Smokehouse Breakfast Bake

I love weekends.  In fact, my heart longs for a weekend with such intensity these days that after 5:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, I cannot believe we’re only midway through the week.  Harrumph.  That vacation I was dreaming about cannot come soon enough, I tell you!  It saddens me that summer, in the traditional sense, is almost over.  School is back in session (or will be soon), there are only two summer hours Fridays left at work, and soon, the pool will close for another season.  Sigh.  The pool has been an oasis for us in the heat of the summer sun, me bobbing about in my little floating orb and Ben standing flat foot in the water that rises above my head.  It inspires such laziness, which I adore, but it helps me to relax so much that I swear the pool is one of the few things that have kept me from going crazy these past few weeks.  The pool and wine.  Why lie?

So here I am, mentally rushing through the work week so I can spend my weekend mornings stretched across the couch with a cup of coffee in hand, a pup across my lap, and a good possibility of coupon clipping action.  Stress and worry free, just the way I order up my weekends.  Now I’m not a breakfast person during the week, mostly due to the fact that I can’t get my butt out of bed in enough time.  However, I do love breakfast on the weekends.  Although we have some great places in town, I don’t always want to go out and cooking really detracts from the lazy morning I relish.  Internet to the rescue.

A few weeks ago we hosted a brunch, the star of which was our house bloody mary mix.  However, a close second were the scrambled eggs.  I’d stumbled on a make-ahead recipe that truly was phenomenal, resulting in light, fluffy, golden eggs.  Here’s the best part:  lightly scramble a mass of eggs a day or two in advance, drop them in a baking dish, place in refrigerator, and ignore.  Day of?  Preheat oven, place pan in oven, cook and stir a time or two and voila – perfect eggs!  I loved it!  Laziness + deliciousness (+ brunch cocktail) = perfect Saturday/Sunday morning!

Now, you know me and you know I cannot leave well enough alone.  I needed to play, to accessorize, to oomph it up a bit.  I needed sexy eggs.  Now I don’t know if these ended up being sexy, but how does pretty damn good work?  Having weekend guests has been a bit of a constant for us this summer now that we are a bit more settled in KC.  On a recent weekend, one of our guests was a self-proclaimed barbecue guru (let’s call him Pork Belly) and I wanted to mix a little of KC’s finest into our morning meal.  I once made a comment to him about brisket for breakfast to which he responded “great idea!” so I knew this was a bit of an easy target…

We’re lucky enough to live a few blocks from a great little local grocer with the best meat counter in town.  It doesn’t hurt that they have an industrial sized smoker out front chugging clouds of hickory smoke and drool-inducing smells of smoking meat from it’s smokestack.  Lucky for us, they sell competition-quality barbecue, including the desirable burnt ends, so I had the start of a very good breakfast.  A few other flourishes here and there and the baking dish was sent to the refrigerator for a snooze.  Sunday morning dawned with moderate temperatures so turning on the oven wasn’t quite the torturous task it has been of late.  We sipped our coffee as our breakfast baked along on its own and once the timer sounded, the bloody mary mix and vodka came out and we sat to a lazy breakfast.  My kind of morning!

Smokehouse Breakfast Bake

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 large white onion, very thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1/4 c. barbecue sauce

1/2 lb. barbecue burnt ends, diced

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 dozen eggs

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. sour cream

4 green onions, thinly sliced

8 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded

1 1/2 c. diced tomatoes

 

Set a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add onions, butter, and canola oil.  Stir often until onions are caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat, add barbecue sauce and mix well.  Set aside.  Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl.  Add cream and season with salt and pepper.  Beat well until eggs are fully blended.  Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 Tbsp. butter.  Once melted, add eggs.  Scramble until eggs are just set but very slightly runny still.  Remove from heat.

Add sour cream, reserved caramelized onions, burnt ends and green onions to eggs.  Mix well.  Place eggs in a large ovenproof baking dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Cover with shredded smoked Gouda.  Place plastic wrap over the baking dish and refrigerate.  Can be made several days in advance.

Remove dish from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring after a half hour.  Remove from oven, add diced tomatoes, and serve, preferably with a brunch cocktail.

 

Happy weekend!

– j

 

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

 

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mexican pot pie

Margarita Madness!

