Blackened Filet Mignon

The Mignon Man March is going strong.  Here’s the next installment – quick and easy (and smoky) blackened beef tenderloin.  This one combines several prior episodes of 180 Kitchen, as I dust the tenderloin with the seasoning blend from the last post, and serve it with parmesan polenta (a former post) and wilted spinach (the first 180 Kitchen post). 

Directions:

1) Coat top and bottom of the tenderloin with blackening spice.

2) Sear on high heat until a nice crust forms on both the top and the bottom.

3) Lightly sear the remaining sides.

4) Place in oven at 350 degrees F until cooked to your liking. If rare, you can skip the oven step.

5) Slice in the middle and serve with some yummy starch and a side of vegetables for a perfect meal.

Next in the Mignon line up is tartare!  Stay tuned!

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Mignon Man March

It’s March, a month I’ve decided to dedicate to one thing and one thing only on the 180 Kitchen blog…

Filet Mignon.

Most assume that beef tenderloin, or filet mignon is just not an everyday food.  It’s for a special occasion.  Too damn expensive.

Well, I’ve cut the costs of filet mignon to just $4 per portion, and have been enjoying it several times per week for nearly a month.  Beef tartare, bacon-wrapped tournedos, beef wellington, blackened tenderloin… I’ve been having good food and good fun and don’t plan on quitting my mignon habit any time soon.

Anyway, look for some tasty posts over the next 30 days.  The first step is butchering a whole tenderloin in your home kitchen – the key that makes this doable for the advertised price, and that allows you to do a wide variety of things with tenderloin – from roasts to stews to rendering beef fat into tallow for frying. It’s not as hard as it looks, so don’t be a wuss and try it!!! 

White Truffle Fries

Wow you guys.  I’ve been putting down pound after pound of truffled fries cooked in expeller-pressed “refined” coconut oil.  They are simply incredible when you get them right.  Just make sure if you are dropping ’em in the oven like I do in this video, that the heat is cranked up pretty high.  425 degrees F is a minimum if you want them crispy and downright amazing.  This is seriously one of the best things I’ve made and eaten in my home kitchen in the last year.   Make this for yourself, your significant other, or for a small group of friends and they will have a whole new level of respect for your culinary studliness.  Note: the truffle oil, although amazing, is totally not necessary.  Even without it, a perfectly-cooked homemade Yukon Gold french fry that is properly seasoned is a force to be reckoned with.  Enjoy!

Ninja Kitchen Knife Skills

At 180degreehealth, the general sentiment is that the primary determinant of health is the quality of the diet. The two biggest concerns in the standard modern diet above all else are vegetable oil and refined sweeteners. Well guess what? Refined sweeteners and vegetable oil are the two primary sources of calories in the modern diet. Why? They are the cheapest to produce. It is all produced from massive corn monocrops in the American midwest.

This means that restaurant food, even at great restaurants, is often highly compromised with the addition of these two substances. Even in savory dishes, it’s hard to escape the use of refined sweeteners. The use of cheap cooking oils is pervasive in the restaurant industry – foods that have been sauteed, marinated, or deep fried are always chock full of cheap vegetable oil. Salads are almost as bad as the fries due to the vegetable oil base of the dressing.

The solution of course, is to cook your own food predominantly – and keeping vegetable oils and refined sugars out of your kitchen. But this seems inaccesible to most people. The greatest hindrances are know-how and time. That’s what the following video is all about.

To make your quest to become a home chef a reality, one of the most important things to master is the art of cutting. Most people are using techniques that are not only slow, but dangerous, and knives that fit that description as well.

There is only 1 proper way to cut, and this is it. If at first it takes you longer, be resilient. Learning new skills is hard and challenging. It is also rewarding for those with the perseverance to get past mistakes, nicked fingers, and drudgery.

My instructions are simple. To make home cooking a tangible reality, you must learn how to use a knife properly. When you have, you will be empowered and enjoy cooking more than ever before – while spending less of your precious time doing it. Buy a large, and good-quality wooden cutting board, 1 quality knife and steel, such as the 7″ Hollow-ground Wusthof Santoku knife featured in the video (Click here to view it for purchase), and practice these basic techniques until you have mastered them. You won’t regret it!

Baby Back Ribs

There is little in life that I enjoy more than ribs. Yes, I admit, much has to do with the sweetness of the sauce – which takes an otherwise good chunk of tasty, fatty meat and makes it like sheer crack cocaine.  But I have some good remedies for that: make your own sauce and make it REALLY spicy.

Here is a short video on how I prepare the ribs. Note: in the video I do make an error – the time and temperature required for making perfect ribs. In the video I mention that the ribs will be done in a few hours at 275F. Even at sea level, it would probably still take 4 hours at 275F. To make sure your ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, in hindsight I would have recommended to cook them for at least 4 hours at 300 degrees F.

Anyway, really, really tasty stuff – especially during American Football playoff season. I will shred at least a half dozen slabs of ribs, this batch included, by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. Give these a try someday when you need to heat your house and you’re in need of an air-freshener that makes you salivate. Share them with friends, or people that you would like to be your friends. Works every time. It’s like giving bacon to a dog, or chocolate to your grandkids.

