Archive for June, 2012

June 12, 2012

Super-Fast Thermapen

I think I’ve found the answer to my biggest cooking challenge, knowing when meat is properly cooked. I know there are a number of methods out there, and some of you can tell when your steak or chicken is ready just by pressing on the center, but this has been my greatest culinary struggle. I like to cook meat to temperature, 130 degrees for medium-rare when cooking steak, and if I remove it at 125 degrees it will be perfectly cooked after it rests. Roasting a whole chicken can also be a challenge. Farm raised, organic chickens don’t come with that pop-up timer, so you definitely need an accurate reading using a thermometer. You will find a number of instant read thermometers on the market. I have been through a couple small dial display instant reads, but I swear they become less accurate over time. I thought buying one professional quality thermometer  might be the solution.

Before I start praising my fabulous new Thermapen I must warn you, it’s $89. I know that’s a lot of money and there are certainly meat thermometers out there for substantially less, but I have to say this is the best thermometer I have ever used. This Thermapen is fast. Rather than waiting for the dial to go up on my old instant read, while the oven is open and heating up my kitchen or my arm hair is catching on fire over the BBQ… the Thermapen is truly instant.

I discovered this thermometer reading an article on Serious Eats. They have a great guide to grilling steaks and Tip#10 is Use a Thermometer! To quote: “Yes, you may look a bit less macho when you whip out a nifty Thermapen Splash-Proof Instant Read Thermometer from your back pocket, swing out the slender probe and insert it gently into the very center of your steak to register a reading, but believe me: perfectly cooked meat will earn you more praise and appreciation than macho posturing any day of the week.” And there began my search for a Thermapen. I was only able to find it on Amazon. It comes in a few colors. I chose pink, thinking I would always be able to find it in my cluttered gadget draw.

I was going to list some additional tips on grilling, like remembering that the meat’s temperature will continue to rise even after you take it off the grill or that you should always let it rest before cutting into it, but the article above from Serious Eats is fantastic. Have a look if you’re interested in some guidance to cooking the perfect steak. I recognize that you might think I’m nuts for investing in my Thermapen, but I would urge you to find a meat thermometer you are comfortable with. I think it’s certainly the best method to cooking meat perfectly, and we have a whole season of delicious grilling ahead of us.

Happy Summer!

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June 5, 2012

The Farm, By Ian Knauer

Who Says You Can’t Eat Groundhog?

The Farm is a beautiful cookbook filled with the life stories and culinary adventures of Ian Knauer. Beginning his career as one of Gourmet’s recipe cross-testers (he tested recipes before they made it into the magazine), Ian then became food editor after Ruth Reichl received an introduction to Ian’s farm-to-table talents. Growing up, he spent much of his childhood on the rustic family farm and has filled the book with wonderfully simple recipes that highlight the farm’s seasonal ingredients.  I read the entire book, front to back and loved every page. He begins each chapter with a farm tale, revealing family stories and cherished recipes.

When I get a new cookbook I read it like a novel and earmark those recipes I want to try. A difficult task with The Farm, as every recipe jumps off the page and says make me, now!  Maybe not the venison or groundhog – yes, groundhog! This is real “old-school” farm living. He does say you can substitute chicken or rabbit for the groundhog. I didn’t earmark that page. His strawberry-cream cheese pie, garlic-pesto roast chicken, asparagus & scrambled egg all-day breakfast sandwiches, and zucchini pizza quickly made up for my groundhog squeamishness. There is a chapter on canning, with memories of his grandmother and her recipes. He includes homemade dill pickles, ketchup, canned peaches and how to make your own hard cider, to name a few.

I selected two recipes from the book for dinner this week. Both were delicious. Honey-Jalapeno Chicken Tenders and Grilled Eggplant with Cilantro Pesto.

HONEY-JALAPENO GRILLED CHICKEN

Adapted from The Farm

I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, so I substituted boneless, skinless breasts and thighs. I think the thighs have a lot of flavor and they tend to stay nice and juicy. The marinade was a snap to throw together and I altered the quantities slightly since I was using thicker pieces of chicken. Although he says you should marinate the chicken for at least 10 minutes, I threw the chicken and marinade in a Ziploc and let it sit in the refrigerator for hours. I knew I wouldn’t have time in the evening to prep it and cook it… this worked best for my schedule that day and it was perfect.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3lbs boneless chicken (skinless breasts and thighs)
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-6 fresh jalapeño, finely chopped
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Handful of chopped cilantro for serving
  • Sour cream for serving

* He calls for 6 jalapeño. I only used 4 because the ones from the market were huge. I removed the seeds from 2 of the 4 jalapeño and left the seeds in the remaining 2. I found it to have the perfect kick of heat. If you like it super spicy, leave all the seeds.

Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium size bowl and whisk together. If you’re using boneless breasts, pound them gently to a uniform thickness (not thin) so they cook evenly on the grill. Place the chicken in a large Ziploc bag and pour over the marinade. Seal the bag and mush it around to make sure all the chicken is coated. Place on a plate in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for a few hours. I generally turn the bag over a few times.

To grill the chicken, remove it from the marinade and scrape off any large pieces of jalapeño or garlic. Grill the chicken until it’s properly cooked through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on the side and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro.

* We used the leftover chicken the next night to make Chinese lettuce wraps with bean sprouts and Asian cabbage. Equally delicious and a great use of the leftover chicken. I made the dressing from my Chinese Chicken Salad recipe for the wraps.

GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH CILANTRO PESTO

I also made this delicious eggplant dip from the book. It’s like a Mexican version of baba ganoush. We ate this with tortilla chips, alongside the chicken. It was a really good dinner.

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