Who needs basketball when there are margaritas to be had?!  I pass this sign every morning on my way to work and every day, without fail, it makes me want a margarita.  I’ll be a little sad when the big tourney ends and I no longer have a craving for a breakfast beverage filled with tequila and lime.  Ha, who am I kidding?  I’d still be up for a breakfast margarita.  Maybe with a beer chaser.  Now I want a bloody mary.  Ok, off topic…

My daily craving for a margarita has also fueled my near constant craving for Mexican food.  Any time we are looking for somewhere to go for a meal, I lean toward the chips and salsa while B leans toward steamed rice and soy sauce.  I guess one of the perks (if you can call it that) of living in different states is that I can indulge my crazy whims and make whatever food I’m craving.  Now B, if you are reading this, no chiming in and saying that’s what I do anyway.  It isn’t, I swear.  (Maybe just a little.)

So when images of margaritas danced in my head on a recent 80 degree day (Again!  In March!) I knew there was no denying the cravings that would soon follow.  Good thing it was grocery day.  As I wheeled my cart around the aisles, I began to amass the familiar ingredients but without a solid plan.  Ground beef, black beans, olives, tomatoes, jalapeno – soon enough I had the fixins for tacos but didn’t quite want to deal with hand-held food given the absence of a dining table.  Plus, “How I Met Your Mother” was on and I was planning to rock the easy chair during the evening meal.

I had a thought – Mexican Pot Pie.  I could take all of the usual taco fillings, place them in a casserole, cover it with a sweet corn cake and once bubbling and golden, drizzle with a creamy salsa verde.  All of my favorite things in one tasty dish.  Add a slushy lime concoction and I’m on my way to happiness. 

mexican pot pie

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

2 lbs. ground beef

½ onion, diced

1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seed if you prefer)

1 14 oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes, undrained

1 pkg. taco seasoning of your choice

1 14 oz. can black beans

1 6 oz. can black olives, halved

8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 pkg. Chi Chi’s sweet corn cake

1 14 oz. can cream style corn

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

¼ c. water

1 c. crème fraiche*

1 c. salsa verde

½ tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the ground beef in a large sauté pan and brown over medium high heat.  Once nearly browned, add onion, garlic and jalapeno.  Once beef is fully browned and onion mixture has started to turn translucent, add undrained tomatoes and taco seasoning.  Mix to incorporate fully.  Add black beans, black olives, and pepper jack cheese, mix and place mixture in a large baking dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine sweet corn cake mix, cream style corn, melted butter and water.  Mix well and pour over the top of the beef mixture.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until corn cake is golden brown and does not jiggle when dish is moved.

Combine crème fraiche, salsa verde and kosher salt.  Spoon desired amount of Mexican Pot Pie into an individual serving dish and top with about 2 Tbsp. creamy salsa verde.

*To make crème fraiche at home, combine 1 c. heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. buttermilk in a sealable container.  Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.  Stir and use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

Hope you are enjoying Margarita Madness and your bracket is still kicking!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

Things have changed a lot in the past several months.  You might have noticed it has been a bit quiet here.  Well, since we spoke last, I went from this:

to this:

We turned 30.  We put miles on our cars.  A lot of miles.  I learned to live on quickly prepared meals, relying more heavily on a microwave than in any other period of my life, even college.  I missed being home.  I missed cooking.  I was so out of practice that as I prepared to make my first real grocery list in nearly three months, I struggled to find inspiration.  There was so much I wanted to make and eat, yet nothing was coming to mind.  I spent hours lazing in my borrowed recliner as I cycled through cooking site after cooking site, desperately seeking the motivation and the ingredients needed to make a successful grocery list.

After being gifted with a few beautiful 65+ degree days, Mother Nature decided to remind us all it was still February with a bit of a “wintry mix” in store for the early part of the week.  I realized I had missed cooking so many of the winter comfort foods that I love and decided to treat myself to a little splurge and a big plate of home cooking.  Oddly enough, it was one of my quickest meals from my houseguest period that I kept coming back to – a fast spicy marinara sauce.  But this time, with a kitchen in my possession, albeit small, I needed to jazz it up a bit.  Have I ever mentioned that I like Boursin?

