Welcome to I Love to Cook

Cooking is something I have always enjoyed. I learned to cook at the apron strings of my mother and grandmother. The experience of cooking brings me both pleasure and peace of mind.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Status 12-29-2010

I am on the road afterall and visiting with my In-Laws in Alabama.  Last night dinner with the family was exciting.  A houseful of grandchildren and tons of good food.  We made the citrus champayne chicken, the caribbean compote, a green bean salad, and a version of the poached pears.  I will try to post some more but I am away from my computer and server so I have limited access.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Caribbean Cranberry Compote

I usually make the standard cranberry relish listed on the fresh cranberry package but decided to spice it up this year.

1/4 cup    Malibu Caribbean Rum  with natural coconut flavor
1/4 cup    Mango Tropical Rum Liqueur
3 inch      Vanilla bean
1              Orange
1 cup       Fresh Cranberries
2-3 tbl     Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup    Sugar

  • Slice the cranberries while you melt the butter in a skillet
  • Add the cranberries to the skillet along with the sugar, vanilla, and rums (be careful of the flamable alcohols)
  • Flame the mixture to burn off the excess falmable alcohol
  • Allow the cranberry mixture to boil but be carefyl not to burn
  • When the cranberries are cooked smash the cranberries into a mush while continuing to cook.
  • Add the zest of 1/2 an orange and mix well into the mixture
  • Continue to cook on med to hi heat until the cranberries has thickened, remove from heat and allow to cool - I placed the mixture in a metal bowl and placed in the freezer to cool it quickly
Serving Suggestions
This is a beautiful deep red dish with a fair amount of texture.  Served in a white bowl with an appropiate ladle or spoon makes this both a visual and tasty side dish.

Citrus Champagne Chicken

This idea sprung from Pam at the lnik: For the Love of Cooking.  She had prepared a "spatchcocked chicken", a preparatin I had never heard before.  I looked it up in Wikipedia and found this reference: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2006/05/24/FDGEQIU78N1.DTL&o=3&type=printable.  Bottomline this inspired me to try something new.  So after spatchcock, which simply means to prepare before cooking, I decided to rummage in the kitchen.  By the way, the prepare before cooking consisted of removing the backbone and breast cartilage so that the bird could be flattened during the prearation process (check it out it is fun).  Now down to my recipe:

1 Whole chicken (I spatchcocked the bird, see link above)
1 Orange
1 Grapefuit
1 Lemon
1/4 cup    Orange Muscat Champange Vinegar
1/4 cup    White Balsamic Vinegar
700 ml     Champayne (I used a Stony River Malvasia Blanc from Livermore, Ca)
1/4 Onion
Handful Parsley

  1. First I prepared the chicken - Spatchcocked
  2. Placed it with the breast up in a cooking pan lightly coated in olive oil
  3. Seasoned well with salt and pepper
  4. Zested the lemon, orange, and grapeferuit over the chicken breast
  5. Sliced and placed the lemon, orange and grapefruit pieces around, under, in the chicken
  6. Chopped the onion & parsley then sprinkled it all around the chicken
  7. Poured in the bottle of champagne (it wasn't quite full since we had drank a few glasses on Christmas Eve)
  8. Covered and allowed to marinate for 4 hours
  9. Pop into the oven at 350 until fully cooked
    Serving Suggestions
    Remove the meat from the roasting pan and cut into quarters.  Arrange on a plate and serve

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Holiday Status

    I haven't posted much the past week and a half.   Just busy with the holidays.  We had a potluck at work where Joe Uhtof and myself were responsible for the meat.  I made the London Broil with Brie & Spices while Joe made a Pork Roll with a Pesto Spread.  I had planned to be out of town until the new year but due to unwelcomed news from the vet, we have decided to stay home.  Looking for the silver lining we will have more quality time with Hondo, our loving pit bull and I will be able to try some new recipes and ideas.  Please stay tunes and enjoy the Holidays!

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    London Broil with Brie and Spices

    In preparation for a potluck at work I tried grilling a london broil with a twist.  Using the 'Red Meat Marinade' earlier described I marinaded the meat over night.  Then I made a spread of olive oil, brie cheese, shallots, red onions, and bell peppers.  Trussed the meat with the filling and grilled.

    • Brie Cheese
    • Sun dried tomatoes
    • Capsicum annuum - Red, yellow, & orange bell peppers
    • Red onion
    • Shallot
    • Garlic
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Olive Oil

