Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies For Tacos, Frito Pie And Especially For Chris

If there's one thing I'll consistently order at every Mexican restaurant I visit, it's anything that includes rich, flavorful, beefy barbacoa redolent with earthy chilies and warm spices. It hugs both my soul and my tummy at the very same time.

Speaking of warm and wonderful, my dear, sweet friend, Chris (who suddenly passed recently) adored Frito Pie. Of course she did, she was a Texan through and through! Her recipes reflected her great big Texas heart and her fiery, bright spirit; her messages to each member of the cooking group we belonged to were warm and loving. Chris is terribly missed. We are fortunate her love of food - especially all things spicy - lives on in her favorite recipes.

Just what is Frito Pie? It depends on who you ask. Search the internet and it comes in all varieties. Baked. Cold. Some crush the Fritos to make an actual pie crust. Most recipes use chili. Some use canned, some use homemade. Chili with or without doesn't seem to matter. And that's the beauty of this dish. It is totally versatile, open to interpretation, created each time at the whim of the cook. I love a forgiving recipe, don't you?

Many members of our cooking group made Frito Pie in Chris's memory. Undoubtedly she is smiling down from heaven that, all around the country, we're cooking one of her favorite treats just for her. Chris, this one's for you!

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies

  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, broken into small pieces (look for them in the Latin section of the grocery store)
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, broken into small pieces (look for these in the same place as above)
  • 2 t chipotle chile powder
  • 2 t ancho chile powder
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t hot paprika
  • 3 T espresso powder
  • 2 T granulated garlic
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 2 t cocoa nibs
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers
  • 2 onions, peeled and slivered
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 1 1/2 C water

In a spice or coffee grinder - or a blender - put the pieces of dried chilies and dried cocoa nibs. Give them a good whirl until they're broken down into small pieces. Transfer to a small bowl and add the chile powders, paprikas, espresso powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, cinnamon, kosher salt and brown sugar. Mix together well. Rub half of the mixture into both sides of the roast and set the rest aside.

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the chuck roast and add oil. When the oil is good and hot, carefully add the roast to the skillet and brown it well on both sides. 

While the beef is browning, add half the onions and sweet red pepper to the slow cooker. Once it's browned place the chuck roast on top and add the rest of the onions and peppers, the can of RoTel and the rest of the rub. Add the water, cover and cook on high for 6-7 hours. Once the roast falls apart easily, it's done. 

You can use it right away or refrigerate for the next day. Flavors are always better the next day, aren't they? Use for tacos, Chris's Frito Pie or any other use you can think of. Quesadillas? Sure! Nachos? Why not? Burritos? You bet! Here's how I used my Barbacoa.

Frito Pie for Chris.

Tacos: Take a couple of soft corn tortillas and lay on the barbacoa and your favorite goodies!

Frito Pie: In a shallow bowl, make a layer of Fritos, then barbacoa, shredded colby jack cheese (or your own fave cheese), diced avocado, thinly sliced green onions, a little chopped tomato and a sprinkling of cilantro. Oh, and a slathering of Hatch Chile salsa...Hatch chilies were Chris's favorite!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers

It's morning. You yawn, stretch and head for the kitchen. Once the coffee is on and there's a moment to get the brain cells in gear (at the very least, a few synapses are beginning to fire before the coffee kicks in) the thought occurs, "What's for breakfast?" 

Obviously this is a weekend scenario. Otherwise, there'd be no such leisurely start to the day!

Peeking into the fridge, you spot a pan of leftover cornbread from the previous night's dinner. Hmmmm....cornbread, eggs, buttermilk...why not make French toast with cornbread? Would it work? I can assure you, it most definitely and deliciously does! 

What's it like? Sweet, vanilla notes of French toast sing in the foreground, while at the same time cornmeal crunch and rich corn-iness bring up the beat in the background. And it's easy.

Now pour that cup of coffee, fry up a batch of Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers for the fam and get ready to start your weekend!  

Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers

Serves 2 (double or triple, if you need!)