And then, there it was.  Inspiration!  A small disk of Boursin later, and we were looking to have some serious meatballs to go with the spicy marinara.  And so I started the sauce.  This has truly become a go-to marinara for me.  I find it perfect with chicken/eggplant parmesan, tasty tossed lightly with pasta, or rich underneath the melted blanket of mozzarella on a homemade pizza.  And with only five ingredients, it should become part of your repetoire as well.  Plus, you get to squeeze tomatoes with your hands.  What’s more fun than that?

The meatballs are equally simple as well.  Ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs, a bit of parsley, garlic, an egg, and oh yes, the Boursin, and you have some serious flavor happening.  As the first meatballs hit the hot oil and the steam from the pan began to rise toward the ceiling, I quickly realized two things.  These meatballs were going to be delicious.  The second?  This tiny apartment kitchen doesn’t stand a chance!

linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

kosher salt, to taste

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1 pkg. Boursin

3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Linguini, cooked according to package directions

 

Place olive oil and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Once you can smell the oil and the red pepper, add juice from tomatoes and start breaking tomatoes into pieces, holding hands over the pan.  Continue until all tomatoes are crushed into pan.  Bring to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue simmering for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency (I like to leave a bit of texture).  Return to low heat and simmer, covered, until ready to use.  About 2 minutes prior to serving, add garlic and season to taste with kosher salt.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ground beef, Boursin, onion, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix gently until just combined.  Form into meatballs based on your size preference.  For this recipe, I aimed for meatballs that were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Once all meatballs have been formed, heat about 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Working in batches, sear meatballs on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Repeat until all meatballs have been seared.  Place meatballs on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Lightly toss cooked linguini with about half of the sauce.  Place pasta on individual serving plates and top with meatballs.  Lightly spoon about 1/2 Tbsp. sauce over each meatball.  Serve immediately.

 

Welcome back!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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dynasty burgers

It happens to me too.  Usually on Friday or Saturday nights, but sometimes it happens on week nights too.  Sometimes, I just don’t feel like cooking.  (Gasp!)

On those nights where I’m just not up for the slicing, dicing, sautéing, etc., I’m usually met with the same answer.

What do you want for dinner?  (me)

Chinese!  (B)

Sadly for B, 9 times out of 10, Chinese food just does not appeal to me.  Why this is I don’t know, as I really do enjoy Chinese food.  I love rice, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, spicy sauces, and the umami of soy sauce.  And crab rangoon?  Don’t get me started.  I don’t even want to publish the quantities I am capable of consuming.  It’s bad.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s impressive.

Time and time again, I steer us in another direction.  But on those nights when our tastebuds align, I’m reminded again of how much I enjoy the flavors that permeate Chinese cuisine.  So when I stumbled across the Dynasty Burger, I knew this would be something we’d both enjoy.  It has all of the elements that we love, minus the fried meat.  And the crab rangoon.  *boo*

Sadness over the absence of the crab rangoon now behind me, I set about prepping the ingredients for the burger.  A quick hoisin-chili garlic barbeque sauce came together in minutes and with a few quick chops, the burger patties were ready as well.  On to the hot grill they went and in no time, we had plated burgers and steamed edamame for a lazy weeknight dinner.  The burgers, studded with shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts, had plenty of contrast and crunch.  A little grated fresh ginger and fresh garlic added some zing to the patties.  As the hoisin barbeque sauce dripped off of our burgers and onto our plates and hands, we agreed – this is a good burger.  And, best of all, it satisfied B’s cravings for Chinese.

dynasty burger

recipe:  adapted from Martin Yan

 

¼ c. barbeque sauce

¼ c. hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce

2 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 lb. ground beef (recommended:  85% lean)

2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

¼ c. finely chopped shiitake mushrooms

¼ c. finely chopped water chestnuts

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt

Lettuce

Tomato, sliced

Red onion, sliced

Hamburger buns

Preheat a grill to medium high. 

Combine barbeque sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce and 2 tsp. sesame oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Combine ground beef, soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, black pepper and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix until just combined.  Separate into four equal portions and form patties.

Place burgers over direct heat and cook for about 4 minutes per side.  Remove burgers from grill and place on hamburger buns.  Top with about 1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce, lettuce, tomato, and red onion.  Serve immediately (with a side of steamed edamame if you wish!).

