Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blizzards, blow jobs, beer, and chicken tikka masala

I knew the blow jobs would grab your attention, those of you with your mind in the gutter. I mean snow blow jobs! We all survived (we being everyone besides the Metrodome) a pretty decent blizzard. Haven't seen that much snow in ages. My deck is officially out of commission, fully loaded with about 3 feet of snow drifted on it. This includes my grill, which I use year round. It will be sometime before I get all that snow removed! It will have to be chopped, lifted, carried, and thrown over the side of the rails. A good workout, for sure. Anyway, back to the snow blow jobs. Three of us neighbors got together several years ago and bought a snow blower. Neighbor Norm finished up his driveway around 4:30 Saturday, I donned my snowmobile suit and headed over to get the machine and take care of our driveway. I was done by 6:00, and had worked up a powerful thirst! I also had plans on making an Indian dinner, chicken tikka masala, for the first time. I didn't take pictures of the dinner process. I was having too much fun swilling, cooking, and listening to the Beatles.

Here is the recipe:

Chicken Tikka:
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain whole yogurt (low fat yogurt will work, but whole is best)
2 Tbl veg oil
2 med garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 Tbl veg oil
1 1/4 cups diced onion
2 med garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 serrano chile, minced (heat will vary, if you keep the seeds and membrane, it will be hotter)
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 Tbl garam masala (a fragrant spice blend found in some stores or specialty shops)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.

4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

And, as a salute to the blizzard and to my amigo Bob, I purchased some special beer for the evening:

All in all, not a bad evening!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pork Stew with Fennel and Butternut Squash

I've made lots of stews, and particulary love this type of dish on a winter Sunday. And as we all know, it's always better the next day! So, when I saw this recipe in Lunds & Byerly's Real Foods, (my employer), I had to give it a try. Now, I love fennel, the dry spice. I use it in just about every pasta dish I make. Whether it's tomato or olive oil based, fennel is in there. I don't use a lot, just enough to know it's there. However, I've never used fresh fennel, which kinda looks like celery dressed as a hooker. Now, when I cook a recipe for the first time, one of my rules is to follow the directions and don't change the ingredients! (my wife doesn't agree) However, when I took my list of ingredients to Byerly's to shop, I came across a couple things that caused me to change course a bit. The recipe calls for 4 oz of pancetta, which is Italian bacon. Well, that 4 oz was going to cost nearly $8. Hmm, I thought regular bacon would be just fine, plus I had some at home already. Then I got to the fresh fennel, located in the produce aisle. The recipe called for "4 large bulbs." I'm still not sure what a bulb is, but, one stalk was almost $3. Since I hadn't used it before, I didn't know how strong it was, and I sure as hell didn't want to spend $12 on it. I bought one stalk or bulb. The recipe called for a 4 lb butt pork roast. No butt roast in the meat case, but, boneless pork chops were buy one get one free. Good enough for the girls we go with! So, with all this said I will print the recipe as written in the book, and will tell you what changes I made. Oh, I suppose I should tell you, it is a wonderfull dish! I've made it twice now. It goes into the rotation at our house. It definitely feeds the bear!

Spice Rub:
3 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp fennel pollen or ground fennel (never heard of the pollen, I used a spice mill on whole fennel)

4 lb pork shoulder (Boston butt) roast, trimmed and cut into 3" chunks
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
3 cups chopped onion
2 Tbl chopped garlic
3 cups pork or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 large fennel bulbs, leafy part trimmed and chopped, bulb cut into chunks
5 cups butter nut squash
salt and pepper to taste

Combine rub spices.
Cut meat into 1" chunks (this is where I used the boneless chops). Toss the cubed meat pieces with rub. The original instructions didn't specify. I left them season for a couple hours.

Fry the diced pancetta (or bacon) in a dutch oven. Brown for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan, add 1/2 of the rubbed pork pieces. Brown for 10 minutes, stirring a couple times. Remove browned meat and repeat with other 1/2 of pork.

Add onions and garlic to the pan, cook for 10 minutes. Add stock, wine, and tomatoes. Add pork and pancetta to pan. Turn oven to 325. When the pot starts to boil, take it off. Put a cover on the pan and bake for 90 minutes.

After you've placed the pan in the oven, now it's time to peel and cut the squash into chunks. When you finish that, chop the fennel as directed. After 90 minutes, take the pan out of the oven. Add the squash and the fennel to the pot, stir into liquid. Put the cover back on and bake for 30-45 minutes. All you want to do is cook the squash so it's done, but not mush. The original directions say to remove everything from the pot, skim off the fat, and cook the liquid down if too thin. The boneless chops are very lean, and not much grease was on top. I thought the liquid was just fine, so I haven't done that either time I've made it.

So here is what I used:
2 1/2 lbs of pork, and only 1/2 the rub seasonings.
Bacon instead of pancetta
1 bulb of fennel
Home canned tomatoes, which 1 jar weighed 17 oz.
All the wine, stock, and garlic.
2 cups of onion.
I just bought a squash and used it all. What the hell you going to do with a partial squash?

This stew has a great flavor, very different from anything else of this type of baked dish. I think 4 bulbs of fennel would be too much. The one head plus the dry fennel are perfect. This made enough for 2 meals for the two of us.

Boneless pork chops.

Seasoned pork.

Fennel, onion, bacon, porn squash, fresh canned tomatoes from my neighbor, Karla, and red wine.

Browned pork and bacon. Chopped garlic, fennel, and chicken stock.

Peeled and cubed squash, with the fennel.

After the meat bakes for 90 minutes, stir in the squash and fennel. Bake, covered, for 30-45 minutes.

Mmmmm good!