Archive for February, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011 @ 05:02 PM

Spring is starting be make itself known where I live. The spring equinox does not actually arrive for about 3 more weeks, but I have started seeing my bulbs popping up around the yard. No flowers yet, but I can see some foliage popping. We have had a winter here, to rival those of days gone by. I, all of my 44 years upon this earth, here on Long Island, have never seen this much snow. I remember having a good blast every February and it was usually cold enough to last for about 2 weeks. But, anyhow, it has been a long winter, which is kind of unusual for these parts. We are usually directly affected by the Gulf Stream. The snowy weather is not usually part of our region. Colder temps. but usually quite mild.

I am usually an all winter griller. My grill and outdoor propane deep fryer were under so much snow this year that it was too big of a deal to dig a path to the grill. We were shoveling out the driveway and the sidewalks like every other day. I didn’t have the gumption to did a path anywhere else. So I settled for all indoor cooking this winter. Slow cooker, cast iron Dutch oven, my Crock Pot BBQ Pit, my counter top deep fryer, and I used the broiler a few times. This really has to be the first winter that I did not grill outdoors at all.

Well, spring has finally sprung as far as I am concerned. All the snow has finally melted in my yard. I can get to my grill & my Cajun Fryer. I think that it is time for a good old fashioned barbecue and fish fry. Seeing that Fat Tuesday is upon us, I may just have to make this happen. I need to get a big old pot of jambalaya going, deep fry some fresh fish and grill up some brisket and ribs.

Of course, my outdoor cooking equipment has been outside, under wraps, but outside. It never gets put away because normally I could be seen in the middle of January grilling steak or doing Beer Can chicken. So seeing as my cooking gear has spent the winter under a pile of snow, I guess I will have to give it all a thorough once over. Check my hoses and regulators and my propane tanks. (Yes, I said tanks. I keep 3 at all times. One for my grill, one for my deep fryer, and one spare.)  This should be done normally anyway, but as I said, this past winter has been an anomaly. My grill has never gone this long without food on it. I cooked a prime rib in my grill for Christmas dinner, and it hasn’t gotten any love since. My Cajun Fryer hasn’t been used since Thanksgiving. I had planned to deep fry half of my freezer stores on Superbowl Sunday and for The Daytona 500, but there has just been too much snow.

This week is the week I intend to give my cooking equipment a whole lotta love. I am going to deep fry a turkey breast, and some fish. I am going to fire up my grill. The gloves are off, or I guess I should be putting them on. It’s time to get back outside and start cooking again!

Did you like this? Share it:
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 @ 05:02 PM

Lent season is upon us. A great time to visit or have a Friday Night Fish Fry.

It does not have to be Lent to have a fish fry. But many Roman Catholics (and a few other Christian factions) strive toward the regulation of the no meat policy on Fridays during the Lent season. Let’s face it, you can only eat so much pizza. Many places have them year round. Lots of pubs and taverns serve up a fish fry every Friday regardless of religious background. Some places offer it year round and on a daily basis.

The biggest regions that have a Friday Night Fish Fry tend to be the South Eastern United States, The Northeast and the Mid West. Wisconsin and Upstate New York are big on the Friday Night Fish Fry. Living so close to the Great Lakes has definitely influenced the menu. The Great Lakes Fish Boil is also a great social and party function in these regions. But, not every one likes the boil. Almost everyone loves deep fried food. A typical Fish Fry will come with coleslaw and french fries too.

In the South, things like hushpuppies have been added to the mix. Hushpuppies are deep fried, seasoned corn meal balls. If you’ve never had a hushpuppy, it is time to try one of these delectable ditties out. There are many versions, some actually even have corn in them.

You can have your own Friday Night Fish Fry right at home. All you need is a counter top deep fryer, or for a larger fish fry, an outdoor propane deep fryer. You can bread, corn flour, or beer batter the fish before you deep fry it and then deep fry some french fries and hushpuppies.

The type of fish is your preference. Local fresh fish tends to be what any region uses. Lake fish in the lakes region, or catfish in the south.  Where I live, near the Atlantic Ocean, most fish used for a Friday Night Fry is flounder. Go to your local fish market and see what is fresh and available. Many places on the West Coast now, have fried fish, but they like to make tacos with them. I have not had the opportunity to sample a fish taco yet, but they seem to be spreading from the west eastward. They are becoming quite popular nationwide.

Whatever you decide to do…go out or eat in…whatever your religious upbringing…remember that fish is brain food anyway. We can all use some more smarts in the world.