Now I’m off to find some crab rangoon.  Yum!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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grilled steak sandwiches with sweet corn mayonnaise

You see them everywhere, shimmering in the mid summer heat, piles of emerald and gold spilling out across the back, eager lines of customers waiting with cash in hand.  Yes, sweet corn, a herald of summer, is here once again.  In our little corner of the world, pickup trucks with flatbeds filled to the brim with sugary sweet corn stand waiting at busy street corners, gas stations and abandoned parking lots.  Grocery stores announce the seasonal delicacy with bright yellow signs dotting the streets and the farmer’s markets host huge trailers bursting with ear after ear.

Home kitchens bustle this time of year as families buy up bushels of the golden kernels, canning and freezing their treasures for a sweet taste of summer come the doldrums of winter.  Family barbeques would be incomplete without steaming hot ears of corn slathered in butter, salt and pepper.  Entire festivals pay homage to the summer delight while local VFWs host sweet corn feeds for the masses.  Needless to say, it’s a big deal ‘round these parts.

Last summer’s sweet corn season passed in the blink of an eye, leaving us wanting more.  I felt we had somehow squandered the season.  As the last trucks rolled out of their spots following Labor Day, I vowed next year would be different.  We would buy our sweet corn in bundles and enjoy it steaming hot, butter dripping down our chins with toothpicks nearby.  And enjoy it we have, but a simple (albeit delicious) boiled ear of corn doesn’t exactly send the blogosphere’s tongues wagging.  And so, we present to you our “Ode to Sweet Corn,” five days of delicious, delicate kernels.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be rolling my ears in their sweet, salty butter bath until Labor Day, but these recipes may be just what you needed to sweeten the pot as you celebrate the season.

As August rolls in with its sweltering summer heat, grills throughout the neighborhood are being fired up in an effort to keep the thermostat and electric bills at bay inside.  When the days are so hot you can see the waves of heat off of the patio, I want something substantial, but not heavy for the evening meal.  Steak sandwiches are a great way to feed and fill the masses.  A single flank steak or skirt steak, sliced thinly and piled on ciabatta buns can really stretch the budget, leaving money left over for a late-night run to the local ice cream shop to cool off.

The sandwich has additional layers of flavor from grilled red peppers and onions (again, no stove/oven) but it really gets its zip from the sweet corn and basil flecked mayonnaise crowning it.  A touch of acidity from red wine vinegar helps to brighten the mayo a bit and prevents it from being overly heavy on top of the steak, peppers and onions.  Fresh, juicy bursts of sweet corn pop in your mouth as you bite down on the sandwich.  Be sure to have a fork nearby, as you’ll want to capture every escaping kernel that tumbles from your sandwich.  Depending on how many people you are feeding, you may want to have a second steak on hand, because I guarantee you’ll want seconds.

grilled steak sandwiches with sweet corn mayonnaise

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

2/3 c. mayonnaise

1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 ears of sweet corn, husked

2 small bell peppers, halved and seeded

½ red onion, sliced into ¼” segments

1 ½ lb. flank or skirt steak

6 ciabatta rolls

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine first five ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium high.  Season steak liberally with salt and pepper.  Grill steak to desired doneness, about 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare.  Remove from grill and let rest about 10-12 minutes.  Meanwhile, grill sweet corn, peppers, and onions until done, about 15 minutes for corn, 8 minutes for peppers, and 5 minutes for onions (skewer with a wooden or metal skewer to prevent falling through grates).    Place peppers in a large resealable plastic bag and let steam for about 5 minutes.  Remove skins from peppers and slice lengthwise.  Slice steak thinly against the grain.  Remove corn from cob and add to mayonnaise mixture.

Place 3-4 pieces of steak on bottom half of ciabatta roll.  Top with slices of red pepper and onion.  Place about 1 ½ Tbsp. corn mayonnaise on top half of ciabatta roll.  Place on sandwich and repeat with remaining rolls.  Serve warm.

Serves 4-6.

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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butter burgers with spotted cow battered cheese curds

note:  this is the second of a three-part series chronicling a recent romp around Green County in southwestern Wisconsin, aka “Baja Wisconsin” to my family

The gravel lot was filled with cars haphazardly parked.  Flicks of the dairy cattle’s tails waved with the breeze as they happily munched their breakfast in the sun after a long night of rain. The hills, more sparkling green after the night’s storm, rolled across the countryside.  Two older men in faded denim and mesh John Deere caps flagged us to a waiting spot.  Inside the fans hummed as the employees bustled about filling orders for waiting patrons in the small, closet-like space.