  • 8 slices of cornbread, approx. 4" long x 1 1/2" high x 1/2" thick
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 C buttermilk
  • canola oil for frying

First make the French toast dip by beating together the egg, vanilla, sugar, salt and buttermilk in a shallow dish that will hold the cornbread slices flat while you dip them.

Heat a skillet with a skim of oil - you don't want to drown the pieces in oil! 

Carefully dip each piece of cornbread into the dip, being sure to get both sides nicely covered, and gently place into the hot skillet. Brown both sides and serve with maple syrup.  

Leftovers (if there are any) reheat beautifully in the microwave or oven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Breakfast Sausage Corndogs

Who doesn't love a corndog in the summertime? Here in Pittsburgh, many of us can be found strolling around the midway of Kennywood with a mustard slathered golden, crunchy dog-on-a-stick in one hand and maybe even a paper boat of Potato Patch fries in the other. What a way to celebrate summer!

But what about breakfast? Where's the take charge breakfast-on-a-stick for the early morning person on the go? In my opinion, instead of a hot dog, morning requires a more breakfast appropriate sausage. Don't you think so, too? As far as the "corn" part of the corndog, why mess with a classic?! And instead of frying the handy a.m. treat, let's bake it to make it just a little healthier start to our day.

This recipe isn't just easy to grab and go, any leftovers heat in the microwave in a snap so that breakfast on the fly can happen day after day. And you KNOW the kids will love this one! 

See that peach in the pic? Just a suggestion...peel and chop it and mix it in with a little maple syrup for the perfect sweet-tart accompaniment. That's what I did (maybe with just a kiss of bourbon, too), but that's for eating on a plate. Could you imagine maple syrup dripping onto the car seats while driving to work? Just plain on a stick is the delicious way to go when you're not sitting at the table.

Hey, Kennywood! This one's for you.

Breakfast Sausage Corndogs

  • 8 cooked and browned breakfast sausages, cooled (you can even do this the night before to really make it easy in the morning - or buy the precooked kind!
  • 8 popsicle sticks or skewers
  • 1 1/4 C cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 C Bisquick - I used the gluten free kind to make this GF
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2-3 T canola oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Insert sticks/skewers into each sausage BEFORE you wrap the dough around. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and spray it with cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, mix the cornmeal and Bisquick, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. It will make a dough.

Using approximately 1/4 cup of dough per sausage, wrap it completely around each one.

Dough-wrapped and ready for the oven!

Spray the tops of the corndogs with more cooking spray and bake for approximately 25 minutes. My finished product isn't browned because GF baked goods just don't brown. If you use regular Bisquick, browning shouldn't be a problem at all. Either way, they are wonderful!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hickory Smoked Brisket, Slaw & Avocado Spring Rolls - TexAsian Style

You all know I've been putting the new smoker through its paces since I fired that baby up for the first time. Proteins of all ilk have done a turn through various wood smokes - orange wood chips, maple chips, hickory and even peach chips have flavored the bounty my smoker has seen. Veggies - corn, red peppers, potatoes, onions -  and even eggs have soaked up delicious smelling smoke in my backyard lately. That's a good thing. 

The downside is that there ends up being a whole LOT of smoked meat leftover even after sharing with relatives, friends and neighbors (and maybe even random strangers who happen to wander by the house on occasion). Even after sharing with nearly everyone I can think of, there's still a hefty portion to use up. 

Sandwiches were made with orange smoked chicken - both hot and cold. My mojo smoked turkey turned into hash. With hickory and maple smoked brisket there were quesadillas and nachos to create, smoked eggs became chipotle kissed deviled eggs and smoked corn was cut from the cob, sauteed in butter with chile powder and sweet red peppers, then finally graced with a generous shredding of cheddar that melted into gooey goodness. 

We've all done most of the above, haven't we? New horizons for precious surplus smoky meats needed to be conquered. What new smoky deliciousness could delight both taste buds and a sense of adventure? How about an Asian spring roll with a Texas twist? And so, the hickory smoked brisket spring roll with pickled slaw, red pepper, purple onion, avocado and cilantro with a sweet tart orange and tamari dipping sauce was born.   

Hickory Smoked Brisket, Slaw & Avocado Spring Rolls - TexAsian Style

  • 12 rice paper spring roll wrappers 
  • 12 slices hickory smoked beef brisket (Don't have home smoked brisket? Buy some at the deli!)
  • 12 very thin slices raw red bell pepper
  • 12 very thin slices raw purple onion
  • 12 thin slices avocado
  • packaged coleslaw mix
  • pickle brine from a jar of your favorite sweet or dill pickles - I used Famous Dave's Spicy Pickles (nice sweet dill pickle with a KICK!) ALWAYS keep your pickle brine when you finish a jar of pickles to make quick pickles. Besides slaw mix, I pickle thinly sliced carrots, red peppers, cucumbers, tiny green beans, thin asparagus spears, onions...just about anything! Don't have pickle brine? Use the brine and keep the pickles in another container and when the slaw is done, put the brine and the reserved pickles right back in the jar!
  • fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1 C bottled hickory BBQ sauce 
  • 1/4 C tamari or soy sauce (I used wheat-free tamari to make this gluten-free)
  • 6 T fresh squeezed orange juice

Put 2 C coleslaw mix in a deep narrow bowl and drain the brine from a jar of pickles over top. Press the slaw down into the brine and let it sit while you proceed with the rest of the recipe. Don't throw away the pickles! Just put the brine back into the jar after "pickling" the slaw mix.

Next make the dipping sauce - BBQ sauce, tamari and oj. Set aside.

Now set up an assembly line. Find a shallow dish - a large pie plate or a 9X9 baking dish should work just fine - and fill it halfway with water. This is to soften the rice paper spring roll wrapper. Next line up the brisket and the rest of the filling ingredients for easy assembly. Also dampen a kitchen towel and lay it on your counter between the shallow dish and the rest of the assembly line. 

Starting with a rice paper wrapper, assemble the spring rolls one at a time. 

Take a wrapper and submerge it in the water, turning it until it begins to soften. Gently place it on the dampened towel. Lay the filling in the center of the wrapper starting with a slice of brisket, then red pepper next to the purple onion, the avocado slice on top of that, a pile of brined slaw that has been squeezed dry and 2 cilantro leaves. 

Gently fold the bottom of the wrapper up snugly over the filling, then fold the left side over, the right side next and finally roll the whole package up to the top. You know, just like you're making a burrito.

That's it! It's a keeping-the-kitchen-cool, using-up-the-leftovers appetizer, lunch or dinner that feels like you're dining in one of Pittsburgh's newest and trendiest restaurants. So good!

NOTE: Feel free to use any other veggies you like...spring onions, carrots, fennel, asparagus...let your imagination flow free. Just keep the veggies sliced thinly. Well except for nice thin spears of asparagus. And pickle those suckers, too, in pickle brine!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Smoked Citrus, Cumin & Garlic Turkey Breast

Here's a heads up for ya, folks. Think of this as one of those big yellow "Work Zone Ahead" signs on the turnpike. Only this one would say "BBQ Overload Ahead." Yep, that's what happens when you get a new smoker. Well, that and BIG silly sauce stained smiles on the faces of neighbors and family from all that smoky deliciousness!

One of the BEST things about smoking is how easy it is...I think of it almost as the crockpot of summer cooking. Really. Seriously!  A little simple prep, throw it in the smoker with soaked wood chips of choice, check the internal temp of the protein on occasion and pull it out when it registers what you're looking for. Boom! If you put some fresh ears of corn in there at the same time, maybe even some par-boiled potatoes, mushrooms and/or tomatoes, you have an entire meal at once. 

Although the ease is one reason for my smoking enthusiasm, the crazy BBQ flavor is the deal sealer for me. Don't have a smoker? You can use a smoker box in your gas or charcoal grill. Don't want to invest in an expensive smoker? Do what we did around here. For $40 we initially bought an electric column type smoker at Home Depot that we used for years! After that, the same type - only a charcoal model from Lowe's - was our baby for another few years. That one was a whopping $50! Bottom line here is that you can get in on the ground floor of smoking for almost peanuts.

Okay, enough talking about smoking. Let's get goin' and get on the road to the recipe!

Smoked Citrus Cumin Garlic Turkey Breast

  • a 2-3 lb boneless, skinless fresh turkey breast
  • a quart bowl of smoker wood chips, soaked in water for at least an hour before putting the turkey in the smoker - I used a combo of apple and hickory chips

Citrus, Cumin & Garlic Butter:

  • zest of 1 lime, 1 Meyer (or regular) lemon, 1/2 an orange (zest the orange BEFORE cutting in half)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced finely
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 3 T soft butter
  • 1/2 T kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • juice of 1/2 the lime, 1/2 the Meyer lemon and the WHOLE orange
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T olive oil

A few hours before you start smoking (or the day before), butterfly the turkey breast. 

Laying the breast longitudinally in front of you on a cutting board, make a shallow cut down the center being sure not to cut through to the bottom. Next place your knife inside that cut and cut horizontally towards the left of the breast being careful not to cut all the way through. Do the same on the right side and open the breast up, laying it flat. 

Spread or pat the prepared butter in the center, leaving plenty of butter-less space around the edges. You want to keep the butter inside the breast as it cooks. Roll the buttered turkey breast from one side to the other and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the turkey breast 1-2 hours (or even overnight) and take out an hour before you want to put it in the smoker.

Turkey breast butterflied open and spread with Citrus Cumin Garlic Butter

Prepare your smoker and bring it up to 225 degrees. Once it's at temp, place the turkey breast in the smoker, inserting a cooking thermometer into the center of the breast (my smoker came with a probe built in - convenient!). Smoke to an internal temp of 165 degrees basting occasionally with the basting liquid throughout the smoking time. When the probe registers 165, remove and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing thinly. And enjoy!

NOTE: Once you start smoking, you may never have to buy expensive lunch meats again. Leftovers make fantastic sandwiches and salads! In fact, my next post will feature a recipe for leftover smoked brisket...stay tuned.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

A week ago or so I made up a batch of these lovlies for breakfast and have been craving them ever since. Sweet and savory Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles are kind of a mashup of a hearty German potato pancake and a sweet apple pancake baked on a waffle iron for extra crispiness and crunch. A little bacon is thrown in for a salty, smoky contrast to the sweet apple and for balance.

Why I waited to make them again is a puzzle to me, because they're so easy to put together...especially if you use precooked real bacon bits. Making dinner (or breakfast if you're more of a traditionalist) is simpler still when you start with frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes and just a little Bisquick. Who doesn't like a quick and easy breakfast-for-dinner recipe in their arsenal?!

Ready to make an easy "brinner" for the fam? Gentlemen (and ladies), start your waffle irons!

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

Makes 8 waffles

  • 4 C frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into dice, fried crisp (or 1/2-2/3 C REAL bacon bits
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 T Bisquick (I use gluten-free Bisquick to make these GF)
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 t salt and extra for sprinkling on the finished waffles to really make the flavor pop!

Preheat your waffle iron while you toss the batter together.

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and sprinkle with Bisquick. Add bacon, apples, egg, milk and salt. Mix all together well.

My waffle iron uses no oil; if yours needs to be oiled, prepare your iron as needed.

Use half the batter for the first batch of waffles, if your waffle iron makes 4 at a time like mine. I like to press down firmly on the waffle iron handle for 30 seconds or so to get good initial contact on both sides of the waffle - I think it produces a crisper waffle in the end.

Carefully remove the first batch of waffles and do the second. 

Serve with real maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt. Yes, I said salt. It makes a BIG difference!

NOTE: Leftover waffles? Put thinly sliced cheddar between two waffles and grill on both sides in a buttered skillet until the cheese is melted and the waffles crisp. Delish!

