Cranberry Beans

Maybe I’m just a food nerd, but I don’t think there’s much in this world more attractive than cranberry beans.  Cindy in her prime was impressive no doubt (and still is if you were dumb enough to watch one of her recent infomercials), but I still think cranberry beans are pretty f’n gorgeous. 

Although they won’t be in season for quite a while, and most of you won’t be seeing these at your local market, the fresh-shelled bean gives me warm fuzzies.  Growing up in the South, shelling fresh beans with my mom in late summer was quite the memorable bonding experience.  I couldn’t even scramble an egg back in my youth, so this was really about as cooking-involved as I got back in the day.  But mama’s creamed corn with some fresh “butta” beans or crowder peas was just about my favorite thing at that age (other than punishing fried scallops at Red Lobster).

The last time I had them was with my BFF Roy as part of our yuppie feast.  They came out to be absolutely perfect.  Here’s how I made them…

  1. Shell a bunch of beans until you have several cups of beans
  2. Put them in a pot and cover with water
  3. Boil for about an hour until nice and tender

Next, you bring those beans to life…

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces high-quality dry salami, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • Several sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves (optional)
  • 6T of butter
  • Several cups of chicken stock or water (a splash of white wine is very nice too)
  • Salt and cayenne to taste

 Directions:

  1. In 2T of butter, brown the salami in the bottom of a wide-bottomed pan.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sweat on low heat for 20-30 minutes until very soft and sweet (obviously you can be doing this while the beans are cooking). 
  3. Drain the beans and add to the pot… Stir, scraping the bottom.
  4. Add your liquid – Half water and half chicken stock with a splash of white wine would be ideal, but there’s enough flavor in the salami that just plain water is fine.  Make sure the beans are fully covered with liquid.
  5. Add your optional herbs at this time.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer until the flavors are well concentrated and you’re liking the taste.  Reduce a little bit if necessary. 
  7. Finish by stirring in the remaining 4T of butter and season with salt and cayenne to taste.  Salami is very salty so it shouldn’t require much. 
  8. Remove the herbs and serve.  Makes an amazing soup-like concoction that can make a great side dish or even function as a pretty good main course. 

  To make it more of a functional meal, garnish the soup, or any soup for that matter while you’re at it, with the famous 180 Homemade Cheez-it.

Langoustine

When I visited New York back in October I was like a kid in a candy shop at many of the various haute cuisine grocers. In retrospect, these stores are pretty funny. They are designed specifically to convince people with too much money to spend astronomical amounts of cash on food, and they do so very successfully. The KING of these stores is Mario Batalli’s Eataly, which had only been open for a few weeks at the time and was all the rage.

The store has some pretty badass imports – especially in the cured meat department. But what really hooked me and reeled me in like a Bluefin tuna was the seafood section. Although I spent the better part of a decade working in some of the most upscale American restaurants serving the most exotic and expensive food you can imagine (King Cobra anyone? Caribou noisettes? 000 Beluga caviar? White truffle risotto?), one thing that I hadn’t come across was the Langoustine.

Although the langoustine is common in many parts of Europe, it was something I hadn’t seen in an American supermarket or restaurant either for that matter. So when I saw some live little langoustines kicking around on ice, well, out came the wallet (which went from thin and anemic to needing to be hospitalized and put on a feeding tube after this round of grocery-getting).

Anyway, they were great, and gorgeous. Roy busted out some tomato risotto and I butter-poached the langoustine, which is a fabulous cooking method for any type of crustacean like shrimp, lobster, or yes – langoustine. The finished product has a much softer and less rubbery texture (speaking of rubbery, the handmade mozzarella at Eataly was like a freakin’ racketball), and the fat helps it to retain much of its flavor – especially when cooked in the shell.

The method is simple. In a shallow pot combine equal-parts butter and water with some added salt (and some flavorings if you choose – like fresh garlic or thyme, but it’s really not necessary). Place the langoustines (or in your case shrimp or white fish like Halibut or monkfish probably) in the butter/water bath and turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Bring up to a simmer as slowly as possible and turn the heat off before it even comes to a boil. The idea is to do a true poach (in this case a “shallow” poaching, which is with the langoustine not fully submerged, but a fully covered poach would be even better), which is to cook slightly below boiling temperature very slowly, and just to the point of being cooked through to avoid rubbery textures.

Yes, this post is not to help you cook langoustine. It’s to share with you that simple butter-poaching method which is a dream come true for shrimp, monkfish, Halibut, and other tasty fish that you may be sick of grilling, baking, and frying. Try it sucka! And yeah, you can save the poaching liquid/butter and use it again if you like.  That’s allowed. 