“The Curd is the Word.”

T-shirts boasted the Decatur Dairy’s slogan as they danced in the breeze above row after row of bags filled with cheese curds.  Muenster, Cheddar, Bleu Cheese, Buffalo, Garlic & Herb, Peppercorn Ranch, Wasabi, and on and on the labels read.  Those in the know head to the dairy early to snatch up the freshest cheese curds – ones that squeak so loudly against your teeth you’d swear your companions could hear the symphony of squeaks muffled in your mouth.  As hand cut wedges of cheese and bags of curds piled up against the counter, the cash register ticked along happily as the order total grew.  Outside, we sat on the concrete against the stainless tanks filled high with fresh milk and munched on our treasures.  Ah, a Wisconsin breakfast.

Bags of differing flavors were opened in the morning sun and we stretched and reached across one another, dipping our hands into the bags being offered to sample the noisy chunks of cheese.  Heads nodded, accompanied by approvals of “yum” in between squeaky bites.  Recipe ideas were tossed out as suggestions for savoring the cheesy bites.  “Fried cheese curds,” someone said.

“Spotted Cow fried cheese curds!” I shouted, raising my arms in victory to the exclamations and grumbling stomach noises that met my proclamation.  As the bags were sealed and stored away and the cars were packed with the morning’s treasures, I pondered my idea further and wondered how I could take the cheese curds to the next level of awesomeness.

Our travels around the country continued (see part 1) and by mid afternoon, we had made it to our final stop in New Glarus.  After only a few quick minutes in the main shopping district in town, new shopping bags had joined the growing collection and were filled with sausages, smoked wieners, pastries, breads, fudge and a new cooler given those in the waiting cars were already filled to the brim.  We steered away from town and headed up the hill to the waiting New Glarus Brewing Company.

The new hilltop facility bustled with activity as happy patrons milled around the gift shop, sampled brews in the brewhall or across the emerald lawn, and rang up their purchases in the well-stocked beer depot below the brewery.  New Glarus is famous for their Spotted Cow – a fruity Wisconsin farmhouse ale and a perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day.  Spotted Cow is disappointingly NOT available outside of the state of Wisconsin (as is the case with all New Glarus brews).  *boo*

That being said, it was 3:23 when we rolled into the bustling lot and with the brewery closing at 4:00, I had work to do.  Wristbands containing sampling tickets were quickly purchased and as we stood in line in the brewhall, I contemplated which of the brews to try first.  The clean white tap handles announced the names of the beers available to sample:  Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, Moon Man, Totally Naked, Golden Ale, Stone Soup and Wisconsin Belgian Red.  We sipped and sampled our way through our allotment and watched as the clouds rolled in overhead.  Fearing either rain, the beer depot closing or both, we downed the last of our samples and headed into the store to buy up our treasures before the registers stopped chiming for the day.

As we drove off from the brewery, bottles tinkling happily in the back, the idea of the Spotted Cow fried cheese curds again came to mind.  They’d be great on their own, no doubt about that.  A zippy little dipping sauce and we’d have a happy snack (plus a mandatory trip to the gym).  But I needed something that screamed “Wisconsin!!”  Visions of double smoked bacon and fresh brats from the butcher danced in front of me.  No, that wasn’t it…  And suddenly, I knew.  It must be a butter burger with Spotted Cow curds.  The butter burger (now most frequently recognized as a Culver’s menu staple) originated in Wisconsin.  What better way to pay homage to the beer and cheese gods than with a burger topped with butter and beer battered cheese curds?!  Cardiologist needed, stat!

It’d be fairly easy to overwhelm with this burger, so I opted for simplicity when it came to the patty itself.  A little Worcestershire, a dash or two of a mesquite seasoning, and a light crust of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder were all I dared to add.  Knowing this baby was destined for a pat of butter and a crown of fried cheese, what more do you really need?  We sliced up a few tomatoes and a red onion for a little freshness and flavor and opted for the basic fixin’s of ketchup and mustard.  Writing this now, I’m disappointed that I didn’t put a pickle on mine, as the brininess of the pickle would have helped to cut a little of the weight of the curds.  I’ll let you make the call regarding pickles, but the burger as I made it had just the right amount of condiments.  They contributed to the overall flavor without drowning out the beer battered curds.

