the vinegar – i probably only used about a teaspoon for one squash.

the only thing i can really think to improve this in the future would be the addition of some tomato because it would be a really classic combination. there’s a couple ways i could see this… possibly a thin slice of tomato broiled atop the zucchini before the parmesan is added, though it could make it too watery. maybe instead some sort of roasted or fresh tomato sauce/salsa to put on top or dip them in. if i make them again i think i will try to fit tomato in somehow.

fried rice lettuce wraps

•April 18, 2010 • 2 Comments

today, i was just sitting around home doing various things, walking the dog, and so on. i started to get hungry and i remembered i had some leftover brown rice from a few nights ago, some romaine lettuce, and some cabbage which all needed to be used.

lettuce wrap fried rice

i’m already kind of crazy in that i walk around eating lettuce/cabbage/spinach leaves raw as a snack. i was doing this the other day and thought of doing lettuce wraps, which i’ve had in restaurants but never at home. today presented itself as the perfect opportunity to give them a shot!

for the filling, i heated a mixture of canola and sesame oil in the wok over high heat. i threw in a teaspoon or so of finely minced fresh ginger and half a jalapeno, diced finely. then, i threw in some finely shredded green cabbage (about a quarter of a large head) and stir-fried this for a little, letting the cabbage start to wilt down. i added the white ends of some green onions, chopped up, and continued to stir. once the vegetables looked to be done, i put in the cold brown rice (probably 2-3 cups) and added some more oil to prevent sticking. i stir-fried this mixture until the rice was totally broken up, heated through and coated with the oils.

last, i threw in the green parts of the green onions and some store bought teriyaki sauce (though you could easily use other sauces — afterward i thought peanut sauce might have been good). i stirred this over heat for just 30 seconds or so before turning it off. i adjusted the seasonings by adding just a little more salt and a little soy sauce.

then i spooned it into the lettuce leaves and had a great little lunch. the crispy, earthy coolness of the lettuce contrasting the warm, gooey/mushy/crunchy/salty/tangy/nutty fried rice makes a great overall combination.

grilling/meat extravaganza

•April 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

with spring finally getting here, we decided to grill the other night. boyfriend couldn’t resist playing with fire…

grill fire meat vegetable

for the veggie part of the meal, we got some red peppers, elephant garlic, zucchini, yellow squash and portabella caps and tossed them with olive oil, the oil from a jar of sun dried tomatoes, and some spices.

vegetable grill pepper garlic squash

for the meaty part of the meal (which was quite enormous), we had ribeye steaks marinated in A1 chicago style marinate and the biggest effing chicken breasts ever.

grill meat steak chicken

the chicken breasts were pretty enormous, but we made them even larger by stuffing them before grilling. we made a stuffing with spinach, feta, ricotta, parmesan, bacon, sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. i took the chicken breasts and cut pockets in them, getting in with my hands to make the pockets as large as possible without tearing holes in the breast. it was kind of fun. then i stuffed it as full as possible with the stuffing before we set them carefully on the grill. boyfriend was the grill master as i took pictures (and we all took shots, true barbecue style :-P) we grilled all the meat before putting the veggies on.

grilled steak vegetable pepper mushroom garlic chicken

when it was all done, we piled everything on a huge serving platter. it was quite impressive (and heavy). luckily we had the neighbors over to help eat it. everything was really tasty. stuffing meat is pretty fun and easy; so far we’ve done chicken breasts and pork chops, and i’d like to try them again with different fillings.

i’m glad it’s getting to be grilling season again, too… the taste of fire and char marks, the fun gathering around the grill… cooking outside is different from the usual and it’s quite fun

sweet and sour pork

•March 13, 2010 • 2 Comments

sweet and sour pork is a pretty big undertaking which tim has attempted a few times since i’ve known him. it was always good, but last night, he struck the exact right consistency with the beer batter.

beer battered sweet and sour pork

roughly following a recipe for beer batter from “the joy of cooking”, tim mixed together baking powder, milk, beer, flour, salt, and eggs. then, he dipped pork loin chunks (without flouring them first) in the batter and fried them in a pot of hot oil. the batter was tasty, and in my opinion, perfect… crunchy, but not doughy, and with a good flavor.

while he was working on the pork, i cooked some basmati rice and threw together a veggie stir fry. rice is something that i grew up thinking was really hard, because my parents always used a steamer with exact measurements and even then it didn’t always turn out perfectly. once i moved out and started attempting rice on my own, i realized it’s not really that bad. the last time i messed rice up was because i used a pot without a tightly fitting lid, so all the steam escaped. i remember when i first wanted to cook rice in a pot, i looked it up online and found an article describing how the amount of water should be one finger knuckle above the rice. so basically, you add your rice to the pan, then cover with water until you can stick your finger in, barely touching the top of the rice, and have it reach your first knuckle. this seemed horribly imprecise and i thought there was no way that could work consistently, but i’ve actually always had luck with it. i’d never cooked basmati before so last night i measured accurately, but then tried the finger test anyway and it was exactly on. so anyway, you add cold water to your rice in about a 2:1 water to rice ratio and bring it to a boil on the stove. as soon as it boils, turn the heat to low and cover. leave it like this for about 20 minutes, trying to resist the urge to peek in too much because you don’t want all the steam to come out. when i peek in and see no water bubbling, i usually give it a quick stir to make sure there isn’t water still sitting on the bottom. if there’s not, i turn the heat to high and cover for 30 seconds, then turn it off and let it sit, covered, for another 5 minutes before fluffing. it works with just about any type of rice, but some take longer than others to cook.

vegetable wok stir fry

for the stir fry, i prepped all the vegetables first: onion, green onion, red bell pepper, mushroom, bean sprouts, green beans, and broccoli. i like to have about equal volume of each vegetable and try to cut them in fairly commensurate sizes. then i heated the wok up, threw in a mixture of olive and toasted sesame oil over high heat, and started cooking. the key to getting stir fry right is putting everything in in the right order, stirring a lot, and high heat. the order i put the vegetables in was: green beans, bell peppers and onions, broccoli, mushrooms and bean sprouts, green onions. after each one, i stirred until everything was just heated through and coated with oil and then added the next. right after the green onions, i put on some seasonings (salt, pepper, sriracha sauce, cumin) and a little rice vinegar and sweet and sour sauce (tim was all out of soy sauce :-(). then i just stirred to combine and turned the heat off.

we ate the pork with sweet and sour sauce on top next to veggie stir fry and white rice. it was a really well executed meal; tim and i think it was probably in our top 3 meals cooked together. everything came together very well and everything was cooked perfectly. i never was one for deep frying before, but it definitely has its place when done well.