Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pot Roast

It's cold here in Indiana.  I think there has been snow on the ground every day except one for the past 2 months.  I love it, but my bones do not.  The electric blanket goes on the bed and the food I cook becomes much heartier.  Pot roast is one my current favorites, having grown up with it, and I enjoy cooking inexpensive cuts of meat.

I made this the first time when I was a bachelor for a week, as my wife was at a conference.  It was so good I decided to make it again for her parents while we visited them over the holidays.  And in my next post I will tell you what we did with the leftovers!
This recipe is new to me and comes from Cooks Illustrated, though slightly modified for some spice and a bit more body to the gravy.  It's a really simple roast to make, and you can use a reasonably cheap cut of beef for it as well (I used chuck roast).  Enjoy!
Pot Roast (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 chuck roast (top or bottom), 4 pounds
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, sliced thin
1 large carrot, chopped medium
1 celery stalk, chopped medium
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups beef broth
1/2 +1/4 cup red wine (for braise and sauce separately)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper for seasoning

Cut chuck roast in half and trim excess fat.  Season with 1 tablespoon salt, set on wire rack and let stand at room temperature for ~1 hour.  Heat oven to 300°F.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions and cook until starting to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Add carrot and celery and cook 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds,  Stir in 1 cup beef broth, 1/2 up wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig and bring to simmer.

Pat beef dry and season with pepper (liberally).  Nestle meat on top of vegetables so it rests partially in the broth.  Cover pot tightly with foil and cover with lid, place in oven and cook until knife slips in and out of meat easily, 3 1/2 to 4 hours, turning meat over halfway through cooking.

Transfer meat to cutting board and tent with foil.  Remove thyme sprig and bay leaf and discard.  Transfer vegetables to blender jar.  Add remaining broth to measuring cup and skim off fat.  Add enough beef broth to increase total liquid to 3 cups. Add liquid to blender jar and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Transfer broth back to empty Dutch oven over medium heat.

Stir in chopped thyme, remaining 1/4 cup wine, and vinegar into sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce tends to be in the thin side, and if it is combine the 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and add to pot to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slice meat against grain and serve with sauce on top.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cooking With Wolfes- Episode 1

The Biggest Thing to Happen to This Website Since Ever

Video!  Holy monkey!  I made a cooking show!  Ok, I made one episode of a cooking show, but still.  Hopefully this will be followed by more and become a regular series.  In the meantime, enjoy!

This video was shot and edited by my good friend Matt Bethune, a very talented TV shooter-developer-person who has also created a children's show called "Our Magical World".  Go take a look, I guarantee you (and your kids) will enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Hopslam Day!

I've been meaning to write about beer for quite some time now.  If I have one vice, it's beer.  Let me give you a little background on what to expect in these posts.  I do not care for domestic beer, so pretty much anything made by Bud, Miller, or Coors will not be found on these pages.  And yes, I am aware they own shares or have "microbrews", which I'm sure I will try at some point, but I'm going to be honest, I think the big three make crap beers.

What I'm going to focus on is craft beers and microbrews.  Right now in the US, 85% of the beer market is the big three.  The rest of that 15% is all of the small breweries fighting for sales and devotion from customers.  If you are a big beer fan, I highly recommend the movie Beer Wars, which does a great job of showing the state of the beer market and how we are JUST NOW getting back to the level of differing beer production that this country had pre-Prohibition.  If you enjoy beer, this is a great time to go out and try something different.  I hope these posts will help push you in a different direction and outside the box when choosing your next beer.

Lucky for me, it's the best time of year for beer because it's time for Hopslam!  A double IPA made by Bell's Brewery, this is an extremely hoppy IPA that blows away anything else I have ever had.  I was at my favorite beverage store this morning at 11am just so I could make sure I got a case (and I'm still looking for a refrigerator keg of it next week).  It's in high demand and for good reason.

Hopslam this year is just as delicious as in the past.  Bright and floral, it's almost sweet in the citrus-like finish and explodes with hoppiness and flavor.  Too many hops can cause a beer to go bitter, but the honey they add really keeps that in check and results in a most delicious beer.  It's extremely crisp and bright, and I highly recommend this to any who enjoy beer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thai One On

There is a conundrum in my house.  My wife does not like squash unless it's covered with butter and brown sugar.  I like squash, so you see the conflict!  When presented with this dilemma, I try to use the disputed ingredient in a dish that  lessens the direct flavor to ease her into it.  I did this with kale, lentils, and a few others.  With squash, I came across a recipe in the newspaper using Thai curry as the flavoring and the squash as more of a vehicle.
Intrigued, I tried convincing her this would taste nothing like squash.  Perhaps I embezzled the truth a bit here, but I was pretty sure it would be delicious and she would look past her stubborn nature.

The recipe for this soup seemed a little off balance, so I adapted it to what I believed would be balanced flavors (I was right).  And I even served it for Christmas dinner.  Yes, traditional Christmas dinner kind of goes out the window when I'm in charge, I like to make interesting food.  And good news, she loved it!  So much that I got the green light to make it anytime I wanted.  So if you're looking for a way to get your kid/spouse/friend to eat squash (a very healthy and inexpensive vegetable), give this soup a try.

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup slivered fresh ginger
1 1/2  tablespoons Thai red curry paste (you can find this at the Asian grocery in a tin or a tube)
2 pounds butternut, acorn, or similar squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups water
1 can (13½ ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sliced ginger and cook stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the squash and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until soft, 25 minutes. Add the coconut milk and lime zest, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes longer.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender; put it in a clean pot. Or use an immersion stick blender. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt.

Reheat the soup (you can make it up to three days in advance); ladle it into bowls. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm Back! With Pork Chops!

Ok, I’m back.  I could give you a plethora of excuses, from working way too much, going to New Orleans, and just sometimes slacking.  But now it’s the last day of my Christmas break from work, and as part of my New Year resolution, I will blog more (how cliché is that?).

I have been cooking, and I have been taking pictures, so expect a lot more in the coming weeks, months, and beyond.  I’m even going to debut a short video!  
All promises aside, I have lots to write about.  My last few posts focused mostly on apples, specifically apple sauce.  And what goes well with apple sauce?  Pork chops!  This recipe came to me via Em’s parents and is a Cook’s Country recipe.  It’s now my third option with pork chops (along with pan seared and baked) that I make about every other week.  However, I would recommend only using a bone-in pork chop here.  You want the bone to allow the pork to stay moist while cooking, and probably want ¾” to 1” thick chops.

Old Fashioned Pork Chops (From Cook’s Country)

1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup flour
4 bone in, rib or center cut pork chops ~3/4-1 inch thick
3 slices bacon chopped (or 2 tablespoons bacon grease)
½ cup vegetable oil

Combine top 5 ingredients in a bowl.  Place flour in shallow dish.  Pat chops dry with paper towels and cut two slits about 2 inches apart through the fat on the edges of each chop. Season both sides of chops with spice mixture and dredge the chops lightly in flour (do not discard flour).  Transfer the chops to plate and let rest 10 min

Meanwhile cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes (or if you’re like me and keep bacon grease in your refrigerator, you can skip this step and just use ~2 tablespoons of the fat)  Using slotted spoon transfer bacon to paper toweled lined plate and reserve for another use (do not wipe out pan)

To fry the chops – add vegetable oil to fat in pan, heat over medium high heat until just smoking.   Return chops to flour dish and turn to coat.  Cook chops until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes each side or until internal temperature reaches 145°F, serve