Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pulled Pork, Smoking Indoors

You don't have to have an outdoor smoker to enjoy the wonderful taste of smoked meats. You can easily do this indoors. All you need is an electric roaster or a large roasting pan and an oven. There were so many times I wanted to smoke ribs or a pork roast for pulled pork, but the weather was bad or I didn't have the time to maintain the heat in an outdoor smoker. Of course you could use an electric smoker, which will maintain the temperature for you. With both the outdoor electric smoker and the charcoal smoker, you will need to have wood chips and soak them as well as watching to make sure they are continuously smoking and add more as needed. Of course there is nothing like the flavor you get from a charcoal smoker, just as there is nothing like the flavor from grilling on a charcoal grill. For those times when you want smoked foods, but just don't have the time to spend or when the weather comes into play, that is when you can turn to the indoor method. I have made some wonderful mouth watering ribs and pork in my electric roaster. I prefer to use an electric roaster over the oven for the simple fact that I don't have to heat up the house and it also leaves the oven free for any other foods you may wish to prepare.

The first thing you need to decide is what type of meat you want to prepare. You can smoke many different types of meat. I will talk about a couple types of pork that I prefer to use when making pulled pork. First is picnic shoulder roast, this is the lower part of the front leg. Second is the butt roast or Boston butt, this cut is actually the upper portion of the shoulder. Not sure why they call it a "butt" roast, since the back half of the pig is the "ham" section. The shoulder cuts are the cuts you should use if you are wanting pulled pork, These are tougher cuts of meat, so they need to be cooked for a much longer period of time to become tender. They also have more flavor. The roast I used today was a picnic shoulder. This is a little less expensive than the butt roast, but just as good. In my local markets, most all of the picnic roasts have not only a bone in them, which usually is not very large, but usually some of the skin still on it as well. There is more prep work needed for the picnic shoulder, but in the end, it is just as good as the more expensive butt roast. There is another plus to getting a picnic roast besides paying a lower price. The skin which can be easily removed with a sharp knife can be fried or baked as a treat for those of you that like "pork rinds". I cook mine up for a great treat for my dog. He loves them. If you do decide to make pork rinds, just be sure you cook them very well done.
There are other meats that can be smoked as I said. Beef, chicken and fish can all be smoked as well as any wild game. I will post some recipes for other meats at a later time.

After you have decided on the cut of meat you want, the next thing to decide upon is your rub. There are many of great rub recipes out there. There are also some really good ones at local grocery stores and markets as well. It is really a personal preference which type of rub you use. You can choose between wet rubs and dry rubs. There are sweet rubs, salty rubs, spicy rubs and so forth. This too is a personal preference. I prefer dry rubs on all of the meats I smoke. I also prefer a salty, spicier and hotter rub. I have made many different rub recipes, but I think the Mc Cormick dry rubs are very good and of course you can always add to any store bought rubs and make them your own. When doing both ribs (which I use baby back) and pork shoulder, I get the Mc Cormick pork rub, then add my additional spices. Now back to my picnic shoulder preparation.

Smoked Picnic Shoulder Roast.

10-12 lb. picnic shoulder roast.
6oz. liquid smoke
12 oz water
3- 3 1/2oz of dry rub

electric roaster or oven roaster pan with lid

Remove skin or rind and excess fat from the pork roast, using a very sharp knife, be careful not to remove the meat. When meat is about room temperature, cover roast with rub, gently rub into meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Heat electric roaster or oven to 250 degrees. Remove meat from refrigerator and bring to about room temperature.Add your liquid smoke and water to the bottom of the roaster pan.  Place roast on a rack in the roaster pan, cover and cook for 4 hrs. Check frequently to make sure the liquid does not all evaporate, if it is starting to get low, add more, about 1 C. at a time. This will keep the liquid smoke moving around in the steam. Turn heat up to 350 degrees and cook another 3 hrs. or until meat easily pulls apart. Once the meat is done, remove from rack and place on a large cutting board or platter for about 20 minutes. The bone should pull easily out of roast. Using two forks start shredding meat by gently pulling apart. Serve on rolls or hamburger buns. Add some barbecue sauce if you like. We use a homemade southern barbecue sauce and shredded cabbage. (that is a southern thing)!  Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ground Beef and Burgundy Sheperd's Pie Rachael Ray Recipe

OK, so once again I found myself trying to decide on something to make for dinner. Last night I had taken a couple pounds of ground beef out of the freezer, so I knew what ever I was making was going to have ground beef in it. I dug out my recipe box and started my search. Why is it, you can have 100's of recipes, but when you look through them you cannot find anything you really want. Since I went through my recipes several times and nothing jumped out in my face and made me say, "Yes, this is what I want". I took my search to the internet. I was looking for something different. I didn't want burgers or a pasta dish with ground beef, a Mexican dish with ground beef.  I decided to check out Rachael Ray's web site. Shepherd's Pie caught my eye, but I really do not like that dish. Something about taking ground beef, with a tomato sauce, a veggie on top of that, then mashed potatoes to seal it all in just doesn't appeal to me.  When I first spotted her recipe for Shepherd's Pie I almost passed right by it. Then I stopped and noticed the "Burgundy" in the title, so I pulled it up, read the ingredients and said, "Yes, this is what I want".
I gathered all my ingredients, but found I was missing a few. I simply made some adjustments. This ended up to  be just as good as it sounded. I would have never thought about making a gravy with wine for the ground beef instead of the normal tomato base that is added to a Shepherd's Pie. This turned out wonderful. I will definitely make this again. I am not sure why, but it turned out a little thin, but it was nothing a little Wondra couldn't fix. I do think the next time I make this I will add more carrots.

