Queso Fundido

I’ve been intrigued with the cooking of Rick Bayless since seeing him as a judge on Top Chef and then as a contestant on Top Chef Masters.  A couple weekends back I caught his show, Mexico – One Plate at a Time, on PBS.  On that episode he made queso fundido using green chorizo.  It looked delicious, so off I went to the store to get the ingredients I needed.

I started by making the green chorizo.  I chopped up a poblano pepper, serrano peppers, and cilantro in my food processor.

Then I added it to some ground pork.

After refrigerating the chorizo for a while, I started making the queso fundido.  I cooked the chorizo with a sliced onion.

Then I added some water and spinach.  Last I added shredded cheese to melt it.  This is served on a tortilla with salsa, like a taco.

Unfortunately, I bought corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas, and I wasn’t too thrilled with them.  I don’t think I really liked the salsa I bought either.  The queso fundido itself was good though.  Guess I’ll try to fry the rest of the tortillas into chips.

BONUS: Since there was left over chorizo, I had to come up with some way to cook it.  I saw wonton wrappers in my refrigerator, I decided to use them.  I made Asian-style dumplings using the chorizo.  Here is the setup. The water is used to seal the wrappers.

Here is one after test-frying it.

When I cooked the rest, I browned one side and then added some water and covered the pan to steam the dumplings the rest of the way.  These turned out pretty good.  They made a good dinner and were good the next day for lunch.

Buttermilk Dinner Roll FAIL

Michael Ruhlman is one of my favorite food writers, I read his blog regularly.  I’ve learned a lot from reading his blog and he’s posted some great recipes (his wife also posts about her fantastic photographs).  He recently posted about a buttermilk dinner roll recipe he came across.  I am always a fan of good bread, so I decided to give this recipe a shot.

You can find the recipe on his site, but the you need flour, buttermilk, honey, yeast, and salt for the dough.  Once the rolls are ready to bake, they are topped with egg and poppy seeds (or sesame seeds).

As you might be able to tell from that picture, I didn’t get very much rise from the dough.  Not sure what I did wrong; maybe it was because I mixed it by hand instead of using a stand mixer (anybody want to buy me one for next time?) or maybe my yeast was no good.  These turned out to be very dense.  I noticed afterwards that Mr. Ruhlman suggested decreasing the amount of flour, so maybe that would help as well on my next attempt.

Also, if you don’t have one already, you should consider getting a kitchen scale.  It is very helpful and more accurate for baking.  You can read more about the importance of scales on Ruhlman’s site and in his book, Ratio.

Lake Ella Growers’ Market

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about eating seasonally and locally.  In a perfect world, everything I eat would be in season and grown in the area. It would be supporting small, local farms and result in better meals.  Realistically, I’m not going to be able to do this 100% right of the bat.  It’s going to have to start in small steps and maybe one day I could be considered a locavore.

My first step on this path is to explore the local area and see what is available.  I guess I started back in October when I spent 2 days driving around visiting farms during New Leaf Market’s farm tour (I promise I’ll post about that soon with pictures).  Today, I decided to check out another avenue of eating locally, the Lake Ella Growers’ Market.  This market runs every Wednesday from 3 pm until dusk at Lake Ella near Black Dog Cafe.  It’s important to note that it is called a growers market.  From what I’ve read, everyone that sells here actually has to have grown what they are selling.  At other markets around, it seems that some merchants purchase the produce wholesale just to resell it.  From what I saw today, it does look like everything was grown by the merchants.  Because of the season, there were many different greens available.  I recall bok choy, green onions, and swiss chard among others.  These are types of produce that I am not very familiar with cooking.  I also saw radishes and a few tomatoes.  There was also a creamery there selling butter and cheese, as well as other merchants selling honey and oyster mushrooms.  I ended up only buying some sourdough bread from a local baker.  Hopefully, visiting this market will become a more regular occurrence for me and I can talk to the local farmers and learn more about what is available and how to use it when cooking.

I’ll will keep you all updated as to what is available and in season as I return to the market in the coming months.  I imagine there will be more vendors and great variety as the wether starts to warm up.  If you are interested in finding out more about what is in season, this map breaks it down by state.

I also plan to visit the other markets around town, and I will let you know my thoughts on them when I do.  I know there is one in Market Square, one in Southwood,and the Downtown Marketplace will start up again soon.

Beef Stoup

I thought I was being clever by calling this “stoup” because it wasn’t quite a stew but seemed more than a soup.  Now that I go to write this post and google the word, I find that there are 237,000 results.  And even worse than that, the very first one is from Rachel Ray.  blech. I feel kind of dirty now and may be taking a shower with a scouring pad as soon as this post is finished.

Anyway, on to what I made.  Even though it has warmed up from the extreme cold of the first half of the month, it is still winter, so I decided to make a hearty stew.  I’ve had  bag of barley sitting in my cupboard for a while now and thought this would be a perfect time to use it.

I started with beef for stew from the store and then coated it with some seasoned flour.  I thought this flour would eventually help to thicken the stew, but when I started to brown the beef, there was lots o smoke and the flour started to burn.  So maybe I had too much flour or the pot was too hot.  That’s something to tweak for next time.