A word to the wise regarding the curds – hot and fast is the way to go.  A candy thermometer is a must-have.  You want your oil temperature to be about 375 degrees – hot enough to fry the outside quickly without damaging the delicate shell keeping all of the oozy, melty cheese at bay.  I wanted a lighter batter, so I opted for a tempura batter with equal parts rice flour and beer.  As the cheese from my first curd oozed out of the batter into my hot oil, I found one coating wasn’t enough to contain the molten cheese.  I quickly dipped the curds back into rice flour and dropped them back into the beer batter for a double coat and was happy with the results.  The cheese stayed within the shell and the resulting batter still had the lighter crust I was after. 

Now, if only I knew what to do with the rest of those cheese curds…

butter burgers with spotted cow battered cheese curds

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 lb. 85% lean ground beef

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp. mesquite seasoning

Garlic powder

Onion Powder

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Hamburger buns

Canola oil

1 lb. cheddar cheese curds

1/2 c. plus 1/4 c. rice flour

1/2 c. Spotted Cow beer

Unsalted butter

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced

Condiments of choice

Preheat a grill to medium high.  Combine ground beef and Worcestershire sauce in a medium mixing bowl.  Form beef into four patties.  Sprinkle with a light dusting of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Flip burgers over and repeat on opposite side.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side.

As burgers are grilling, fill a large wok, stockpot, or other deep pan about 1/4 full of canola oil.  Using a candy thermometer, bring oil to 350 degrees.  Combine cheddar curds and 1/4 rice flour in a small bowl.  Toss to coat.  Combine remaining rice flour and Spotted Cow in a medium bowl.  Stir until flour is thoroughly incorporated.  Dunk curds in batter, then coat again with rice flour (adding more flour as needed).  Repeat with all curds.  Once curds are coated in rice flour, dunk 4-5 at a time back into batter and carefully add to hot oil.  Fry 2-3 minutes, watching closely to ensure cheese doesn’t seep out.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Repeat with remaining curds.  Curds can be prepared in advance and placed on a baking sheet and kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to 15-20 minutes.

Remove burgers from grill and top with a pat of butter.  Transfer the burgers to the buns. Top each burger with cheese curds, onion, tomato and condiments, as desired.

Uff da!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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steak milanese

It is hot.  And sticky.  And buggy.  I’m sufficiently covered with mosquito bites now that we’re mid-summer (thanks for all of the help, bug spray!) and finally, the garden is off and running.  Chartreuse banana peppers and emerald jalapeno peppers dangle from their perches, little cornichon cucumbers dance along their trellis, tiny jewels of baby eggplant have emerged from lilac blooms, slender green beans twirl along the poles, and green globes sparkle in the sun along the many tomato plants.  I love summer.  And I’m impatient.

It is always this time of year when summer is most certainly in full swing, yet we are still waiting for the fruits of our spring labor to come to dinner, and I begin to get antsy.  I’m ready for Caprese salad!  Grilled Eggplant Parmesan!  Cucumber martinis (mmm hmmm, refreshing)!  Panzanella salad!  Yikes, better stop, I’m getting awfully hungry.  Guess I shouldn’t have skipped lunch today…  Lucky for me, there’s a cure.  Cherry tomatoes, here to save the day!

Just when I think I can’t make it any longer and I’m going to have to pluck a few of those green ‘maters from their vines (for some FGTs) because I simply cannot wait for fresh garden goodness, I remember the cherry tomatoes.  Careful not to talk with your mouth full when munching on these babies, or you are likely to squirt those within shooting distance!  Cherry tomatoes are plump, juicy, sweet, and best of all, they taste like tomatoes.  Gone are the days of mealy grocery store tomatoes, banished for the next several months until insane cravings strike once again for a taste of summer when the evil four-letter “s” word (no, silly, snow) dominates daily life.  No, friend, it is time for real tomatoes once again!  Real tomatoes mean real flavor, and the additional fixin’s for this topping pack a real punch.  Briny kalamata olives, fresh basil, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and shallots ensure that this salsa-of-sorts makes your mouth take notice.  But what to serve it with?