Did you like this? Share it:
Monday, February 21, 2011 @ 05:02 PM

If you are new to cast iron cooking or using a Dutch oven, or even if you have been using cast iron cookware for a long time, a great place to find information about the subject is at The International Dutch Oven Society or IDOS. You do not have to become a member in order to glean some very helpful information, but more info is available to you as a member.

The site offers recipes, information on the care of cast iron cookware, there is a forum page, and a list of upcoming events. The site also contains a list of chapters that may be in your area should you be interested in joining a local group. And there are chapters all over the United States. There are classes on the art of outdoor cast iron cooking that can be joined. They supply a link page for different companies that carry all different kinds of cast iron from skillets to Dutch ovens and many different kinds of cookware in between. There is also an events page that you may find upcoming cook offs and competitions.

I found the site to be very helpful. It is nice to have a place to chat with folks that have this similar interest in common. I have had many questions answered by other members quickly and the information is usually helpful and to the point.

Again if you are new to the wonderful world of cast iron cooking this is a great place to dive right in. If you are an accomplished Dutch oven cooker, maybe you can add some information that may help someone else out in the future. You can find the International Dutch Oven Society at www.idos.com.

The versatility of cast iron cookware is nothing to shake a stick at. It is durable and can last for generations when properly cared for. You can use them indoors, for baking in the oven or for deep frying on your stove top. You can use them outdoors on the grill or they can be used over an open fire and right in the coals. Get into the art of cast iron cooking. People have been cooking in cast iron for centuries. If you have not had the opportunity, get out there and give it a whirl. And if you need advice, check out IDOS. They can help point you in the right direction.

Did you like this? Share it:
Sunday, February 20, 2011 @ 12:02 PM

Welcome to the Daytona 500. The beginning of racing season. There is a short lull through winter but we come out on the other side with the beginning of stock car and drag racing season. Well, racing never truly stops everywhere, but as far as nationally televised races, for those of us still under a blanket of white, this means that spring is almost here. While football tailgaters are packing their gear away til the fall, race fans are just starting to get their gear out. Unless of course you do both and your gear is in constant use year round.

February is a busy month in the world of motor sports. People begin testing new set ups and configurations, possibly even new teams. The term Speed Week in the stock car racing world…is really and truly not a week at all. It is more like a month. Some people do just do the week, and some just for the 500. There are fans that do actually go all out and tailgate through the whole month in Daytona, Florida. That is quite an achievement. A month long tailgate. Can you imagine? You would definitely have to have tailgated a few times, before taking on a month long tailgate. I’m sure that for this scenario, an RV is a must! Having a propane source would be a must as well. Not having ever been at the venue, I am sure that it was properly thought out with fans in mind as well as teams and drivers. Dump stations and places to get ice and propane are probably there all the time.

Racing tailgating is just as hardcore as football tailgating, except that is usually encompasses 2-5 days worth of tailgating. People are not just going to local venues. Some people come from very far away, driving, even flying in. Renting motor homes or driving their own. That is 2-5 days of grilling, smoking, deep frying, cooking, eating and partying. Having enough propane to cook on your grill or using your outdoor propane deep fryer for 2-5 days would be nothing short of a miracle with only one tank. If you have never been to a race, try one out sometime. It doesn’t have to be a nationally televised event either. Go to a local track and see some of your local drivers. Men and women that might someday be racing at those big national events. You can tailgate at the smaller events as well. I’ve seen many a charcoal grill and hibachi at the smaller venues.

Have fun watching The Great American Race today. For those of us that can’t be at the race in person, we can enjoy the race on regular television. We don’t have to have a special digital or satellite package. We can have parties to rival any Superbowl party with commercials that can only rival those of Superbowl Sunday. Gentlemen…Start your engines!!!

Did you like this? Share it:
Friday, February 18, 2011 @ 04:02 PM

An important thing to remember when tailgating is food safety.

Keeping your foods properly chilled, refrigerated or frozen will help immensely. Having a fully stocked cooler will maintain its low temperature longer than one only partially full.
Pack any remaining space in the cooler with nonperishable foods.

Make sure you have a separate cooler for beverages. Constantly opening and closing a cooler with food in it can be disastrous.

Thaw out raw meats in the refrigerator or a chilled cooler whenever possible. Make sure that all meats are also completely thawed before cooking.

Food that has been sitting on a table outside for an hour or more, should be thrown out. Cook what you think will be eaten in that hour period of time. This is just guess work for the most part, but it is better than having to throw food away that may be used for another meal. Proper planning is key here, but you never know when someone might be a no show, or the other extreme of bringing extra friends that you did not know were coming.

