Been on a cooking binge this week. Don’t know why….. I think I tend to cook when I get stressed or homesick. Been a lot of that lately.
What have I made this week, you ask? Well, let me regale you.
1) Churrasco with salsa chimichurri: You CAN use skirt or flank steak for this, but the churrasco cut works better for me. Take 2 bunches each of cilantro and parsley. Put them in the blender with a half-bunch of mint. Add salt, heaps of garlic, fresh-ground black pepper, a good amount of red pepper flakes (or less, if you’re afraid of spicy dishes), and a half cup of white vinegar. Blend until smooth. Slowly stream in 1 cup of olive oil. Divide salsa into 2 parts in a 60/40 ratio. Place 3-4 churrasco steaks into the smaller portion of liquid either in a baking dish (then cover it) or Zip-lock bag. Put the other portion into an air-tight bowl or Zip-lock. Refrigerate both for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
Soak some mesquite or oak chips in water for at least an hour. Build a very hot fire in your charcoal grill (or turn your gas grill on high). Sprinkle wood chips over hot coals or for you gas users, place into a double-layer tin foil pouch that you’ve poked holes in the top of and put this over one of the burners. Cook steaks about 3-4 minutes a side for medium-rare. Remove to platter and tent with foil.
When steaks have rested for about 10 minutes, slice them on a bias against the grain, about a half-inch thick. Serve with reserved salsa chimichurri on the side.
2) Carnitas: I can’t claim credit for this recipe, but it’s freaking amazing. My house currently smells like a taqueria. Yum. This time around, I marinated the pork shoulder overnight in bitter orange, cinnamon, cilantro, onion, garlic, oregano, and bay leaves. Packed the pork bits tightly into a round casserole, sprinkled smashed cinnamon sticks and bay leaves over them, nestled a few orange quarters and onion quarters into the dish, covered the top completely with vegetable oil, and am currently baking at 275 F (135 C) for about 3.5-4 hours. I’ll wait until they cool to shred, then follow the rest of the recipe. The under-the-broiler trick is pure genius.
3) Fried Chicken: This really is my favorite comfort food. Crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside. My recipe calls for an overnight brine in buttermilk (in my case 4 cups whole milk and 4 tbsp. vinegar, since we don’t have buttermilk here), salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Frank’s Red Hot, and pickle juice. Yes, pickle juice. Try it. It’s why Chik-fil-a is so goddamned tasty. Well, that and the frying in peanut oil under 15 lbs. of pressure. I’ll bread it with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Fry that up in canola oil (at 375 degrees) for about 8-10 minutes until just about brown, drain on paper towels, then finish in a 275 F oven on a wire rack to cook the rest of the way through (about 15 minutes).
4) Ground Beef: I’ve decided to start grinding my own, and man, what a good decision. On average, the ground beef in the States could have the flesh of up to 1,000 different cows in it. When I grind my own, I can see the cut(s) I’m using, and be assured that the number of different cows in my ground beef = the number of different cuts I’m using. Sorry to be gross here, but you should be aware of where your food comes from.
On Monday, I used “flap meat,” short ribs, and brisket for my burgers. I’ll estimate the fat content at about 75-80%. I used the 1/4-inch die plate on the Kitchen Aid grinder. Let it rest for a half-hour in the fridge, shaped my burgers, salted them, then grilled them high-and-fast. You can actually eat your burgers medium-rare when you grind your own meat… no time for oxidization or bacteria growth when you’re consuming them within 30 minutes of grinding.
The Kitchen Aid grinder works marvelously. I now keep mine, assembled, in the freezer so it’s ready to go when I am. No more packaged ground beef for this Gringo. It’s too freaking easy to grind my own.
5) Sausages: I’m waiting on some hog casings to get delivered from the States currently, and will then commence a sausage-making binge. Currently in the line-up are chorizo (both Mexican and Argentine), Italian (sweet and hot), breakfast (biscuits and gravy anyone?), and andouille (going to have to get around the whole lack-of-a-cold-smoker thing for now). I’ve been reduced to making my own sausage since it’s such crap-quality here when you can find it.
6) Tortilla española: Yes, you can make this. It’s so easy, so simple, so good. Dice: 2 peeled potatoes and one medium white or yellow onion. Melt: 2 tbsp. butter in a large, non-stick skillet. Cook: potatoes and onions over low heat, covered, until potatoes are fork-tender. Increase: heat to medium-low. Add: 8 beaten eggs, 1 tbsp salt, fresh-ground pepper. Cook: until until eggs are mostly set. Flip: tortilla using a plate or “the hard way.”. Cook: 5 minutes more. Serve: tortilla warm or at room temperature for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tapas, snack, afternoon tea, midnight snack, etc. Goes really well with a nice salad of baby greens and tomatoes with a zesty vinaigrette. Sometimes simplicity is best.
That’s about it for my food post. I’ll try to post some pictures of the carnitas, churrasco, and fried chicken as I complete them. Keep an eye peeled.