Being the good wife that I am, one day I went in search of a recipe for one of the hub’s favorite recipes – chicken fried steak.  I guess I’m technically still looking for that recipe, because I found something similar to this and, um, got distracted.  It is still chicken fried steak, but rather than a creamy gravy as an accompaniment, I fell for this bright, briny, salty, yummy topping instead.  I think you will too.

steak milanese

recipe:  jb’s pour house

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot

2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh basil

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

2 oz. gorgonzola cheese

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tenderized cube steaks, 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick

1 1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 c. panko

Canola oil

Combine tomatoes, shallot, basil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Season steaks lightly with salt and pepper.  One steak at a time, dredge in flour, dip into egg, and coat thoroughly with panko.  Set aside and repeat with remaining steaks.  Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium high heat and when oil begins to shimmer, fry two steaks at a time, about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining steaks.

Serve warm with plenty of the cherry tomato topping.

Hooray for tomatoes!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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dirty south burger

As I huffed and puffed my way up the hill, my feet spun over and over again with the rotation of my bicycle wheels, beads of sweat began to drip down my temples, my hands began to tingle (stupid carpal tunnel) and I longed for the ice cold lemonade inside my refrigerator, beckoning me to continue my journey home.  All I could focus on was how hot, thirsty and grumpy I was becoming.  Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, around and around they spun.  The post-farmer’s market nachos and beers we had enjoyed were weighing heavily on my productivity as my wheels slowly hummed against the paved trail.  I doggedly wove my wheels around the wild berries splattered across the pavement in a vain effort to avoid the unsightly “Berry Butt.”  Why, I don’t know, considering the helmet head I was sporting and the splotches of sweat that were increasing in size across my shirt.  Suddenly, it hit me.  I wanted a cheeseburger. 

My sudden craving wasn’t completely unfounded.  Somewhere, hidden by the expanse of trees and the declining landscape around the trail, was a grill happily wafting delicious aromas of smoldering charcoal and searing meat into the still summer air.  It never fails – the smell of a charcoal grill is always going to make me pause to inhale deeply.  There’s something so quintessentially summer about that smell.  When I close my eyes, I can hear kids playing in the park or splashing in the pool, laughter, and the sudden hiss of a beer bottle being opened to slake someone’s thirst in the afternoon sun.

While I do enjoy your every day cheeseburger, I love the recent pop culture explosion of the “gourmet” burger.  Inspired by an episode of Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger competition on the Food Network several years ago, I’ve set out to create a new burger masterpiece each summer.  The hours of chopping and prepping the multi-ingredient complex towers of burger goodness are usually well rewarded with juices dripping down chins and arms and the sounds of fingers being licked.  But on days when I’ve sweat through a humidity-laden bike ride and am feeling a little lazy, I want all of the flavor but none of the work.

Enter the Lee Brothers.  I know, I know, another Southern recipe.  I promise I’ll stop now, but I couldn’t finish my coveted culinary tour around South Carolina without a nod to Charleston, home of Matt and Ted Lee.  One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something familiar and to turn it on its side to create something new.  The Lee Brothers do just that with Pimento Cheese – a Southern spread typically made with cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and roasted red bell peppers.  This piquant version swaps Swiss for cheddar, nixes the mayo and bell pepper, and livens it up with banana peppers (hello), chives and capers.  Briny, bright and melty.  I’m in.  Add that to the top of a juicy burger with an ice cold beverage of your choice, and you’ve got a patio calling your name somewhere. 

dirty south burger

recipe:  adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern

1 c. finely grated Muenster cheese

2 c. finely grated Swiss cheese

1 c. banana peppers, drained and finely minced

2 Tbsp. brining liquid from banana peppers

1 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

1 Tbsp. drained capers

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. ground beef or 4 pre-made burger patties

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Onion powder

Garlic powder

1 onion, sliced into rings (optional)

1 tomato, sliced horizontally into ¼” slices (optional)

Condiments

Hamburger buns

Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium mixing bowl (Muenster through black pepper).  Using hands, squeeze and knead together until mixture begins to hold shape.  Refrigerate until needed and up to two weeks.

Preheat a grill to medium high.  Form beef into four patties.  Sprinkle with a light dusting of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Flip burgers over and repeat on opposite side.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the burgers for 3 minutes on each side. With a spatula, flip again and cook for another 1 ½ minutes on the first side.  As burgers are cooking, gather approximately 2 Tbsp. pimento cheese spread and form into patties.  Flip burgers again and top each burger with a patty of the pimento cheese, cover the grill, and cook for another 1 minute for medium-rare.