Properly cleaning surfaces that have contacted food, such as raw meats, are VERY Important! If you will be without a water source, make sure you have the equipment for proper wipe downs. A canister of bleach wipes or cleaning spray that is appropriate for food surfaces and paper towels.

Having a working meat thermometer is a must! Especially when cooking outdoors without all the conveniences of home. Whether grilling, using a BBQ smoker or outdoor propane deep fryer. Just because you are deep frying a turkey in a turkey fryer full of hot oil, for an allotted period of time, does not mean that the proper temperature to kill bacteria has been reached. I deep fried a boneless turkey breast once. It did not fry properly because it was tied. A whole turkey would have fried better due to surface area exposure.

Use this guide for the ideal cooked temps of meat and poultry.

145°F

Beef, lamb, veal steaks and roasts, medium rare (medium meats should have temp of 160°F)

160°F

Ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb; pork chops, ribs, and roasts; egg dishes

165°F

Ground turkey and chicken; stuffing and casseroles; leftovers

170°F

Chicken and turkey breasts

180°F

Chicken and turkey, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings.

It doesn’t hurt to be a little paranoid when preparing food for the masses. You want them to go home fed and happy, not with a belly full of bacteria.

Have fun. Have a great tailgating season!

Did you like this? Share it:
Thursday, February 17, 2011 @ 05:02 PM

Planning ahead is the secret ingredient to any successful tailgate party. Racing tailgate parties are not just a day like most football tailgates. Typically a race tailgate will last for a whole weekend, anywhere from 2 to 5 days. Doing as much food prepping as you can before you hit the track is a major factor. Knowing how many people you will be feeding and planning a menu are key! Simple yet doable recipes are key too, especially if just working with coolers.

Freeze or Cool it:

Prechill or freeze food and drinks before packing them if possible. If you are going in a motor home or trailer, odds are you will have proper refrigeration, but extra coolers are always a great thing to have on hand. Especially a separate cooler just for drinks. Those tend to get opened and closed more often. You don’t want to keep food in a cooler that is continually being opened and closed. If tenting it or just taking a truck, an insulated container or cooler with some pre-frozen items will be necessity. Instead of using loose ice, consider freezing water in lightweight plastic containers or clean milk jugs; that way when they melt they won’t flood your cooler. This can add to your cool water supply, during and postrace. Better yet, use water bottles, that way  you can drink from them directly to make optimal use of cooler space.

Doubling up:

Many recipes can be doubled or tripled to feed the masses. It is still better to have too much, than too little. If you have proper ways to store leftovers, I’m sure that someone will nosh early morning or late night on those goodies. Don’t multiply certain ingredients like oil and butter that are used for sautéing. Just use enough to cover the bottom of your pan. A good tailgate bin should have a fresh container of olive oil or vegetable oil and/or possibly a can of spray oil anyway.

Marinate it:

Do all your marinating pre-race when possible. Marinate meat in a cooler or refrigerator and throw out any remaining marinade used for raw meat. This works best with beef and pork, or even turkey for deep frying.  Boneless chicken, fish and shrimp tend to marinate quicker. Quicker marinated items can be done at the track in good quality zipper bags and a cold cooler. Marinating items like this can be done quick and easy by bringing some fresh oranges or lemons and squeezing the juice right onto the meat and adding some spices from your tailgate bin. Having a bottle of your favorite Italian dressing on hand is great marinade too. Dressing doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after you open it. Refrigerate any other fresh marinade that has not been used on raw meat to flavor cooked food later on.

Other pre-race prep is pretty common sense.

Make sure your tailgate bin is properly stocked. This includes things like foil and grilling tools and a hand crank can opener. After every tailgate party you should restock immediately so that you are ready to go at a moments notice.

Have extra fuel for your grill, BBQ smoker and deep fryer. Make sure that you have extra charcoal, wood, or a full tank of propane or two. Some race venues will have a place to stock up on ice and propane, but if this is a new venue for you, or you are not sure, make sure that you are prepared. You don’t want to set up your turkey fryer on the third day of race tailgating, after a few breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and run out of LP gas half way through frying your turkey. You can always use the propane another day. Don’t plan on using your smoker every day if you are not properly stocked with wood. Make sure your hoses and regulators are in proper working order before leaving for the track too. Odds are a big box store is somewhere near by, but why chance the hassle if you don’t have to. Traffic is usually bad enough on a race weekend. Why add any aggravation to the mix if you don’t have to.

Pre-race prep is important for any tailgate. Even if you are just a participant, ask the chief cook and bottle washer what you can bring. Ask if help is needed. If you want to enjoy yourself at the race, you don’t need to just be a drinker and face stuffer. Some help may not be required but if you want to be asked back again…help out when it is needed.

