Real Potato Salad

No personal vendettas against potato salad, but the stuff, all things considered, is pasty goo that I have never been fond of. 

What I am fond of, are very hearty salads with hot and delicious stuff added to them.  Some of the best salads I’ve ever made or have been served contained hot ingredients – from spinach salads with hot currants, duck confit, and andouille sausage to salads filled with fried gnocchi and mushrooms.  The hot-cold combination is amazing, and for some reason, as spring is springing, Aurora and I have been eating this salad like it’s going out of style. 

In a sense, it is going out of style.  Aurora’s jaw surgery is less than 2 weeks away – wired shut for 12 weeks.  I’ll be joining her by doing an old-school “milk diet” for the first month or so.  No salads for us.   

Anyway, we’ve made this salad a half dozen ways over the past month.  In the video, I keep saying that hard-boiled eggs will be added, but in the end Aurora got the eggs and I opted to have my salad without them.  They are part of the “official” salad.  We’ve also made the salad with grilled beef (amazing), beef carpaccio (excellent), and so on.  But no matter how you choose to get down with this full-throttle “dinner salad,” the fried potatoes are a must. 

When done correctly, there is no better salad on earth, or in the words of Mr. Miyagi:

“When do right, no can defense.” 

Here is the REAL potato salad…

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried in coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, or a combination
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, still warm
  • 3 ounces of your favorite cheese grated or crumbled
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • 2 chopped Romaine “hearts” 
  • A little arugula or field greens
  • Fresh-picked herbs (optional) 

Prepare as shown in the video, adding your hot ingredients at the very end so the lettuce stays fairly crisp. 

Simplify by making it with just potatoes and cheese and/or a little shopped salami.  Olives would make a nice addition I would imagine.  I also think it’s easier to bake the bacon in the oven on a large sheet pan (with sides), 1-2 packs at a time so you can make this salad several times but only cook the bacon once. 

Potachos

In March I went super gourmet on ya.  This month, and probably for several months, it’s time to simplify.  Many want to know how to make healthy eating practical – and while I maintain my belief that your homemade food must be really good and satisfying to keep you eating clean homemade meals, it need NOT be difficult or complicated.

Enter “potachos,” my super ghetto potato with a nacho theme – one of my favorite quick lunches over the last month as I busily slaved over the new version of 180 Degree Metabolism

Ingredients:

  • 1 Yukon gold potato, boiled and lightly-mashed
  • Salsa
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour cream

Directions:

  • Mash the potato (make sure it is warm to begin with)
  • Season with salt or a seasoning blend
  • Cover with salsa and shredded cheese
  • Broil in the oven until cheese is melted
  • Top with sour cream
  • Add additional condiments, such as fresh cilantro, black olives, or whatever ya like
Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 9:19 am  Comments (12)  
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Beef Wellington

This concludes our month of mega-gourmet filet action.  It’s about time.  Next month I’m going to try to go to the opposite side of the fence with the easiest, quickest, most ghetto food that I make for myself. 

This is definitely the most fancy pants of ’em all.  Beef Wellington is an old-school French preparation made by stuffing beef tenderloin (ideally with foie gras, but we’re not all jillionaires), wrapping it in Puff pastry, and baking it to perfection. It’s not as difficult to make as it seems at first, and can be greatly simplified as well by stuffing it with something simpler.

In the video I decide to stuff the Wellington with grilled asparagus and cream cheese.  I made it again two weeks later with wilted spinach, Cambozola, and cream cheese and it was even better.  If you want something really easy, a little creamy cheese is probably all you need – like Brie or Camembert.   I leave that call up to you. 

To make Wellington you will need:

1) A big hunk of beef tenderloin

2)Something to stuff it with

3) 1 Puff pastry sheet, rolled out pretty thin

4) 1 egg yolk and a splash of water (egg wash)

Then you:

1) Cut it open

2) Stuff it

3) Sear it in hot coconut oil, ghee, or beef tallow

4) Wrap it and egg wash it

5) Bake it.  In this case 425 degrees F made it slightly overdone before the pastry got fully browned. 450 is probably a better temp. – granted, I’m cooking at 6,200′ in elevation which makes a difference. 

If you dare to make this you won’t regret it!  What a treat for a small gathering of 4-6 people! 

Rendering Beef Fat for Tallow

Making beef tallow isn’t exactly a difficult or skillful process.  You are basically exposing solid fat to high temperatures to extract all of the fat in liquid form from the rest of the meat and muscle fibers.  Then you pour off the liquid fat and save it for cooking.  Beef tallow is an excellent fat, and has pearly, ivory-like texture at cold temperatures.  Good for cooking vegetables and searing meats in which you want to impart the rich flavor of beef into the food.  Mmm, mmm good.

In the following video, I do not cut the beef into smaller pieces, which would’ve cut down the cooking time and yielded a larger amount of fat.  Probably a bad habit.  But I got 2 cups of good-quality beef tallow nonetheless. 