Transfer the burgers to the buns. Top each burger with onion, tomato and condiments, as desired.

Your grill and your tummy will be happy.

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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balsamic flat-iron steak & asparagus with brown butter

To me, one of the main heralds of spring is the smell of the grills fired up around the neighborhood.  There’s something about that smell that sets my mouth watering.  It may also explain why I’ve had an incurable craving for cheeseburgers.  On Sunday nights at our house, we tend to try to start the week off right with a nice meal and a bottle of wine.  Don’t get me wrong, cheeseburgers certainly fit the bill for the Sunday Night Special, but the choice in wine dictated something with a little more oomph, a little more complexity, but certainly something with beef.

Spring also means cleaning up the yard and prepping our garden for the plethora of veggies to come, so after a day of buzzing around outside, I was looking for something quick that would still accomplish the “special” aspect of our Sunday dinner.  Enter a quick marinade and flat-iron steak.  Flat-iron steak is a budget-conscious cut of beef from the shoulder that is uniform in thickness and rectangular shaped like an old-fashioned iron, hence the name.  Flank steak would be a good substitute in both cut and price if you are unable to find flat-iron.  To gussy it up a bit, I put together a quick marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic.  The acid in the balsamic vinegar will start to break down the proteins during the marinade process and once on the grill, the heat will caramelize the sugars in the balsamic and garlic to create a nice crust on the steak, sealing in the juices.  Hungry yet?

We needed something equally special to go with our steak.  Enter spring asparagus.  Thin and tender, these emerald stalks begged for a little smokiness from the grill and a swim in decadent brown butter.  Even asparagus haters will have to think twice once tempted with this luxurious treatment.  Lightly steamed until tender and flash grilled, this quick side dish might just become a part of your regular rotation.  And the brown butter?  Now we’re talking, friends.

Making brown butter is as easy as turning on the stove.  As the butter melts, the milk solids separate and begin to caramelize over the gentle heat.  Don’t be tempted to try to rush it, as you’ll end up with burned butter – definitely not the same thing.  But, if you leave this alone for a few minutes over medium heat and give it a swirl every now and then, your patience will be rewarded with toasty liquid gold.  Just be sure to be a bit more mindful as the milk solids do start to caramelize, because once they start, they will go fast and you’ll be right back to the burned butter conundrum.  You can make this ahead too and once it has reached its desired color, take the butter off of the heat and set aside.  When you are ready to serve the asparagus, just warm the butter up again over low heat.

Now that you are certain to have drooled all over your keyboard, let’s get to the business of putting this together, shall we?  A quick recap: balsamic marinated flat-iron steak with a sweet-tangy balsamic reduction and tender grilled asparagus with brown butter.  Throw in that bottle of red wine we talked about earlier, and you have a perfect way to celebrate the close of a weekend and to start the week.  You are also guaranteed not to have any leftovers.

balsamic flat-iron steak & asparagus with brown butter

recipe:  adapted generously from the Seattle Times

1 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, divided

1 1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. salt, divided

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 flat-iron steak, about 1 1/4 lbs.

10 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lb. thin asparagus

 

Combine 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, garlic, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a large glass dish.  Add flat-iron steak and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning steaks after 15 minutes. 

As steak is marinating, place remaining balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Let balsamic reduce for 15 minutes or until thick and bubbly.  Set aside.  Place butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Swirl occasionally until butter has melted and has turned a deep caramel color, about 15 minutes.  Steam asparagus for 5-7 minutes or until tender.  Remove from heat and immediately plunge into an ice water bath to stop cooking.  Drain asparagus and place in a large dish.  Toss asparagus with olive oil, remaining salt and pepper.  Set aside.  

Heat grill to medium high heat.  Grill flat-iron steak about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, keeping an eye on the steak for any flare ups.  Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes.  As steak is resting, grill asparagus for about 3-4 minutes, rotating to ensure even grill marks on each side.  Return balsamic reduction and brown butter to low heat.  Slice flat-iron steak against the grain, drizzle with about 1 Tbsp. balsamic reduction.  Serve immediately with asparagus drizzled with about 1 Tbsp. browned butter.

 

Enjoy your own version of a special Sunday supper!

– j

All content and photographs © jb’s pour house

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