Have a great racing season. Stop back by for more tips any time.

Did you like this? Share it:
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 @ 03:02 PM

It’s the time of year when many people have a store of game meat in their freezers. Sometimes it may end up being an over abundance. Finding new and interesting things to do with all your hunting stores can be a challenge. That goes the same for any type of cooking in general. Sometimes we can find ourselves in a rut, cooking the same things over and over again. I like to shake up the menu once in a while, and try new and different things, Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. Some recipes are good enough to tweak and try again.

Someone was kind enough to give me some extra of their venison. (Their freezer had more than it could handle). I had a roast, cubes, steak, and ground meat. I grilled the steak as it was. The cubes became chili. The roast became a beautiful sauerbraten. (I am now positive that venison was what sauerbraten was intentionally designed for. Not beef. It was the best sauerbraten I ever made!)

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the ground meat. I hunted around for some recipes.
Here is an interesting venison recipe that I came across in a Celtic Folklore cookbook. I have tried this recipe myself and found it quite good.

Venison Balls In Sour Cream:

2 lbs ground venison

4 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

2 medium onions, grated

1 egg beaten

seasoned bread crumbs

1\2 stick of butter

1 tbsp oil

1 3\4 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together venison, potatoes, onions, egg, enough bread crumbs to help hold everything together, salt and pepper to taste.

Shape mixture into balls.

Heat the butter and oil in a deep cast iron skillet.

Fry the meatballs. When sufficiently cooked, add 1\2 the sour cream and simmer for 20 mins. Add the rest of the sour cream, bring to a boil and serve immediately over cooked egg noodles.

Also tastes great with Heinz Savory Beef & Zesty Onion Gravy.

Did you like this? Share it:
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 @ 04:02 PM

This is the time of year that I really start cooking with my Irish heritage in mind. I tend to start getting out my Irish, Scottish, and Celtic cookbooks and start perusing looking for new and different recipes that I have not tried yet. My husband was the first in his family born in America. Both his parents were from Ireland. I myself am an American melting pot. My father’s family was from Holland, though both his parents were born here, first generation Americans. My mother’s family on the other hand, has been in the states since before they were even states. I have ancestors from my mom’s side that hail from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Holland, and I believe there was someone from Switzerland as well. So with my own ancestry involved, my kids are needless to say, very Irish. I have always felt it important to relay to my boys, where they came from. I feel that history is important. For us, cooking is also part of our history and our heritage.

I do usually go the route that many other American’s take when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. We have corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes and carrots. I make my own soda bread. Which, by the way, is excellent toasted the next day or so, and liberally spread with Kerrygold butter and preserves or lemon curd. But as I said, about a month before St. Patty’s Day, I just start cooking Irish. Shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, Porter cake, soda bread, potato leek soup, traditional Irish spiced beef to name a few.

This year, given that the Great Guinness Toast will be this weekend, Feb. 18, 2011, I decided that this was the year I was going to try my own Guinness Beef Stew. I viewed a few recipes and then made it my own. Here is what I came up with:

Guinness Beef Stew:

‎2 lbs. beef stew meat
2 cups Guinness
1 garlic clove smashed
2 bay leaves

24 hours before starting the stew, marinate the beef cubes in the refrigerator with the above ingredients in a bag or non-reactive container. (For those that are shy, don’t marinate the meat, and just proceed with the rest of the recipe.)

When you are ready to begin, drain off the marinade and discard the garlic and bay leaves.

1 onion chopped
2 celery ribs chopped
1 large leek, white part only, chopped or sliced
Butter

Sweat the vegetables in a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven for about 5-7 mins.
Remove and set aside.

Coat the beef cubes in 1\2 cup flour and 2 tsp. black pepper. Add some more butter to the pan and brown the meat. Remove meat.

Deglaze the pan with 2 cups of fresh Guinness.

Now either put the all above ingredients into a crock pot or continue on your stove top in your cast iron Dutch oven.

Add 2-3 cups homemade beef stock, 2 cans of beef broth, OR 2 cups boiling water with 2 beef bullion cubes. (I prefer homemade stock)

Add:
A handful or more baby carrots
2 parsnips, peeled and cut up
1 medium turnip, peeled and cubed
A Bouquet garni (tied cheese cloth ball) of 3 sprigs fresh parsley, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 8-10 black pepper corns)
Mushrooms(optional)

Bring to a boil on the stove top, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1\2 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.
(If using a Crock Pot, about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.)

Before serving add a Tbsp. of corn starch mixed with some cold water…to thicken.

Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and fresh Irish soda bread. Regular butter is great but Kerrygold is even better!

Classic Irish Soda Bread:

4 cups flour

1 1\2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking SODA

2 cups buttermilk (milk with tablespoon or 2 lemon juice…let it sit & curdle a minute before you add it to flour mixture)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease an 8″ cast iron skillet. In large bowl toss together dry ingredients. Add buttermilk…stir briskly with fork til dough forms together in a rough mass. Knead on a liberally floured surface for about 30 secs. Pat into a 8″ round about 1 1\2 thick (mine is always thicker than that) Slash a large 1\4″ deep cross across the top. Place in cast iron skillet & bake 45-50 mins.until nicely browned and the cross has spread open. Transfer to a rack to cool, then wrap in a slightly damp tea towel and let it rest for 8 hours.

Did you like this? Share it:
Monday, February 14, 2011 @ 04:02 PM

This time of year is perfect for restocking and renewing tailgating equipment. Many folks are done tailgating, though racing season has just begun. But, before the spring BBQ push goes into effect, now is a great time to find sales on BBQ equipment and tailgating supplies. Many companies are trying to rid themselves of last years grills, BBQ smokers, even turkey fryers. If you can find the equipment, now really is a great time to buy. There is a very small window period now, as many places dumped last years equipment as soon as BBQ season or even the Thanksgiving turkey fryer season was over. They are about to begin stocking the 2011 equipment before the BBQ season begins.

Most people love cooking outdoors. The northern winter season is about to end. People are going to start thinking about grilling again in the northern regions that have been snow covered for a great part of this season. Some of us barbecue all winter long, but some folks are not so willing to shovel a trail out to the grill. If you should find that some of your outdoor cooking equipment has gone by the way side, get out there and get some new gear before the snow melts! Go get that outdoor propane fryer that you’ve been thinking about. Get a bigger grill. Add a BBQ smoker to the tailgate gear. Act now while you still have a great chance for low prices!

Did you like this? Share it:
Sunday, February 13, 2011 @ 07:02 PM

I love to cook. I love sharing good food with friends and family. I love getting together and cooking with other people. I love trying new things. I have never tried to totally specialize. I am not a specialized saucier, I am not just a baker, I don’t just do entrees.But then again, I guess no one tries to specialize, some people just excel better at some things than others. And some people just can’t cook at all. But it never hurts to try new things, right? It doesn’t mean that everything is going to come out right the first time every time but, hey it may be worth trying again.

I never learned to cook from my mom, which is where most people learn, from mom or grandma. My mom was a mediocre cook and not very daring. She could pickle perfectly, she could bake so-so, but she could cook a roast with a pressure cooker with gravy that was in it’s own food group. Her mom was a baker! Big time. My pop’s mom, was a good cook. Simple, but comfy and tasty. My pop, was a wiz with the grill. He could take a 7 bone chuck steak and make it melt like butter, cooked to perfection. He was also a mass production cook. He used to be part of the local volunteer fire department’s cooking committee, feeding all the men at every meeting. But it was after I left home that I really learned to cook. Bachelor friends were the one’s that perfected my craft.

As I said, my pop was a griller, so I once was under the impression that the grill was a man’s domain. Fire, meat, smoke, stabby, prongy, pokey things. Boy was I wrong. I got started outdoor cooking, and now you can’t stop me. Not only do I have a grill, I have a BBQ smoker & an outdoor propane deep fryer. The old man knows not to come near me once I get going. We cook indoors together all the time, but the outdoor world now belongs to me. Outdoor cooking really all started with tailgating at NASCAR races. I started practicing stuff at home so that I could wow the tailgate. It all snow balled from there and now I cook outdoors as much as indoors. I do need to master the art of open fire cooking with cast iron cookware. But, I have pretty much excelled at all other  cooking venues so far. I’m no Julia Child or Mario Batali but I can hold my own. I know Mario uses a grill, and tailgates as well…not so sure that Julia ever went there though.

I have dubbed myself “The Queen Of Comfort Food”. So I guess in retrospect, I have specialized my cooking. I do not make pretty, fancy little morsels that leave you feeling hungry 20 minutes later. I love to fill all bellies! But I still want everything to taste GREAT! And that includes everything from breakfast to dessert. I now bake, grill, deep fry, pickle, stew, braise, roast, smoke, I am up for just about anything. Life isn’t interesting if you don’t get out there and try the water! You have to try new things to find out if you are good at it. Get out there. Try something new. Try a new recipe. Try a new type of cooking. Watch a cooking show. Get inspired! But, have fun!

Did you like this? Share it: