Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What is for Christmas Dinner?

Every family has their particular Christmas traditions. In our household, every other year, we host and "All Comer's" Christmas on the night of Christmas (the 25th). Everyone is welcome at these dinners. We have had as many as 40 for dinner including priests, crazy boyfriends, and ex's. Ahhh those were the days! Now is it a smaller group with more kids involved. 5 kids can seem like 20 adults so we have mellowed the numbers out a bit over the years.

We used to make Prime Rib every year but we have been getting a lot of really good prime rib on Christmas Eve at either my parent's or friends. This year we decided to go with a meat trinity. Turkey, Beef, and Ham.

In an earlier post, I mentioned my Brother in Law is a gentlemen pig farmer. We are having a ham from his organically raised hog. I am probably going to do a traditional honey and dijon glaze to it. For the turkey, we are going to brine and spatchcock it again and roast it over the stuffing. The meat is so moist and delicious. We went with a natural bird again which excellent for using a brine.

Finally, for our beef dish, I will be doing my Beef Bourguignon which is a combination of Julia Child's and the Joy of Cooking. It is one of my favorite dishes and should be a real treat for Christmas.

So folks, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas! Take some time this season to do the things that make you happy and to tell folks you love them!



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Easy Breakfast Casserole

I needed an easy breakfast casserole for a work meeting and this one saved the day. We are really working hard at being healthy in my work place so I used egg whites and Canadian bacon rather than traditional eggs and bacon. The flavor was very good! Sorry I do not have exact sizes of ingredients. Like i said, it was throw together. 

1 bag of frozen shredded hash browns
1 smaller bag of shredded cheese
1 large handful of fresh spinach
½ of a medium diced sweet onion
1 bag of Canadian Bacon
1 container of egg whites
1 tsp Minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Heat oil in skillet and saute minced garlic 5 mins, add frozen hash browns and saute 8 mins or until lightly browned. Remove from heat to cool. Remove stems from spinach and chop medium. Dice both the onion and Canadian bacon and combine with spinach in large bowl. Mix in cooled hash browns. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into 9 x 10 baking pan. Pour egg whites evenly over the mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Bake 350 for 25-30 until cheese is brown.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Don't be such a spatchcock this Thanksgiving! On second thought...

I first learned about spatchcocking a chicken a couple of years ago as an alternative to beer can or traditional roasting. The benefits of using this technique with the funny name is that the bird lies flatter, cooks faster and more evenly. Not only that, you get to say the word spatchcock over and over! Do not underestimate how cool this is! Unless your friends are from the UK, they probably haven't heard this word that sounds so naughty yet makes foul taste so good!

Recently, it seems there has been more interest in spatchcocking the Thanksgiving turkey. I knew I was going to brine this year's bird, a natural, unbasted medium sized beast. Due to circumstances, the idea of a quicker, more evenly roasting bird seemed more attractive.

We do not have a huge crowd this year and many of the eaters are kids. From experience many kids do not fully appreciate my turkey's traditional rock salt and rosemary sage rub or the hint of spice in the pear acorn squash soup. Because parents are often so focused on their kids, they aren't either so, when I am cooking for families with kids, I turn my focus to simple, tasty and (relatively) quick. For this spatchcocking a brined bird is perfect!

How to Spatchcock a turkey.

Spatchcocking your bird is really not that difficult. I watched a this very straightforward video and had no problems at all taking the backbone out of my bird. A sharp knife is the key. I purchased a new pair of heavy duty kitchen shears but found I did not need them much for this job. A solid chef knife worked great.

Start with a thawed bird placed breast side down, head forward. Make a 1/4 inch cut from the neck area to the tail about a half inch from one side of the backbone and then then the other side.

 Using safe knife skills, start at the top and word down cutting all the way through 3/4 of the way down the bird. Pulling out the backbone, finish the removal buy cutting and pulling simultaneously. Keep the backbone for stock.

Open up the bird and clean out any bloodshot, loose fat or anything discolored. Remove the rib cage and keep for stock.

Turn the bird over breast side up and splay out the bones. Place your hands firmly on each breast (yes this is cooking porn) and press straight down. This cracks the shoulder bone and allows the bird to sit flatter. 

Congratulations! Your bird is now Spatchcocked! You can season and roast it as you normally would (in about half the time) or, if you did it early enough, you can brine it this way as well.

I will post my turkey brine technique at a later post or, as my Mother in Law would say, just "Googally" it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good veggies will save the world! Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha

I just have to say, these are amazingly good! Frankly, I am already making this a staple "go to" vegetable for any meal. I got reacquainted with Brussels Sprouts at my friend Pam's restaurant the Depot Cafe.  Pam and her husband Chris often have a fried Brussels Sprout appetizer which is excellent! In that vain, I was looking for a great way to recreate that appetizer with a twist. By roasting them in the oven (with olive oil and salt and pepper), and keeping an eye on them (if they get overcooked, sprouts tend to taste bitter), a finish sauce of honey and sriracha makes these something that are literally hard to stop eating!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey Sriracha Drizzle

12 or more Brussels Sprouts
Olive oil for roasting
Salt and Pepper
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Sriracha (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 275
Wash and trim Brussels Sprouts of discolered leaves and trib stem. Slice in half long ways.
Coat roasting dish with olive oil,.
Place sprouts face down. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Salt and pepper generously.
Roast for approximately 30 mins or until sprouts soften and start to caramelize, tossing once. 
While roasting combine honey and sriracha in small sauce pan and heat over low flame for 4 mins or until mixture is hot and well blended. Set aside.
Remove sprouts, toss again. Drizzle honey mixture over the top. Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy! As always, I appreciate the feedback!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rural Gourmet goes vegan?

If I were looking for a recipe for my vegan friends (both of them), going to The Rural Gourmet would probably be the LAST place I would check. I love meat and have enjoyed all sorts of animals over the years including things such as elk, water buffalo, squirrel, rabbit, eel, and gnu.

That being said, I have a lot of respect for people who, for whatever reason, decide to eat a certain way or eliminate some aspect of food for a period of time, or... for a lifetime.

I tried eating as a vegetarian for a month once in college. Yes it was because of a woman, but it taught me a lot about what we eat and why we eat it. Bottom line, it challenged me to be a better cook! Cooking a about giving to others. If you are blessed with the ability to make good food, give it to others. Meat eaters and vegans alike! Challenge yourself! You will become a better cook.

Below is a lovely soup for early fall. It is not only veggie but vegan. It is much lighter and fresher than I was thinking it would be. I was feeling savory but it came out sweet and complex. It was particularly good the next day.

 Enjoy! As always I appreciate your comments.

Roasted sweet potato and pear soup.

Serves 8 (can be halved)

2 tbl organic coconut oil
1 Walla Walla sweet onion - chopped
3 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
6 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
8 cups, vegetable broth
2 cups white wine (chardonnay)
8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

Over medium heat, sauté chopped onion. Add chopped sweet potato and sauté or roast for 15-20 mins. Add pear. Continue to sauté (or roast) for 10-15 mins. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor. Adding vegetable broth enough to liquefy vegetables, blend until smooth and thick. Transfer to saucepot. Add remaining vegetable broth, wine and fresh sage. Bring to temp on medium low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pozole (Pork Hominy Stew)

My Brother-in-Law is a gentlemen pig farmer which essentially means he raises a few pigs every year on his place down in rural southern Oregon. These pigs lead quite a life eating a pretty organic diet until the day it is time to head to the butcher. This year my other Brother-in-Law ( I have a slew of 'em) and I split a pig and my half arrived in my freezer today. Boy it looks good!

I was not sure what to make until I came across this recipe on Serious Eats. I made a few changes to it such as using a traditional red blend chili powder and a chipotle chili powder for a little smokey touch. I also used pork shoulder rather than rib meat because frankly, I am not going to use rib meat for a stew when you are essentially slow braising it anyway.

I plan to serve it with the garnishes below, some Greek yogurt (which is now our go to sour cream replacement) and a couple of Coronas!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound pork meat, shoulder, steak, rib, chop.
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 1 (30-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Generously season pork with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, brown meat on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium, add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring periodically, until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth, oregano, chile powder(s). Stir to combine, and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven to cook until pork is fork-tender, about 2 hours.
  4. Remove soup from oven and transfer pork from broth to a platter to cool. When pork is cool enough to handle, shred meat and discard any fat or gristle. Strain broth and return liquid to dutch oven. Add hominy and shredded pork. Season with salt, if necessary, and simmer on the stove top for 30 mins or so.
  5. Ladle into bowls immediately and serve with lime wedges, avocados, red onions, cilantro, radishes and tortilla chips.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pork Carnitas for Cinco de Mayo

I love good Mexican food! Fortunately we have a couple of very good Mexican restaurants in our little town so we get more than our share of very good Mexican food. Both restaurants have a different style of cooking so rather than referring to them by name, most folks in town refer to the restaurants as “Old Mexican” or “New Mexican”. Personally, I prefer the “Old Mexican” because they have more traditional dishes.  “New Mexican” is probably healthier though as they seem to take a more of a fresh-mex approach. Either way, it is hard to go wrong!

This week we had a huge special on pork at our market so I picked up some pork shoulder which is also called pork butt. (What one would think of being the actual "butt" of the pig is actually the ham) Since it is Cinco de Mayo today this pork shoulder would be perfect for carnitas.  I like to remove as much fat as reasonable from the pork while leaving some on for good flavor. The particular roast I got was very fatty (happy pig apparently). Even though I spent some time cutting off the fat, you can see below the meat was still very marbled when I started to braise it.

I use a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen with some very slight modifications.  Use your judgment on the fat.  Just remember to save it in the freezer for future use. It is excellent to round out the flavor of Beef Bourguignon.

  • 1(3 1/2-to 4-pound) boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 1/8 inch thick, cut into 2-inch chunks
  •   Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium orange, halved or 4 to 5 tangerines.
  •  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and 2 water in large Dutch oven. The liquid should just barely cover meat. Don't use too much liquid as you will just have to reduce it later.
  • Juice orange or tangerines into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about 1/3 cup juice). Add juice to the pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook at 300 degrees until meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking. 

  • Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy (heat safe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 12 to 16 minutes. It may take longer. The key is to reduce it to the right consistency so take your time.  You should have about 1 cup reduced glaze. The glaze should look like this when it is done: 

  • Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes.
 Enjoy! Would love to hear your comments or suggestions!