How about Roy’s snapshot of the langoustine by the way?  My BFF has got way more skills than yours.

Prime Rib Action

I’m going all gourmet on your for the next few posts and then we’re going to go to the extreme polar opposite end of that I assure you – as I’m living in a small efficiency apartment close to the beach for the winter and making some hardcore simple eats.  This post and the two that follow will feature various components of an uber-gourmet meal put together by me and my BFF Roy when I visited him in October – a showcasing of our yuppiness.   

We spent way too much money on this badboy, but hey, we were fired up, and New York City is a great place to lighten your wallet on high-quality and exotic fare.  The pics as you will see are fantastic.  Roy is the greatest photographer of all-time ever, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my BFF.  I am saying “BFF” repeatedly because I watched some show the other day that proposed BFF be banned in 2011.  That just made me wanna use it all the more. 

And yes, Roy and I have been accused of engaging in heavy duty bromance, but don’t call us gay.  Roy’s wife is Tyra basically and I, like Kip Dynamite, “chat online with babes, all day.”  Enjoy our fine hunk of meat…

Prime rib is basically just a big slab of ribeye that is roasted in a large chunk as opposed to grilled up in individual steaks.  A whole ribeye is enough to feed nearly 20 people, so we obviously just used a chunk that was a few pounds (call it 4) for a dinner for 5.  In the meat category, I don’t think there’s anything finer than slow-roasted slabs of ribeye, as tenderloin is flavorless in comparison and lean – and I tend to eat delicious fatty meat or none at all.  This “happy cow” from Madison Avenue’s best butcher shop was a prize to behold (cuttable with a spoon) in all categories of goodness. 

  1. To roast a whole ribeye, get ya a nice slab and coat it with a thick layer of black pepper and obscene amounts of salt – enough to form a flavor-nuke of a crust on the outside.  Because you cannot season the inside of the meat, it’s hard to overdo the pepper or the salt.  Load it up, especially with the pepper.  Give that thing a black pepper stubbly beard.   
  2. In some hot fat, preferably a stable fat like beef tallow or unflavored coconut oil, sear the meat on all sides until a nice, brown crust forms.  The heat will have to be high and oil at the smoking point before you add the meat to ensure good browning. 
  3. Once everything is well-seared on all sides, throw it in the oven at low temperature, ideally about 250-275 degrees F, covered tightly.  As seen in the picture, I threw the meat in on a bed of shallots that had already started cooking down in butter (see “Melted Shallots” recipe in the 180 Kitchen eBook) and chucked some fresh sprigs of thyme straight out of Roy’s garden in there with it.  Optional, but something to think about.   
  4. Roast until it just starts to firm up, but is still kinda squishy (rare or slightly more – should take at least 45-60 minutes but it all depends on the size of the meat, the elevation you are at, how hot you seared the meat, and other factors that make it up to your discretion to figure out)
  5. Remember, it’s better to undercook it and have to cook it a little longer than cooking it beyond the point of no return (I actually overcooked this one just ever so slightly, but it was still good) 
  6. Rest, out of the oven, for 20-30 minutes (covered)
  7. Blast in the oven at high heat for 10 minutes to reheat the meat.
  8. Slice and serve hot with say, the horseradish sauce found in 180 Kitchen: 180 Tips, Recipes, and More    

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm  Comments (37)  
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Roasting a Whole Chicken

Okay, it’s almost flippin’ December.  Way too late to be camping in most places and nobody really wants to eat a whole bird after Thanksgiving.  As usual, my timing is fantastically terrible, as this post is about cooking a whole chicken on a campfire. 

But you campers gotta see this.  Of all the things I made in this fun campfire cooking series, none tops the whole chicken.  It came out so perfect.  Brown skin, juicy on the inside, and an aroma that had me watching my back for bears. 

Coat it with oil, season it with plenty of salt and hopefully some cayenne to give it a spice (or pound it with the infamous MONEY SPICE).  Wrap up really well in aluminum foil, start that thing over some really hot flames to brown it and get the cooking process started, and then finish it slowly on some hot coals until you feel that thing is done – should take at least an hour.  The slower the better. 

Anyway, here’s the video.  Hope at least some of you enjoyed this series and put it to good use when the timing is right. 

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 9:06 am  Comments (8)  
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Potatoes and Shallots

Taters and shallots are like Starsky and Hutch or peanut butter and jelly.  They go together really well.  Inseparable.  Anyway, this has long been a favorite campfire meal side dish that I began doing ritualistically almost 10 years ago.  Campfire or not, throw some potatoes and shallots together with a little fat and it will come out great. 

Cut the shallots into big chunks after peeling them as shown in the photo.  Cut potatoes into large chunks as well.  Toss with a little salt and spice and a squirt of olive oil to get them all lightly coated and you’re ready to seal them up into an aluminum foil pouch.  Holy Schnikies!   

Hambone Soup

We interrupt the continuation of the campfire cooking series for this little tidbit of love.  While visiting my mother recently I was greeted with a fresh country ham.  Woo-wee.  It’s one of my favorite ways to get my nitrates in.  And while the ham was great and still keeps on giving (down to the last couple pounds of it as of this post), the inedible parts are what yielded perhaps the tastiest eats. 

Since many of you will by slaying hams for Thanksgiving, and many will have  a large hambone that you won’t have any idea what to do with, I had to notify you of this before it was too late.

I don’t have a video for you regrettably, but this is how I made this truly outstanding and incredibly flavorful soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 hambone, preferably with at least a little meat left on it
  • 4 cans of white Northern beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 4 cups mirepoix – that’s carrots, celery, and onions
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and Tabasco to season (unless using country ham, in which case it will already be as salty as seawater)
  • Bundle of thyme sprigs tied together with a little kitchen twine
  • Lots of water

Directions:

  1. In a pot big enough to handle your hambone (ideally you would hack it into reasonable-sized pieces with a cleaver, but not every0ne has such a complete kitchen arsenal) sweat the mirepoix for a half hour in the butter until nice and soft and maybe a little brown color on it.
  2. Add hambone and thyme sprigs
  3. Cover with water until everything is totally submerged
  4. Add white beans
  5. Bring to a boil, skim some of the scum and fat off of the surface, and simmer for at least 2 hours uncovered
  6. Season if necessary with salt and Tabasco sauce
  7. A little splash of vinegar at the end may be needed to brighten up the flavors a bit, particularly if you are using very salty country ham

*This soup would also take kindly to some fresh, chopped, bitter greens being added a half hour before the soup is done – like turnip greens, kale, or collards. 

All things considered though, not much can compare to the rich, flavorful, gelatinous goodness of hambone soup.  Yee-haw!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Campfire cooking continues.  This was a fun one.  While the filling inside the pepper would have been a little better with the full bread crumb and egg treatment like that used for meatballs or meatloaf to create a more tender and fluffy texture, it was still yummy.  Definitely hit the spot on a sub-freezing Colorado morning. 

To prepare a stuffed pepper, which is something that you can easily do in your home oven instead of a campfire, make a nice blend of ground meat and seasonings (in this case it was thyme, shallots, and money spice – but you could use any variety you like, such as eggs, bread crumbs, jalapenos, cumin seeds, and salt and pepper for example), and then jam it into a bell pepper as shown in the video. 

Once you got that all figured out, you spread a little oil across the outside of the pepper, wrap that badboy up in foil or place in a covered dish of some kind if making several, and bake on high heat until cooked on the inside.  Anyway, here’s the video.  Yum…

Campfire Cooking – Grilled Cheese in Hobo Pie Maker

Hey, no magic here, but we gotta start this campfire cooking segment off slowly, building up to a whole chicken crescendo.  Actually, those little “pie irons” or “hobo pie makers” are pretty awesome.  Don’t mean to slight ‘em.  Wish I had the ol’ double trouble as shown left. 

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm  Comments (10)  
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Campfire Cooking

Today starts a good, lengthy series on cooking in a campfire.  Although this is something not everyone will have a chance to do, it is pretty cool, and a campfire has certain culinary advantages that other forms of cooking do not.  Most notably, campfire cooking is done primarily in aluminum foil, which forms a tight pouch for foods to slowly steam and retain their juices once the initial cooking process begins. 

But we’ll get into all that as we go.  First, we start our fire.  Pyromania!  Enjoy this series.  I promise we will go way beyond the s’more – going all the way to roasting a whole chicken over the open fire.   

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 11:14 am  Comments (2)  
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Butter-Poached Carrots

Holy frickin’ carrots here people.  I know I know.  Carrots?  How can those be extraordinary? 

Well, they can be and are when cooked with this slow, butter-based method that yields the sweetest little carrots your mind could imagine.  Fully caramelize these things (and don’t salt them) and they could actually make an excellent dessert component.  Actually, when you really nail these to the fullest, and caramelize them all the way (not shown in video), they taste like butterscotch.  Pretty wicked. 

Turn the boring carrot into a true 3-ingredient delicacy (butter, salt, carrots) with the amazing alchemic power of outstanding cooking technique – the backbone of my culinary sermons…

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm  Comments (11)  
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