NOTE 2: Although I haven't tried it, I can't help but think these would make a kickass base for sausage gravy! Hmmmmmm......

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

Oh, the excitement of a new smoker! Since our beloved stack type charcoal smoker bit the dust (ash?), I've had my eye on a Masterbuilt chest-type electric smoker. Amazon put the one I've lusted after on BIG sale (one day only) the Saturday before Father's Day...coincidence? I think not. 

Before I could give it a test run, Michigan beckoned. As I pulled out of the driveway, I glanced longingly behind at my yet-to-be-named smoky cutie and ahead at the prospect of time with those I love in Lansing. And hit the gas.

Not being the only family member with a yen for good BBQ, we all went to a favorite Q spot of Matt's called Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine. What a find! We started with Pickle Fries that are long shoestrings of dill pickles, breaded and fried and served with a side of homemade remoulade for dipping. Not content with just ONE appetizer from Meat's oh-so-tempting menu, we shared a basket of nachos mounded high with pulled pork, house-smoked bacon and chopped brisket, then topped with cheese, one of their own BBQ sauces, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and avocado. Transcendent. The nachos alone could have been a satisfying dinner and we only had a half order! 

Thank goodness we didn't stop with appetizers. The Meat platters came laden with perfectly moist, smoky brisket...sliced for me, chopped for Matt and Matthew's choice was the sweet n' smoky pulled pork. Mieke went with her favorite chopped brisket sandwich. Meat platters came with cornbread and 2 sides. And THAT is where I swooned. 

Nothing fancy at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine...that's a GOOD thing!           BBQ beans on the left, succulent brisket and Spicy Cream Corn on the top. 

Now, it's been a while since I've recreated a dish I was particularly taken with, but the Spicy Cream Corn left me wanting MORE! Note that it's not called "creamed" corn. No, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the loose, pale yellow, lumpy stuff from a can. This was CREAM corn. It had substance. It had heat. It. Was. Remarkable. So I came up with my very own version as soon as I got home.

What would go best with my version of Spicy Cream Corn? BBQ, of course. I loaded up the brand spanking new smoker with chicken...specifically 8 thighs, 3 breasts, 6 whole wings, 4 eggs (recommended by a BBQ'ing friend from Georgia - I'll be making deviled eggs with those!), and 5 ears of corn in the husk. Wouldn't smoked corn make the cream corn even better? It did!

Starting with smoky corn really made a difference in the finished dish. I decided to make the dish into a casserole (small individual cast iron skillets would make a wonderful presentation). For the heat (and creaminess) I used jalapeno cream cheese and a bit of chipotle powder; for color and flavor, sliced green onion and roasted red pepper; and for more smokiness, a "healthy" sprinkle of bacon crumbles across the surface. Nothing like reinforcing the smoke, right? 

Here you go...the recipe!

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

  • 4 ears smoked corn, approx 2 C of kernels (you don't have to use smoked can use fresh, frozen or canned corn if you wish!)
  • 4 oz. jalapeno cream cheese (1/2 of a tub) - if you want less heat, just use 2 oz. jalapeno and 2 oz. plain cream cheese. Don't want heat at all? Use all plain cream cheese.
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 green onion, sliced well into the green for color
  • 1/4 C roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a hefty grinding of black pepper
  • 1/4 t chipotle powder (this makes it smokier and hotter - use less if you don't like HEAT, more if you like the heat sweats)
  • 2-3 T crisp, crumbled bacon
  • softened butter - enough to grease the inside of your casserole dish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 1 quart casserole dish (I used a cast iron oval casserole).

In a medium saucepan, add the cream cheese(s) and milk. Stir over low heat until smooth. Add the corn, green onions and red peppers, stir well. Add salt and pepper, chipotle powder and stir well again. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, top with bacon crumbles and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until bubbling. Serve with damned good BBQ!

NOTE: Next time I'm smoking some jalapenos to go into the mix!

One last thing....

Well, it wasn't actually "last." A Meat Bloody Mary WITH BBQ sauce is what I started with!