Saturday, July 26, 2014

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Cabbage

This is a short post for a delicious dish great on the grill. It's healthy (cabbage)  and tasty (bacon). My sister and I made this when we were visiting our home in St. Thomas. Yummy. Give it a try. Everyone loves bacon, even when cooked with cabbage.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 head green cabbage
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
8 strips of bacon, peppered preferred
aluminum foil, heavy duty (for wrapping)

Peel off any loose outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the head in half, then cut out the tough core. Cut each half into four pieces.

Sprinkle with the olive oil and then seasoned salt. Wrap each piece in a strip of peppered (or plain if you prefer) bacon. Place two wrapped pieces together in heavy duty aluminum foil (or double wrap with standard foil.) Do the same for the remaining pieces with two in each packet for a total of 4 packets.

Place on a pre-heated grill at approximately 375F. Turn after 30 minutes and continue cooking until tender, about 30 minutes more. Unwrap and serve.

Ready for Wrapping and Grilling

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Red Potato Salad with Dill

This is one of my favorite picnic foods. It's a twist on the old standard mustard potato salad and in my opinion, it's actually better! And as this recipe uses store bought mayonnaise and adds vinegar as well, you needn't worry about the sauce spoiling, as you might with a more traditional creamy potato salad recipe.

Julian's Red Potato Salad with Fresh Dill
I first made this for a friend's birthday in 1995 and have been taking it to picnics, particularly Ravinia picnics, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, ever since. It pairs well with just about any food and the dill gives it a fresh, summer taste. I'm using fresh dill, but you can substitute dried if that is all you have access to.  The other ingredients are probably already in your pantry or refrigerator.

Ingredients (serves 6)
2 pounds red potatoes, cut in pieces
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, white

Ensure the potatoes are cut into bite sized pieces and place in a pot of cold salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmering and cook potatoes until just fork tender.  Do not overcook or they will break up when you stir them.  Drain and cool for 5 minutes. Add chopped bell pepper and onion in large bowl along with the warm potatoes. Whisk mayonnaise and all remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Pour dressing over warm potato mixture; toss gently to coat. Let stand 1 hour. Cover salad and chill for storage.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Julian's Potato Salad served with Chicken and Beans

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Spinach ~ Fresh and Fast

On work nights you may struggle to find something fast, fresh and even meatless if it's Monday. This dish fits the bill and makes a great all-in-one dinner. I had it complete and on the table in under 30 minutes. If you want to add meat, toss in some meatballs or sausage. If not, you really won't miss it. You will enjoy the fresh spinach and even those that proclaim to dislike the vegetable, will enjoy it in this sauce.

Julian's Penne with Tomato Cream and Spinach
As with most good pasta dishes, you can really substitute pretty liberally and it will still taste fine. I used canned tomatoes but also chopped and added two fresh plum tomatoes that were on hand. I used a bit of red wine, but you don't have to. I had a handful of mushrooms leftover, so I sliced and added those too. So long as you stick with the basics of this dish (tomatoes, garlic, onions, cheese and herbs), you can add or take away others to your liking.

Looks Like A Lot

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly cracked pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooks Down Quickly
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound Penne pasta
9 ounce bag fresh spinach
Meatballs (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender (7-10) minutes. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large skillet with the olive oil over medium heat until softened and transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and fresh pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water and stir until the tomato paste is incorporated.

Reduce heat to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce and stir in. Add half of the Parmesan cheese stir until melted. Add the remainder of the Parmesan and stir in until melted.

Add the fresh spinach and gently stir it into the sauce until it has wilted (3-5 minutes). Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the creamy tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

With added meatballs.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stuffed Flank Steak or Brisket ~ Julia Child

I've had Julia's "The Way To Cook" for many years and turn to it frequently. Recently however I recently received the DVD set and started watching it during workouts. I knew many of the recipes from the book but until now I had never tried her stuffed meat, such as flank steak, brisket and even veal breast. They all follow the same basic technique and she gives you a number of stuffing options. So today I'm making a stuffed beef brisket.

Julian's Stuffed Braised Beef Brisket
As she notes in the show, if you use flank or brisket, you have a relatively inexpensive piece of meat which can be served to guests and look elegant because of the preparation. Certainly it's worthy of any table and worth the little extra effort to make a simple cut of meat into a great dinner.

These recipes come from Julia's "Master Recipe" for braising pieces of meat, especially beef. But she also uses the technique for lamb, pork and veal, although you should substitute white wine for braising rather than red. As she notes, once you have the basic technique for braising down, you can use it widely for all tough pieces of meat that will benefit from a slow cooking in liquid to render their tougher fibers suitable for your table. If you don't have Julia Child's "The Way To Cook" I strongly advise adding it to your collection both in print and DVD.

Julian's plated stuffed brisket with corn au gratin.
I selected brisket today because that's what my butcher had available, pronouncing flank steak as "out of season." I'm not sure how that can be, but there it is. If I had the choice I would prefer flank steak for this recipe as I think it is more tender and flavorful, but either will do. A usual sized cut is 1.5 to 3 pounds and feeds 4-8. You could also stuff a bottom round of beef (Paupiette of Beef Gargantua, per Julia) if you need to feed a crowd of 15 or more.

When stuffing a flank or brisket I prefer a hearty meat stuffing, rather than mushroom or corn bread. These looser, lighter stuffings are fine in other cases where a greater quantity of meat is included with the dish. But in the case of flank or brisket the beef only serves to encase the stuffing by a thin layer of meat. So providing a stuffing much more like the meat surrounding it makes for a more consistent and pleasing serving. Julia also seemed to prefer the meat stuffing I use here.

Beef Flank or Brisket (per above)

vegetable oil
2 cups red wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 cups chopped tomatoes
2-3 cups beef stock

Herb Bouquet
6 parsley springs
6 peppercorns
3 whole cloves
4 allspice berries
1 teaspoon thyme
2 large garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour

2 Cups of Meat Stuffing of your Choice
I selected the following:
1 cup ground beef
1 cup ground pork
finely chopped trimming from the steak
1 small finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6-8 black olives, halved
12 saltine crackers, crushed
1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
1 tablespoon dry ground mustard
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons dried parsley
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon ground rosemary

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup white wine or water

Directions (from the book but modified with additional helpful hints)

Prepare the meat. Trim any excess fat from the meat's surface. Slit a pocket in the side of the meat using a very sharp pointed knife. If the meat is thicker than about 1/2", you may need to remove a pocked of meat from the center. Carve out any excess until you have a workable pocket suitable for stuffing and a ring of steak about 1/4" thick all the way around. Season the interior lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Stuffing Ingredients
Prepare the stuffing. Mix together all of the stuffing ingredients until well combined. While a spoon may get you started, using your hand will provide the best result. Do not use a food processor or mixer for this purpose as it tends to grind up the ingredients and make the mixture tough.

Stuff and tie the meat.  Spoon the stuffing into the meat pocket. Use 2-3 metal pins/skewers to close the pocket. Using butchers twine, tie the meat crosswise in 4-5 places and again lengthwise.

Prepare the braise.  Roughly chop the vegetables and gather the braising ingredients close by your cook top. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the stuffed tied meat and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Stir adding a little more oil if necessary. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir in for 1 minute more. Add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes. Return the meat to the pan and add enough beef stock until it covers about half or a bit more of the meat. Toss in the herb bouquet and stir. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours. This can be done on the cook top or in a 350 oven. Check every 30-40 minutes and baste the meat (as she directs in the book) or turn the meat (as she instructs in the video). Add more liquid if necessary.

Click to Enlarge
Sauce and serving. Remove the meat the from braise and set on a cutting board covered loosely with foil. Strain the solids from the liquid, and de-grease the liquid. I prefer to do this using a large fat separator which I showed in my prior post.  Let the liquid sit in the fat separator for about 20 minutes and then pour the good juices without the fat into a sauce pan. Mix together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with white wine or cold water (slurry). Bring the gravy to a simmer and whisk in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and then the slurry. Stir until thickened. Do not boil. Using an electric or very sharp knife, cut the meat crosswise and lay out on a platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve.

Julian's Stuffed Beef Brisket Dinner