Ground Beef and Burgundy Shepherds Pie

2 1/2 lbs. potato's (peeled and diced)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 slices of bacon
2 lbs. ground sirloin
2-shallots   (I didn't have shallots, so I used one medium onion, finely chopped)
1-small carrot (finely chopped)  (I used 3 medium)
1/2 lb. button mushrooms (quartered)  (didn't have any, so I used more carrots)
1- bay leaf
2T. fresh thyme (chopped)   (didn't have fresh, so I used 2 1/2 t. dried)
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 C. red burgundy wine
2 C. beef stock
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
4 T. butter (divided)
2 T. flour
1/2 to 2/3 C. whole milk or half & half  (used half & half)
2 t. parsley
2 t. chives
1 T. Dijon mustard (rounded)  (didn't have, so omitted)
1- egg (beaten)

Boil potatoes until tender. While potatoes are cooking, take a large dutch oven and cook bacon until crisp, add ground beef and cook until well browned. Add shallots, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaf and thyme. Cook 7 to 8 minutes until onion and carrots are tender. Add wine and scrap drippings, let simmer until reduced, about 2 minutes. Add stock and Worcestershire sauce.

In a small pan, melt butter and combine with flour to make a roux. Whisk about 1 minute. Pour into meat mixture and stir to combine and thicken.

Preheat broiler with rack in the middle of the oven.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with 2 T. butter, whole milk or half & half, parsley, chives, Dijon, salt and pepper. When you have mashed to desired consistency, stir in your beaten egg.

Pour meat mixture into a casserole dish, spread potatoes over the top and place under broiler until browned.

The changes I made, I felt were minimal. They probably didn't change the flavor from Rachael's. As I stated earlier, I will definitely use more carrots next time. I did add more butter to the potatoes, but that was a personal preference.  Also, as I stated earlier, this was a little thin, I am not sure what happened, if you have this trouble just whisk in some Wondra. This was a very good dish.   Enjoy!!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Basil Pie with Tomato and Ricotta

This is a recipe I found in local paper several years ago. It is a recipe from a little diner in Iowa City. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of this diner.I was a little apprehensive at first, even though I love all of the ingredients, it calls for a lot of fresh basil. I was worried it may be a little too much basil. I am so glad I tried it. This is one of my favorite summer dishes. I have yet to hear one negative comment about this dish. Once you try this, I am sure you will agree with everyone else.

Basil Pie with Tomato and Ricotta

1 1/2 C. mozzarella (shredded)
1- 9" pie crust (baked)
3-medium tomatoes (diced and drained)
1 C. fresh basil (ripped and loosely measured)
2-garlic cloves (minced)
3/4 C. mayonnaise
1/2 t. black pepper
1 1/2 C. ricotta cheese
1/4 C. fresh parmesan cheese (grated)

Place 3/4 C. mozzarella in the bottom of the pie crust. Cover with tomatoes and a layer of basil. Spread over this with the ricotta cheese. Mix garlic, mayonnaise, black pepper, parmesan and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Spread over the top of the ricotta cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Serve warm.  Enjoy!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Beef Enchiladas

Mexican foods have always been one of my favorites. Two of my favorite Mexican foods are burritos and enchiladas. As a child, I remember watching my mother and her friend, Mrs. Rodriguez making enchiladas. They would take flour tortillas, dip them in an enchilada sauce and gently fry them in a little bit of oil, just until they were very soft and slightly crisp around the edges. Then they would take their ground beef mixture, which included peas. Add them to the tortillas, add some cheese and roll them up and bake them with even more cheese. I have over the years adapted my own version of these. Making them a little more spicy. Burritos and enchiladas, like any Mexican food is not only good in the cold winter months, but any time of the year. I hope you will enjoy my enchilada recipe as much as we do.