    • Pound or cut a london broil steak so that you have two long 1/2" steaks
    • Marinade the steaks in the "Red Meat Marinade"  described in November's recipes
    • Mix the brie (enough to spread onto the meat); a few tablespoons of olive oil; finely chopped red onions, shallots, & garlic; chopped rosemary, thyme, & sun-dried tomatoes until the mixture is spreadable
    • Spread a thick layer of the brie mixture on one half of the steak
    • Generously spread thin slices of the variously colored peppers over the brie spread
    • Sprinkle chopped scallions over the spread
    • Salt & pepper
    • Now depending upon the shape of the meat you can either place a second piece of meat on top of the spread almost like making a sandwich or you can roll the steak and spread.  In either case use cooking twine to truss the meat and hold the roll & contents in place. 
    •     NOTE 1:  Cooking twine is a simple string made of 100% cotton.  Any synthetic material would melt and impart a nasty flavor into your meat.  I picked a roll up at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
    •     NOTE 2:  Trussing is merely tying the meat.  I usually start with a lop and simple knot, then I slip the twine under the meat running the twine from the first tie or knot about 2 inches.  All you have to do now is pull the twine thru the loop you make and continue to do so along the top of the meat.  You end with a simple knot to hold everything in place
    • Finally I grilled the meat like any steak, turning it onto all four sides since my trussed meat was a rolled log.
    Serving Suggestions
    Once you take the meat off the grill allow it to set for a fe minutes then cut into slices.  Be sure to remove the ttruss twine since it is not edible and it would be an unpleasant surprise to be chewing on it.  I chose to cut about half the meat and to leave the other half whole so that it was presented as a hal cut log of beef.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Oak Smoked Chicken Breast, Pre-soaked in a Vinegar Brine Solution

    Tried my hand at 'hot smoking' yesteday on the Weber Gas Grill. Not exactly a smoker but it worked fine. I soaked the whole skinless, boneless breast in a brine solution for a couple of hours. I also was fortunate to have a newly fell oak limb in my drive that I had just cut up for firewood. Even though the wod was partially green I soaked it in warm water while the chicken was in the brine solution. To my surprise my wife, who does not like smokey meats, really loved the flavors. The key to 'hot smoking' is to keep the steam and smoke from the wood to be constant while maintaining the temperature close to 300 to 350 degrees F. This allows the meat to cook slowly and to be infused with the smokey flavors. Oak has a mild flavor and burns slowly since it is so dense.

    Ingredients for brine solution
    • 1 Whole, skinless, boneless chicken breast (both halves)
    • 2 six inch sprigs of rosemary
    • 2 Cloves of garlic
    • Small handful of peppercorns
    • Small handful of sea salt
    • Approx. 4 scallions
    • Approx. 1 - 2 cups Vinegar - I used two vinegars (50/50) that I had available from previous travels. Any aged vinegar should be fine and let your taste preferences be your guide I use Aged Sherry vinegar from Fortnum & Mason, London, England and Vinaigre De Vin Vieux aromatic a' la Noix from Marcel Recorbet, France - simply an Old wine vinegar with walnut flavor
    Preparation of brine solution
  10. Finely chop the rosemary, garlic, and scallions.

  11. In a medium sized bowl combine the dry ingredients with the vinegar

  12. Place the chicken breast into the solution ensuring that the ingredients are mixed and rubbed onto the breast. The solution should cover the breast.

  13. Cover and let set in the refrigerator for at least 2 - 3 hours.

    Preparation of smoker

  14. Heat the grill normally but be aware of your set-up ahead of time so that you don't have to work too much with a hot grill or heat source. Read below before starting.

  15. Arrange or set-up the heat source (the flame) so that the heat source will be under the smoking wood but not under the meat. On my gas grill I turned off the back burners, turned the middle burners to low and the front burners to medium heat.

  16. Place the soaked smoking wood over the heat source. The set-up I used allowed the wood to be exposed to the front burner flames while it left the rear area with no flames. This is where I placed the meat.

  17. Allow the wood to start to smoke. Depending on how dry the wood is it may take some time for the wood to heat enough to start smoking. It took about 30 minutes on my grill.

  18. Once you have the wood smoking place the meat onto the grill without any direct flames. I let my senses let me know when the grill was ready. I did not see alot of smoke but could defintely smell the oaky aroma.

  19. Close the lid but make sure there is adequate ventilation so that the wood will continue to burn and smoke.

  20. Allow two to three hours for the meat to cook. You should check on the progress and turn the meat but try to keep your curiosity in check. You are using time, heat and smoke to do your cooking - opening and closing the smoker too often just delays the process.

    Plating suggestions I tasted the meat when it came off of the grill and instantly thought of mustard and a hearty sandwich. I toasted two slices of multigrain bread, spread a small amount of German mustard on each slice, placed a generous heap of sliced chicken on top of the bread then sprinkled with a blend of shredded cheeses. I used a Trader Joe's (Giotto's) Quattro Formaggio, a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina, and Provolone. I served the sandwiches open faced.  
  21. Friday, December 3, 2010

    Balsamic Drizzle

    A friend asked the other day about olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  He wanted the balsamic to be thicker.  My first recommendation was a 75 years aged vinegar.  After some talk we kick around a balsamic reduction.  Today I gave it a try and it it pretty good.

    Balsamic vinegar
    Olive oil
    Port Wine

    Place a 1/4 to a 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a small skillet.  Heat on high untill it boils.  Move the skillet off the flame and add a quarter cup of port wine. Careful tilt the skillet towards the flame so that the alcohol 'flames' safely.  Continue boiling for a couple of minutes then reduce the heat and allow to simmer until the reduction is a syrup.

    Plating Suggestions
    This is a very sweet balsamic flavor.  I made open face chicken and tomato sandwiches and drizzled the reduction over the top.  It softened the toasted bread and added a nice sweet but sharp flavor to the sandwich, not to mention the dark color.