Homemade barbecue sauce recipe follows:

Chipotle barbecue sauce (monster batch)

Ingredients:

1 can chipotle peppers en adobo sauce

2 regular-sized cans of tomato paste

½ cup honey

½ cup molasses

½ yellow onion, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 chunks

6T mild chili powder and/or Hungarian paprika

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

6 Bay leaves (optional)

¼ cup apple cider, balsamic, or rice wine vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together well and simmer on low heat for at least an hour – preferably longer. Add water if consistency if too thick. Remove lid to allow excess water vapor to escape if too soupy.

When it’s finished I don’t even bother straining it or attempting to fish out bay leaves before pureeing it, but you can if you want to. I just scoop around the whole chunks of onion, garlic, and chipotles.

Note that these amounts are not set in stone, they are just ballpark estimates. Tweak the flavors to your liking. A good barbecue sauce is smoky, spicy, and has a sweet n’ sour tang to it – a synergy of tomato, vinegar, and the added sweeteners.

This is sauce is very high in sugar, so don’t abuse it. It’s damn good though and beats sauces with too many chemical flavor enhancers and enough HFCS to ruin your day.

Thai Massaman Curry

Well folks, the time has come to post my most favorite-est thing to eat in the whole world except for, you know, foie gras, lobster, pecan-crusted sweetbreads, creamed corn, and a few other treats. And that chunk of tongue heaven is Massaman curry.

It is a Muslim-influenced curry with extra spices such as cardamom and cloves and less zesty lime juice and Kaffir lime typical of other Thai curries. In Thailand I ate it almost every day for an entire month. This is a great dish to make as a staple in your household, with an incredible and never-gets-old flavor and a fantastic ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat – a hallmark of 180-style dining.

Please don’t be deterred by the apparent complexity. Once you’ve made your curry paste you can make a small batch of Massaman curry from scratch in 20 minutes and pour it over a bowl of cold, day-old rice for an amazing meal. Eating healthy certainly can be less complicated than this, but for any food nerd, this is no sweat. Enjoy!

Massaman Curry Paste (big batch – keeps for 3-4 weeks refrigerated)

Ingredients

-2T each: cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper (pre-ground or ground fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle as shown in video) 

– Small pinch of whole cloves or ground cloves

– 1 pack of mild red chili pepper from the Mexican food section at the store (add warm water until a paste forms)

– 2 4-inch strips of lemongrass

– Thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled)

– 3 whole shallots or ½ yellow onion – 2 garlic cloves

– Root end of 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1T cayenne pepper

– Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1) If using whole spices, toast in a frying pan on high heat until smoke starts to roll off of them, then grind into a powder.

2) Chop cilantro, ginger, onion/shallot, and garlic into small pieces. Really cut the lemongrass well, as large pieces often remain fibrous in the curry later on.

3) Blend all ingredients in a food processor for at least 20 seconds. Scrape sides and blend again – the more it’s blended the better. Blend for up to 5 minutes.

4) Stir in a little olive oil at the end to moisten and preserve the curry paste.

 Making Massaman Curry (for 4):

1) Just like making Tom Kha Gai, begin by sautéing on medium heat (sweating) some sliced onion and sliced red bell pepper in ½ stick of butter.

2) When vegetables begin to get soft, but are not yet brown, add several tablespoons of curry paste and toast it on the bottom of the pan, stirring every few seconds. The more you add, the spicier and more powerful the finished product will be.

3) When the curry paste has cooked for a few minutes, add two cups or so of water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Heat on high!

4) Add ¼ cup of unflavored peanuts.

5) Next add 2-3 cans of good quality coconut milk depending on how much curry paste you added and how many people you are feeding (Chaokoh, without any emulsifiers like carageenan or guar gum is preferable). You may also add a splash of whipping cream, but that is optional.

6) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add chopped raw chicken, whole shrimp, sliced beef, or diced fish. Bring to a boil once more.

7) Season heavily with salt and/or fish sauce and additional cayenne pepper if needed until the flavors come up. Do not use cilantro or a lot of lime at the end like you do with other curries! Massaman should be sweeter and less sour than both Thai soup and other curries, so go easy on the sour flavors such as vinegar and lime juice. Use, at most, the juice of ½ lime at the end.

And here are the Massaman tutorial videos:

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai (or Tom Ka Gai as I’ve seen it spelled) is a Thai coconut soup.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s fresh.  It’s simple.  It’s awesome.  Plus, the pot I made in this video, with over 1/2 stick of butter, 4-5T of heavy whipping cream, and 3 cans of coconut milk contains about 4,000 calories and a nearly unbeatable ratio of saturated fat to polyunsaturated fat.  Mainstream health might gasp at this, but they need to take a visit to Thailand to see the kind of obesity this soup and other rich curries is causing over there… um, none.   

Nutrition aside, this soup is literally the best soup I’ve ever made and had.  The theme of Thai cooking is to keep the flavors as bright as possible.  Cooking time is meant to be as minimal as possible to preserve the brightness – almost the opposite theme of other ethnic cuisines which rely on long stewing to create deep and subdued flavors. 

Anyway, you can find out more about this soup in 180 Kitchen or in the back issues of the 180 eZine, 180DegreeHealth Report.  It is  a must-make soup.  There’s a reason why a sick woman requested that I make it for her yesterday.  It’s the best thing ever. 

(Note:  At the end of the video I make mention of “my future mother-in-law.”  Don’t worry, I’m not engaged or anything.  Just making a joke… ladies).

Important Note:  Do not eat the lemongrass and ginger chunks.  They are just for flavoring.  It’s kind of annoying to have to pick them out as you eat, but that’s how Thai people do it so get used to it!