Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I've Been Missing

I haven't put up a post in a little while. A little cutie I know just turned 1 year old, and I have been completely absorbed in daddy mode.

I honestly can't believe it's really been a year. It feels like just last week she was a little baby burrito swaddled in my arms, and now she's walking and talking. Time goes so fast, and even faster when you travel, and faster still when you have a baby. This being a daddy thing is truly my greatest adventure, and I can't say anything would top it. She's already as fearless as Daddy, so I can't wait until we can go on little adventures together! This summer will be spent at the beach and running through the nature park. I can't wait.

Happy Birthday DB.

Grilled Beet, Fennel, and Jazz Apple

Beets. My extent of beets has up until this point been limited to Pickled beets, and the eggs pickled in the beet juice after the beets had been consumed. I can't say I had much of an opinion on them, other than they remind me of my boyhood in Ohio, and the black dirt from our gardens that give them the earthy goodness. Beets were truly a staple around the family, but I was too young to have developed the complex palate for them. My father and brother have been talking about how good roasted beets are recently, so I of course had to pick some up at the commissary. Adventures in fine dining, and grill mastery experimentation are a welcome experience in my little household. I have to say this turned out better than expected.

Grilled Country Style Ribs in Orange Marinade, Roasted Beets and Grilled Fennel with Grilled Apple. There was a homemade beef broth mushroom soup for a first course.

This turned out so much better than I expected it to. The pork shoulder is pretty fire (no pun intended) and forget, and always a crowd pleaser. The shoulder cut is so deliciously marbled with pork fat, and the charcoal grill does a terrific job of searing and caramelizing the outside, so you have a tender, juicy hunk of delicious pork. A simple marinade and some time over the coals, and you have a big chunk of awesome. The Beet dish was truly a wonder. I had never cooked with either beets or fennel before, and didn't really know what to expect. Fennel was one of those foreign vegetables that I had on my list to try, but never got around to. I highly recommend this dish to anyone who wants to impress a dinner party, or needs something cheep and moderately simple to bring to a pot-luck picnic or family function. It works well warm, but would be just as great as a cold salad. If you serve it cold, I would suggest adding walnuts or pecans to even out the texture and give it a bit more crunch. It's also a beautiful dish to serve if you are wanting for color on the plate. There is nothing like the color that pours out of roasted beets. A natural magenta that stains your hands, it leaves streaks of red all through the fennel and apples. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's truly food art if you give it a chance. The sweetness of the apple, the subtle anise cabbage-like flavor of the fennel, and the complex, earthy-sweet of the beets all stand alone on their own merit, but the trio is a concerto of flavor on your palate. Try this one out!

Here are my recipes:

Beet, Fennel, Apple salad
3 Beets with tops removed
1 Large Fennel Bulb
1 Large Sweet apple (I used a Jazz Apple)
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Wine vinegar
1/3 cup Beef Stock

Prepare the beets: Roast beets in a foil packet on grill 30 minutes on each side or until tender through. After roasting, peel beets, and slice thin.
Prepare Fennel: Remove top and root of fennel bulb. Slice in 1/4 inch slices, and coat with white wine vinegar and olive oil with salt. Grill fennel on each side until seared. Remove from grill and place in saute pan with a dash of vinegar and Beef stock. Salt to taste, and saute until softened and separate pieces of fennel.
Slice fennel core into thin slices as well.
Prepare apple: peel, core, and halve the apple. Grill on the core side until carmelized. The sweeter the apple, the more caramelized the apple gets. Remove from grill and cut into small cubes.

Combine all the ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Salt to taste and drizzle with EVOO and White Wine Vinegar.

If anyone wants to duplicate this recipe and take better pictures of it, please post them! I never plan on making food posts until after I have eaten half of the dish, and the light in the room is too low for a quality pic.

Citrus Marinade Pork Country Style Ribs
Pork Country Style Ribs/ Pork Shoulder
3 Cups Orange juice
1/4 cup Spicy Brown Mustard
3 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Medium Onion
honey (optional)
4 TBS Cajun Seasoning
Hot Sauce to taste (I like Iguana Radioactice pepper sauce)

Combine ingredients in gallon zip-lock bag, and let stand in refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Grill. Let rest. Serve. Yum.

Pork is so tasty and simple. Pair it with any good vegetable, and you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hunting Morels from the Perennial Plate

One of my favorite meals of all time was from my childhood. Cast-Iron Morel Mushrooms in Butter over steak... in the woods, on a camp-stove, with my dad on a turkey hunting trip in the hills of Pike County, Ohio. We spent the day walking the hills in the forest looking for turkeys, and found a good patch of morels along the way! We filled our pockets and a hat with them, and continued on.

We used to go specifically Mushroom Hunting around the woods around the family land on the Blanchard River as a little kid. I would be following my dad or grandfather along the railroad and down into the woods, usually finding more briars and burrs than mushrooms, but being 3 ft tall did help with the view, however. We would find enough to cook for dinner, and that would be enough. Sometimes we would find enough for gifts to relatives or to eat later. More often than not they didn't last longer than that evening. It was a rare and special occasion.

Being a young kid, I didn't have the evolved tastebuds yet, and didn't like the flavor of the mushroom. It probably had more to do with their alien landscape appearance, and pungent aroma than flavor, but I didn't really give them a chance. By the time I was older and we went hunting for turkeys, I had developed a bit more refined taste. I was hesitant, but the smell of the butter in the pan with the perfume of those morels was amazing. Paired with some local steak medalions from a little store down the road seared in the same pan, in the same butter, and topped with those mushrooms.... devine. The scenery, the day, the chill in the air as the sun set on the other side of the hill, the fog rolling in from over the crest of the ridge across the lake. It was truly a unique and amazing experience. Nothing fancy, no extras, no tablecloths. It was perfect.

I've been addicted to The Perennial Plate series of episodes lately, about Chef Daniel Klein in Minneapolis who creates the adventure of sustainably sourcing his food to show the viewer the appreciation for where our food comes from. It's incredibly enlightening, and insightful with weekly episodes chronicling his adventures in food. Episode 7 specifically, is about the sourcing of Morel mushrooms, and subsequently what led me to reminisce about the hunting trip with my father in the woods and one of my favorite meals of all time.

The Perennial Plate Episode 7: Hunting Morel Mushrooms from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

I'm in the process of starting from the beginning and watching every single episode in order. I would recommend the same!