Brisket: The Final Product

Cooked Brisket

Nom nom nom nom.

Okay. So Sunday, after putting the brisket in the rub, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and putting in the refrigerator overnight, it was time to cook this bad boy. Now, I had never cooked on of these before, let alone try it on the grill, so I did my research and settled on placing the brisket in a disposable aluminum roasting pan at 225 degrees with indirect heat. I also soaked some hickory wood chips in beer, threw those into an aluminum foil pouch, and placed it directly over the one burner that was on. One tip about the wood chips. Get them smoking and readjust the grill to temperature before you put the brisket on. I didn’t do that and it took them about two hours for them to start smoking properly.

I figured that at three and a half pounds, it would take me approximately five or six hours to cook this, but it took much longer. From the time that I put it on the grill to the time that it was finally ready to come off and rest, it was more like nine and half or 10 hours to get to an internal temperature of 185 degrees. Why? My theory is that I committed the cardinal sin of grilling: I kept opening up the grill. I did this for a couple reasons. First, once an hour I basted the brisket with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, beer, salt, and pepper. Second, I wasn’t confident with the temperature readings I was getting on the thermometer and therefore I opened it a few times to try and get different readings. What did I learn? That I’m smarter than that. I like to think that I’m pretty good at grilling (although what guy out there thinks otherwise) and I simply know better. I blame it on being a brisket rookie and worrying too much about what the final product would be.

Anyway, once it was time to rest, I promptly wrapped it in aluminum foil, placed it in an empty cooler, and put a towel over it. And there it sat for 30 minutes while we got the potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls together. The picture you see above is what it looked like upon cutting. I hope the picture does it justice, but it was juicy, tender, and delicious. The rub turned into a nice outer layer that I wouldn’t describe quite as a crust, but it definitely provided bold flavors with every bite. I know that some brisket enthusiasts swear by cutting the flat off (the piece of mean directly under the fat layer) before serving, but I left it on. It was easy enough for us to cut that piece off as we were eating. Also, the cider and beer sauce I was basting the brisket in while cooking turned into a pretty awesome sauce that we spooned over the brisket while serving.

For the rub, I don’t remember exactly what I put into it – and I was reminded that I need to start writing these things down – but I can list the ingredients that I remember: brown sugar, black pepper, kosher salt, cumin, red cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground mustard, and curry powder. I coated the brisket in Dijon mustard before applying the rub the day before. I was pretty happy with the end result of the rub, although the curry powder I would cut back on a little as it was definitely the most dominate spice flavor.

Overall, it turned out great, especially for the first brisket I’ve ever cooked. I’m going to keep experimenting with cooking methods (thinking about getting an electric smoker in the fall, perhaps) and rubs / sauces, so there will be ample opportunity to update you on the progress. My only piece of advice: don’t be daunted by it. Sure there are brisket “experts” but really, food is a personal thing and as long as you are enjoying it, do it your own way. I’m sure I broke about 100 brisket rules, but H can attest that the end results were tasty and delicious, even as leftovers.

Happy fooding.

– C

Brisket: Low and Slow

Brisket

Oh, you know, just trying to grill a brisket for the first time ever.

Whoa, has it really been two months since we last updated the blog? Shame on us.

Anyway, since it’s summer, we’ve been really into grilling. One of the things that I’ve never tried is brisket. I’ve done ribs, steak, and chicken. You know, the standard fare. Brisket seems like a good challenge. Right now I have the brisket in a rub with a multitude of spices, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and sitting in the fridge for tomorrow. This will be an interesting adventure, and we’ll let you know how it goes.

– C

Chopped: Amateur Hour – Pork Chops

Chopped: Amateur Hour - Pork Chops

Pork chops, rice noodles, UGLI fruit, and … wait, what?

Over the weekend we decided to try something. I’ll call it, “Chopped: Amateur Hour.” We decided it would be fun to try our hand at a Chopped-inspired meal. For those of you unfamiliar, Choppedis a show that airs on Food Network that gives contestants a mystery basket of ingredients. They compete against one another, but more importantly, against the items in the basket. They don’t know what the ingredients will be prior opening the basket, and the producers of the show always try to throw them a curveball. Why, yes, that is a basket of halibut, fingerling potatoes, wild rice, and cotton candy.

So while H stayed at home, my brother-in-law and I went to the store to put together a “mystery bag” of ingredients. We settled on bone-in pork chops, UGLI fruit, thin rice noodles, and two varieties of Snack Pack – chocolate caramel and tapioca. H found the ingredients … interesting, but she was up to challenge. Regardless, our plan B was double-cheeseburgers from McDonalds.