As an interesting factoid – beef tallow was the most frequently-used household fat in the early 20th century prior to the earliest documented cases of heart disease.  So much for saturated fat clogging your arteries…

As the causation of heart disease science has evolved over the past couple decades, we now know that heart disease is a disease of inflammation, oxidative damage from free radicals, and certainly not a matter of having something we eat jump into our arteries for lack of a better place to go.  What increases oxidative damage and inflammation?  Lots of things, but mostly polyunsaturated fat – omega 6 in particular, the type of fat we embraced while shunning the beef tallow and butter that never did us any harm.  Make friends with tallow.  Its incredibly low concentration of omega 6 makes it a perfect household fat along with coconut oil and dairy products.

Best temperature is probably slightly lower than the temp. I began with.  350 degrees F is probably better.   

Beef Tartare

This post is more of a display than anything, as few of you own an essential piece of kitchen equipment needed to make this dish – a meat grinder.  But tartare is something that is divine beyond words, and if you’ve never had it, maybe you’ll jump off the raw meat cliff the next time you see it on a menu.  Making it couldn’t be simpler.  Simply grind 4-6 ounces of raw beef tenderloin per person in a meat grinder, and mix it with tartare flavoring base, which is comprised of roughly:

1) 2 parts tomato paste

2) 1 part dijon mustard

3) 1 part ground horseradish

4) Plenty of salt and cayenne pepper/black pepper

5) A dash of Worcesterhire sauce

Blend these ingredients together into a paste and mix in 1 heaping spoonful with each 4-6 ounce portion that you grind.  You’ll know when you get the taste just right.  It’s amazing, and the meat is buttery smooth.  Best served with toasted bread, crispy french fries, or something else with some good complementary starch and crunchy texture. 

Money Spice

I hated to keep glossing over this easy seasoning mix, because it is amazing and I abuse it – including in an upcoming video/post for blackened filet later this month. 

I did a quick version of it in my ribs video a while back, but here is a quick post dedicated exclusively to this magical blend.

Ingredients:

1) Sea salt (roughly 40%)

2) Paprika (roughly 30%)

3) Cayenne pepper (roughly 15%)

4) Garlic powder (roughly10%)

5) Dried oregano leaf (roughly 5%) 

Mix ’em all together and use on:

Homemade french fries, air-popped popcorn, seafood, steamed and sauteed vegetables, meats – for both seasoning and blackening and as a dry rub for broiled meats like ribs. 

Using it as a blackening spice for blackened filet mignon is coming up next!

Parmigiano Polenta 101

This is an old peasant favorite.  Cooking doesn’t get more simple and easy than this. 

First off, this is the first of several announcements that there will be a big kickoff to the 180 Kitchen blog in March – a month with several posts and videos dedicated to one beautiful topic – Filet Mignon.  It will be dubbed, “Mignon March.” 

The videos are currently being recorded, and one such dish with Filet Mignon that I whipped up last night was served over the ever-versatile, satisfying, and simple quick polenta with white cornmeal.  I’ve made this so many times in my life that I wouldn’t even dream of taking the time to measure anything.  I understand many people get frustrated with my lack of reliable measurements, but I continue to uphold my belief that technique, intuition, flexibility, and focus on the food is the primary means of becoming a great chef – not stubborn adherence to stiff measurements.  And this site and my cooking eBook is not dedicated to your success with dinner tonight, but in your success in developing the skills and tools needed to make EVERY dinner (and lunch and breakfast) a great success. 

General directions are:

1) Bring a half-water to half-cream pot of water to boil (whole milk or half n’ half can be used with no additional water as well if you prefer, and make a sweeter finished product).

2) Whisk in white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, or grits until you feel a slight thickness developing.

3) Reduce heat and cook covered for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times – the coarser the cornmeal or grits the more liquid it will need and the longer you will need to cook it to keep it from being “grainy” and “gritty.”

4) Finish with a hearty chunk of butter (whisked in immediately to avoid separation) and plenty of real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The finished product should be almost as smooth as mashed potatoes with a similar consistency.  It should not be stiff nor should it be so runny that it oozes across the plate.  The biggest mistake made with polenta is adding too much cornmeal.  When the ratio of cornmeal to liquid is too small, it won’t get soft and creamy no matter how long you cook it. 

You can also spread the polenta out on a sheet tray, let it cool in the refrigerator, and then cut it into slices for frying or grilling on a barbecue grill as well.

At the end of the video you will see I included a brief clip from one of my Filet Mignon videos to show you the consistency and look of the finished product once it has cooked for several minutes and received a 180 shot of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 11:17 am  Comments (18)  
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Friday Night Menu

This past Friday I cooked for a party of 20 – it was a paid, pro gig for a family friend’s birthday party.  Things went really well, although being on my feet for 12 hours in a day isn’t something I’m no longer immune to.  I was feeling it by the end of the day for sure.  Sorry no pics, but my next post will be on making really good homemade truffle fries similar to the potatoes used in the main course.  My totally experimental “jalapeno-saffron nage” is probably worth a post too. 

But here is the menu for you to fantasize about.  Note, nothing I made was really all that special or superhuman.  Anybody can cook really well when using fat!  The secret of the pros! 

Hors d’oeuvres

Panko-Fried “Dynamite” Shrimp ~ Black Sesame

1st

Pan-Seared Alaskan Halibut ~ Parmigiano Grits ~ Jalapeno-Saffron Nage

Main

Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin ~ Twice-fried Tarragon and Truffle Potatoes ~ “Melted” Shallot Bordelaise 

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.