After all the beef was browned, I removed it from the pot and added some water to deglaze the bottom of the pot. (I used water since I didn’t have any homemade stock and I’ve joined Michael Ruhlman’s crusade against the canned stuff)  Then I added carrots, celery, onions, and a can of diced tomatoes.  Since I had half a bag of fingerling potatoes left over, I decided to cut those up and add them too.

I brought this to a boil and let it simmer for and hour and fifteen minutes.  Then I added the barley and brought it back to a simmer until the barley was cooked (about 45 minutes).  Like I mentioned before, this thickened up some (the barley probably helped a little) but not quite to what I am used to for stew.   Maybe next time I won’t flour the beef and make a roux instead.  The stew was very tasty though.

Now off to find that scouring pad.

Westside Market

I know it’s been a while since my last post.  Yeah sorry about that.  I’m a slacker.  What can I say? Anyway, I was reading the introduction to Michael Symon‘s Live to Cook and was reminded that I wanted to post about the Westside Market. The Westside Market is located in Ohio City, near Cleveland, Ohio.  A market has been running at that intersection since 1840, with the current building first opening in 1912.  Growing up, I would go with my family to the Westside Market every now and then when school was out.  It sells just about everything you can imagine.  One section is dedicated to produce and offers many different fruits and vegetables.  The larger building has many different vendors selling everything from meat, to pastries, to candy.  When I was young, some of the items, like pig heads and tongues, seemed so foreign to me that I couldn’t imagine anyone ever cooking with them.  Now that I am cooking for myself, reading more cookbooks, and learning more about food, I wish these items were more available here in Tallahassee.  I guess I’ll have to go exploring more to see what I can find.

Anyway, I was home in Ohio for the Christmas break and drove up to the Westside Market one day with my brother.  It brought back a lot of memories to see all of the different things I used to see on our trips there.

The first item I purchased was cheese smokies

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There are a couple different varieties, but I decided to buy the ones with cheese.  This is one thing that we always got on our trips to the market.

Another thing I bought for the nostalgia factor was lady locks.

These are flaky pastry tubes filled with cream and covered in powdered sugar.  They are so good and much better than the knockoffs you see at walmart.

The last thing I bought was more for curiosity.  As we were walking around the market I noticed some beef bacon.  After completing my other purchases, I decided to go back and get it so I could try something I had never had before.  After a bunch of wandering lost in circles, I was finally able to locate the stand and purchase half a pound.

Here it is cooking. (The one in the middle is just about done and the ones on the outside are just starting.)

And here is the finished product.

This was pretty good.  It had the familiar salty and smoky flavor of bacon but was distinctly beef.  We had them on egg sandwiches and also just snacked on it by itself.  Definitely something I would use again.

So that was my trip down memory lane at the Westside Market.  It was an enjoyable experience and made me wish there was something like it in Tallahassee.

I’m going to try to start updating this thing more often.  We can always hope.  Next up will probably be an overdue post on the farm tours I attended at the end of October and then hopefully some more adventures in the kitchen, on the grill, and in the smoker.  Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover.

Sofrito Skirt Steak and Baked Buttered Corn

After seeing this post from Michael Ruhlman, I knew I wanted to give the Baked Buttered Corn a try.  I had already been planning to make skirt steak some time this week, so I thought this would be a good side dish to pair with it.  I bought four ears of corn from the store and followed Ruhlman’s directions.  It wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping it would be, but it was still good. I’ve always liked corn.  Maybe I’ll venture to the downtown marketplace this weekend and see if they have any corn that might be better.

The skirt steak turned out pretty well.  After looking through my cupboards, I found a jar of Goya sofrito that I had bought a while back.  I marinated the steak in the sofrito overnight.  When I was ready to eat, I lit some charcoal and then grilled the steak for about 4 minutes on each side.  Next time I may give it one more minute on each side.  They sofrito added a little flavor, but next time I may try to use some more sofrito to make a sauce or just mix some in with the rice when I cook it.

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Brisket

So I’m not sure I have the patience for bbq.

This weekend I decided to try some brisket. I found some brisket at the store that was about 1.5 lbs.  So I was a pretty small piece as compared to a whole brisket.  I hoped this would keep the cooking time down.  Also, anything too much bigger probably wouldn’t fit on my smoker.

I seasoned the brisket with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and dry mustard.  I let that sit for an hour while I set up the smoker and let it heat.

From reading online I thought it would be about 1.5 hours per pound, so I was planning on about 2 hours and fifteen minutes.  I wanted to the internal temperature to be 185°.  I ended up leaving it on for about 2.5 hours and it could have still used more time.  It ended up only getting to about 170°.  But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I got impatient and wanted to eat.  Plus the sun was going down and I didn’t want to be messing with it in the dark.

Brisket 001a

It tasted good and would have been more tender if I had let it go longer.  Either way I think the leftovers will be good sliced thin on a sandwich.

Brisket 002

When I do attempt a pork shoulder I will have to start a lot earlier to give it the proper time to cook.  I will also probably use my probe thermometer so I can monitor the temperature with out opening up the smoker.  Maybe larger chunks of wood will help in that area too.

Until next time.