Since I’m writing this blog entry, I am happy to report that we survived, and the results were quite impressive, all things considered. H crusted the pork chops in a chili powder and paprika rub and pan fried them. The rice noodles were prepared two ways – boiled and tossed with the juice of the UGLI fruit, and pan fried to a crisp as a textural contrast and placed atop the pork chops. The Snack Pack, as we suspected, proved to be the most difficult items. H cooked down both the chocolate caramel and tapioca Snack Packs and added shallots and garlic. Her idea was that the savory garlic and shallot flavors would help to cut through the sweetness of the pudding.

The flavor of the pork chop was really nice. The pork chop had a great smoky flavor that went well with the sweetness of the sauce. The rice noodles were a little on the bland side as the UGLI fruit really didn’t show up. And the Snack Pack sauce, if eaten alone, was a little too overpoweringly chocolatey. But, with a little of each component, it was surprisingly good. I’m not quite sure that it’s something that we would make again just as a planned meal, but given that the ingredients were a total mystery, H did a really nice job.

Of course, there will be a chance for revenge. I’m up next. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not expecting the same result, so we’ll have a plan B ready.

Happy fooding.

– C

Saro (New York City)

Saro

A great find in New York City

Saro (102 Norfolk St., New York, NY) is amazing! It’s quaint, well decorated, great atmosphere and friendly staff.

We booked a reservation for dinner for a group of six. Although the place is small, they accommodated us nicely. The waitresses were very knowledgeable and friendly. They act as hostess, waitress & bar tenders. We even met the chef while leaving which was a great touch!

We got to try their summer menu which they debuted in early April, only about a week before we visited.

Saro Salad

Perfectly refreshing way to start the meal.

APPETIZER:
1) Octopus salad – served warm and more like a stew than salad. The octopus was cooked perfectly and the dish wonderfully spiced.

2) Pie of the Day. It was a cheese pie and was the perfect size for all six of us to have a bite. The cheese inside was delicious and was surrounded by a flaky crust.

Saro Short Ribs

Arguably the best short ribs we've ever had.

DINNER
1) 12 hour slow cooked short ribs. These were amazing. Normally short ribs are smaller and contain a lot fat. This dish was served without the bone and was a good sized portion. It melted in your mouth and easily pulled apart with a fork. The fingerling potatoes were a perfect touch to sop up the sauce on the plate. Would easily order again.

2) Kale pasta. This was a wonderful and earthy dish. The pasta was light and cooked perfectly. The kale and other greens, however, really made this dish amazing.

3) Cornish hens. I didn’t personally sample, but two people at our tables ordered these and loved them. Tender and fragrant.

4) Rabbit served two ways. One way was braised and the other smoked. The meat was tender and very flavorful.  Would easily order again.

5) Sea bass. The outside was crispy and tangy but the inside remained moist and flaky (not dry at all). Everyone at the table said they would order again.

DESSERT
We ordered one of each dessert on the menu. Everything had distinctive flavors and great portions. We topped it off with some rajika, an Eastern European drink that was described like a whiskey but a little sweeter.

The experience was awesome. At our table we basically sampled everything on the menu and there isn’t a thing that wasn’t superb. The wait staff topped the night off, friendly, quick knowledgeable.

PERFECT

One note – This was a review that we originally posted on Yelp, but we wanted to share it here as well. It’s been slightly modified.

– C and H

Chicken, Bacon Mac & Cheese

Gooey Italian and jack cheeses, crispy applewood-smoked bacon and juicy chicken breast pieces . . . sounds great (and unhealthy) right?  Amazing as it is, this dish is lightened up enough that a serving of two cups is under 500 calories.  Butter is removed from this dish and replaced with cream of mushroom soup and skim milk.  Finished with reduced fat shredded cheeses and a single piece of crumbled bacon these ingredients add the perfect amount of creaminess and salt without going overboard.  For the chicken, I utilized a rotisserie chicken and removed the skin/fat and shredded the breast meat for this dish.  I then heated up the breast meat it the pan drippings from cooking the bacon.  I’ve gotten in the habit of buying a rotisserie chicken on Sundays and storing the meat for use later in the week.  Having the chicken done ahead of time makes this dish simple and quick to make.  I also recommend cooking this dish in a pan that can be put in the oven and on the stove.  This means a lot less dirty dishes to clean.