Beef Enchiladas

2 lbs. ground beef (80/20 works well)
3 T. ground cumin
1 T. crushed red pepper flakes
4 T. dried onion flakes
1-10oz can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili's (drained)
2-1.5oz packages of dry enchilada sauce mix
1-28oz can enchilada sauce
3/4 C. water
1 1/4 C. frozen peas 
20 flour tortillas
6 C. colby or co-jack cheese (shredded)

In a large skillet add ground beef, onion flakes, red pepper flakes and 2T. cumin. cook until onions are soft and beef is cooked through, make sure beef is finely ground, not big chunks. Drain, place back in skillet and add 1-T. cumin, both pkgs of dry enchilada sauce mix, 3/4 C. water, 1 1/2 C. enchilada sauce, mix well and add peas. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently so meat  mixture does not stick to bottom of pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In a large bowl with a flat bottom (eg. pasta bowl) pour in remaining enchilada sauce. You will need a plate or cutting board to roll your enchiladas on. Place 10 flour tortilla in a damp towel and microwave. 
Take one tortilla at a time and dunk in bowl of sauce, hold above bowl and gently shake off excess sauce, place sauced tortilla on the plate or board, add 1/4 C. of meat mixture and add approx 1/8 of a cup of shredded cheese and roll. Place rolled enchilada immediately into a greased or sprayed 9 x 13 baking pan. Continue this process until you have rolled all 20 tortillas. You should be able to fit 10 enchiladas in each pan. 
Sprinkle the remaining 2 C. of shredded cheese down the center on the top of the enchiladas, spoon any remaining sauce over the middle of the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and enchiladas are heated through.
Serve with sour cream and diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce on top of enchiladas. 

**** If you would like, you can fry the tortillas as I mentioned in the beginning of this post. They are wonderful that way. I make them both ways. It just depends upon my mood and how much time I have. If you decide to fry the tortillas, you will not be disappointed in the results, trust me!
Place just enough vegetable or canola oil in a skillet so the almost float the tortilla. heat the oil to about 360 degrees or so. Dip the tortilla into the enchilada sauce, shake off excess sauce and place in hot oil. let fry for about a minute or so, then flip to cook the other side. Tortillas are ready to be taken out of oil when they become slightly crispy around the edges and almost paper like in the center. Be very careful when turning and removing them so you do not tear them. Place cooked tortillas onto a stack of paper towels on a plate to cool. It works best if you have someone to work with you when doing this. When you get too many cooked tortillas stacked, they can stick together and tear very easy. Also do not fry them too long, you will get the hang of it as you go. You may want to get a few extra tortillas in case you tear any or over fry them, this makes them too crisp to roll. You should try them this way at least once. They are delicious!! Be aware, that this can take some time to do this and it is very messy, so be prepared to not only clean up splatters as you go, but the mess it will make of your stove. Trust me, it is worth it. :)



Pasta with Broccoli and a Creamy Garlic Sauce

Tonight for dinner I decided on an Italian dish. I had been looking over many Italian recipes lately. Since I was very late to rise today, not to mention late to get any grocery shopping done. I decided to take a little from a recipe I ran across on the blog, A Taste of Home. I would like to add that this blog was wonderful and had so many recipes that looked wonderful.  I made too many changes to really even say that this is a recipe I found there, but I did take some of the ingredients from the recipe, Saucy Garlic Chicken. While this was a good dish, which I am sure I will make again, there will definitely be changes that I will make the next time. Like add salt and make the sauce much thinner. I am going to give you the recipe I used and tell you at the end of the recipe what changes I will be making the next time I make this dish.

Pasta with Broccoli and Creamy Garlic Sauce

5-garlic cloves, finely minced
8 T. or 1-stick of butter
6 T. flour
3 C. milk
1/2 C. half and half
1 T. garlic granules
1 t. salt
1/2 t. course ground black pepper
4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
12 oz. box of bow tie pasta
12 oz. pkg frozen broccoli

In a large skillet saute garlic in 2 T. of butter. Be sure not to let your garlic brown as it will become bitter. Set garlic aside in a small dish. In the same pan, melt 6 T. of butter add in 6 T. flour to make your roux. Slowly add 3 C. milk, 1/2 C. of half and half, stir in garlic, garlic granules, salt and pepper. Heat sauce another 4 minutes and remove from heat and set aside. Cook pasta per package instructions until al dente. Steam broccoli and add to cooked pasta. In another skillet, add 2 T. extra virgin olive oil, heat oil, add chicken strips approx. 3 to 4 minutes per side or until chicken is done. Heat sauce until very at this time add more milk if sauce is too thick or more flour if sauce is too thin. Add about 2/3 of sauce into the pasta/broccoli and toss to cover. Pour pasta in to a large pasta serving bowl and top with chicken strips. Pour remaining sauce on top of the chicken and serve with warm crusty Italian bread and a salad.

After making this, I felt the sauce was too thick. I prefer a thinner sauce on my pasta. The next time I make this dish, here is what I will change. I would cut the amount of flour in half, add an additional 2 T. of butter. I also felt the dish needed more salt, this can be added to the sauce, so be sure to taste frequently to adjust seasonings. The garlic, I will add an additional 3 cloves and maybe omit or at least cut the garlic granules in half.
This dish would also be good with fresh broccoli, but I used frozen, since that was all I had. You could also replace the broccoli with spinach, which I will also do the next time I make this dish. Not because I didn't like the broccoli, but just for a change. If you are looking for a vegetarian dish, just omit the chicken. Sorry I do not have a picture of this dish. We were just very hungry and forgot to take one. :)
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!