 

I promise that even though this dish is a lightened-up version of a favorite comfort food recipe – it tastes great!  Enjoy!

-H

 

Recipe adapted from MyRecipes: Bacon, Ranch and Chicken Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni (or shells)

1 slice applewood-smoked bacon (I’ve also used reduced sodium bacon)

1 cup shredded chicken breasts (rotisserie chicken with skin/fat removed works great!)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs flour

1 1/2 cup fat-free milk

1/2 cup condensed, reduced sodium & fat, cream of mushrrom soup

3/4 cup reduced fat, italian blend, shredded cheese

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp dill

1/8 tsp salt

Cooking spray

1/2 cup reduced fat, shredded colby/jack cheese

 

Directions:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

2) Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet (that can go in the oven) over medium heat until crispy.  Remove from pan and reserve drippings.  Chop bacon and set aside.

3) Add shredded or cubed chicken breasts to pan and saute until heated through or cooked (3-6 minutes).  Remove chicken and set aside.

4) Add oil to pan and heat over medium-high.  Add flour and cook two minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Combine milk and soup and add mixture to pan.  Continue stirring until mixture comes to a boil; cook two minutes or until thick. Remove from head and let stand four minutes so sauce can cool.  Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill and salt.  Stir until cheese melts.  Add the past and chicken and stir to combine.

5) Preheat broiler.

6) Sprinkle with bacon and colby/jack cheese.  Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts

 

Nutrition:

Serving size – 2 cups

Calories: 497

Fat: 17g

Protein 33.3g

 

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General Tso’s Chicken

I’ve been making this recipe with my family for years.  It’s always been one of my favorite foods to make at home but fried in a wok and containing lots of sugar and cornstarch made it everything but healthy.  So this go around I tried to lighten it up while still maintaining the integrity of the dish.  I reduced the amounts of sugar, salt, oil and cornstarch to lower the calories and sodium in this meal.  The end result was great.  My husband and brother even commented it tasted better than the original recipe.  The sauce is thick and tangy with just enough heat and the chicken stays moist and tender. I hope you enjoy.

 

-H

 

Ingredients – Sauce:

1/4 cup corn starch

1/8 cup water

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 inch of fresh ginger root, minced

1/4 cup white sugar

4 Tbs low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/8 cup cooking sherry or white wine

1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

2 cups green onions, chopped

4 dried peppers or 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (alter to taste)

 

Ingredients – Meat:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp white pepper

1 1/2 Tbs corn starch

1 1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

1.  Combine all meat ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl.  Allow to marinate at room temperature while preparing other ingredients.

2. Combine all sauce ingredients except peppers and green onion in a large bowl.  Mix well until cornstarch and sugar is dissolved.

3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cooked until browned and cooked through (appx 15 min).  Remove chicken and set aside.

4. Reduce heat to medium and add green onions and peppers to remaining oil in skillet.  Cook until onions are tender and the peppers are fragrant (appx 2 min).  Re-mix the sauce ingredients and add to the pan.  Stir consistently until sauce thickens and starts to boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken.  Cook until chicken is heated through (appx 2 min).

Serve with Jasmine rice.  Delicious!

 

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Roasted Squash & Shallot Soup

I was inspired this weekend to do a ‘Day of Cooking.’  One of those days where you don’t worry about time to prepare or difficulty – you just cook.  On my day of cooking I discovered this recipe for butternut squash soup.  To be completely honest, I’ve never made butternut squash soup before.  It’s one of those dishes you hear from so many people about how tasty it is and simple to make.  Well I finally decided to give it a go.

 

At the grocery store they did not have any butternut squash in stock so instead I ended up with a kabocha squash.  The label read it was sweet and would be a good substitute for sweet potatoes/yams or butternut squash.  Turned out to be a great substitute.  The squash along with fresh ginger, shallots and a little salt and olive oil were all roasted in the oven until tender.  Ingredients were then blended with chicken stock.  The end result – amazing!  Topped with a splash of sour cream and a pinch of chives this soup is to die for.  It has a creamy texture with lots of flavor.  We’ve been eating it as a leftover for the last couple of days and it’s still great.  Highly recommend.

 

Enjoy – H

 

Recipe Adapted from – MyRecipes

Ingredients:

4 cups cubed and peeled kabocha squash (or butternut)  Appx 1.5 lbs

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 large shallots, peeled and quartered

1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced

2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

Fresh chives and sour cream for serving

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. Combine first five ingredients on a roasting pan; toss well.  Bake for 50 minutes or until tender.  Cool ten minutes.

3. Place half of squash mixture and half of the chicken broth in a blender (recommend removing the center lid of blender to allow steam to escape).  Blend until smooth.  Pour into sauce pan and repeat.

4. Heat mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes or until heated through

5. Top with chives and sour cream as desired

 

Nutrition:

Serving size – 2/3 cup of soup

Calories: 112

Fat: 2.5 g

Protein: 3.3 g

 

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Sea Change

Sea Change, which is located on south 2nd street in Minneapolis (attached to the Guthrie Theater), is one of those places where food and art begin to blend together, but definitely not in an off-putting way. While the culinary artistry is on display with each dish, the seafood and flavors take center stage. And they are excellent.

TunaPokeSeaChange

Tasty tuna with spicy mayo, masago, and a great seaweed salad.

We started with something that we’ve come to love, and almost always end up getting it when we go, Tuna Poke. The well-proportioned cubes of Hawaiian ahi tuna are covered in a great spicy mayo, but the addition of crunchy, slightly salty masago and raw scallions provides that textural balance that I’m a really big fan of. The accompanying seaweed salad doesn’t have that overpowering fishy, briny, seafoody taste that seaweed can sometimes have. It’s very clean tasting, with a good al dente texture without being slimy at all. The sesame oil they use as part of the dressing really brings it all together. The key for this dish is to get a bite of all the elements together. Pretty amazing.

LambSamosasSeaChange

Crispy yet light samosas filled with lamb. Not gamy, just delicious.

Aside from the tuna, we tried a starter that we’ve never had at Sea Change before – lamb samosas. I’m usually a little hesitant with samosas because they can often be over fried, which makes them dry and tough at the same time. However, given the quality of the food at Sea Change, I wasn’t worried, nor disappointed. The samosas are, well, delicious. The outer dough is perfectly balanced in terms of how much they use and how long they fry it. This results in a crispy and light outer shell that gives way to the decadent lamb inside. The lamb is not at all gamy and the spice mixture, which I couldn’t really identify, enhances the lamb meat with the right amount of salt and earthy flavors. The mint yogurt is pretty standard fare – it adds a nice temperature and textural contrast. The cucumber salad, however, is under utilized and I would have loved to have had a little more of that. The cucumbers are still crisp and the citrus in the dressing balances out the yogurt. I could have eaten an entire side of just that, to be honest.

BarramundiSeaChange

Barramundi with crispy skin in a miso, mushroom broth with egg. Oh. My. God.

For the main course, I went with the barramundi, a flaky white fish. The barramundi is cooked to perfection, with the fish staying moist and flaky while the descaled skin was crispy. It is served in a bowl that contains a poached egg, bok choy, watermelon radish , and sunchoke chips. Upon arrival, a rich, brown, mushroom broth is poured into the bowl. Now, I’m a big fan of sauces and broths, and this one is awesome. The broth has that great mushroom flavor, and turns the dish into a pseudo bouillabaisse. The barramundi is perfect for this dish because it has a tendency to fall apart, which allows you to get a little bit of the fish to pair with all the other elements in every single bite.

ScallopsSeaChange

If you want perfectly cooked scallops, look no further.

For her main course, H went with the scallops. I tried only one small bite – it was so good that she didn’t really want to share – but I can tell you this: the scallops are amazing. They are perfectly cooked – seared on the outside, buttery and creamy on the inside. And, no grit whatsoever. The cauliflower and bacon croquette that it comes served with is fantastic. The bacon is very subtle and its natural smokiness brings out the delicate flavor of the scallops. Next time, I may have to get this one for myself. Also, do not skip the side of Brussels sprouts. Caramelized to perfection.

CaramelCoffeePotdeCremeSeaChange

I think we're going to need a bigger plate ... because this is a heavy dessert.

And that all brings us to dessert. We had two. First, the Caramel Coffee Pot de Creme. It comes served with a dollop of pear sorbet. The caramel coffee pot de creme is very rich and very creamy. The coffee doesn’t overpower the caramel, and that to me is the key to the dish. The pear sorbet helps to add that bit of fruit and acidity to cut through the sweetness of the caramel and coffee. And, it really does taste like pear. This is a dessert that I really like but not sure how often I would want to eat it. It’s that rich.

CalamansiNapoleonSeaChange

Sweet. Creamy. Crispy. Citrusy. An exemplary dessert.

The other dessert we went with was the Calamansi Napoleon. In between the crisps, which included a sesame brittle in the middle (heh, that basically rhymes) is a lemon ice cream or sorbet or something. Whatever it is, it’s very, very good. The coconut sorbet goes really well here. The milky, sweet, and soft coconut flavor mixes really well with the citrus. I’m hoping this stays on the menu for a long time.

Overall, Sea Change continues to impress. Having been there a number of times, I’m always pleasantly surprised by the quality and consistency of their food, although I don’t know why I should be. It’s one of our very favorite restaurant in Minneapolis, and for very good reason.

Oh, and be sure to check out the drinks from Sea Change on Drink Aesthetic.

Happy fooding.

– C

Skillet Beef Tenderloin

Beef Tenderloin

I could get used to this

Alert: It’s not tough to cook steak during winter. Either brave the cold – depending on where you live – and grill outside, or use a cast iron skillet. Last night, we did the latter.

The meal, which allowed us to indulge in steak, also kept us aligned with our healthy-eating resolution (we calculated this entire meal to be around 450 calories). The key? Lean beef tenderloin and fresh vegetables. The tenderloin was 4.5 lb originally, but for last night’s meal I cut off three filets that were around 6 ounces each. The rest we froze for later , which I’ll be honest, may be tomorrow given how good everything turned out. The beef I seasoned with a dry rub that I altered just a bit from Weber’s Real Grilling book. And for the vegetables, we kept it simple – sauteed onions and mushrooms, and in a separate pan, green and yellow beans. Definitely alter the rub or vegetable sides to your choosing. And dress the steak however you wish – H likes blue cheese and A1, I like mine as-is. Happy fooding! – C

Um. Yeah. Steak. Delicious, delicious steak.

Ingredients:

  • 3 beef tenderloin filets, trimmed of any visible fat, 6 ounces each
  • 2 cups of fresh green beans
  • 1.5 cups of fresh yellow beans
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 1 cup of sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Palm-full of fresh thyme

For the dry rub (again, slightly altered from Weber’s Real Grilling book):

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure chile powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced, dried garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions for the beef:

  1. Let the beef stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to cooking.
  2. Prepare the dry rub, and lightly coat each side of the beef with olive oil.
  3. Apply the dry rub and then follow The Kitchn’s directions on how to cook steak in the oven (skip to step 4 if you are using our dry rub recipe – and be sure to alter the cooking time depending on the type and thickness of your steaks). Nice and easy.

Directions for onions and mushrooms:

  1. Dice the onion and slice the mushrooms (or buy pre-sliced mushrooms)
  2. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the onions and mushrooms
  4. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper
  5. Once onions begin to turn translucent, add the fresh thyme

Directions for beans:

  1. Wash the beans and remove any stems
  2. Over medium heat, add the beans to a non-stick skillet
  3. Season with kosher salt and pepper
  4. Add the lemon juice
  5. Cook until desired tenderness – we prefer our beans more on the crispy / crunchy side

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Found this recipe one day while randomly surfing websites for new recipes.  I’ve always loved chicken cordon bleu but have never found a recipe I really liked.  Most recipes either required a lot of work (stuffing chicken breasts) or were quite unhealthy.  Well this recipe totally fit the bill!  We loved it so much the first night we are literally making it again tonight – two days in a row!  The leftovers held up as well – the panko topping stayed crunchy and the flavors were spot on.  What makes this recipe so easy is all the traditional cordon bleu flavors are just piled on top of the chicken breasts and put in the oven.  A cream cheese and swiss cheese mixture adds a delicious creaminess and the ham chunks just enough salt.  We served it with a side a polenta as to not overshadow how awesome this chicken is. This recipe is so tasty, I promise you will enjoy!

-H

Recipe adapted from EatingWell

Ingredients:

1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Should have four breasts – we cut two large ones in half)

Fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste

1/3 cup shredded swiss cheese plus a sprinkle more for topping

2 Tbs reduced-fat cream cheese

1/4 c panko crumbs

1 Tbs Italian breadcrumbs

1 tsp fresh chopped thyme

4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 c chopped ham

 

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2) Heat 2 tsp oil in a large, ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to skillet.  Cook chicken until browned on both sides – approximately 2 minutes per side.

3) While chicken is cooking, in a small bowl combine: cream cheese and swiss cheese.  In a second small bowl combine: pank0, bread crumbs, thyme and remaining oil.

4) Move chicken breasts to center of pan so all pieces are touching.  Top with cheese mixture and then ham.  Sprinkle a small amount of additional swiss cheese on top of ham.  Finish off with bread crumb mixture.  Bake in oven 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

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