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Musings of A Detroit Based Food Fanatic

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Cooking my way through the Deep Freeze

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     It’s been quite some time since I last posted on this blog. I am hoping that the kind readers who read my posts in the past will forgive me and participate again. By participate I mean not only read what I’ve written but respond with comments. It‘s those comments that validate my efforts and let me know that I have something to say.

On to business…..

     Having been though the warmest recorded winter/year in Michigan it was only a matter of time before Mother Nature said “Don’t get used to it”. This past week we got the message when the temperature plunged to around zero and I decided it was time to get the wood burning stove fired up. When I bought my house years ago it was one of the feature that came with the addition on the back of the house. The down side is that when it get on the cold side in winter we need to burn wood to keep the house warm. I remember one winter where the temperature stayed below zero for a month and I kept the fire going continuously the entire time.

      What does this have to do with food you ask? Hang with me…

     One winter our stove (gas) needed to be replaced and rather than rely on takeout while replacing it I got asked myself “What if I tried cooking in the fireplace?”. So I marinated some boneless skinless chicken breasts, dragged out the cast iron skillet,set it on the fire logs and,low and behold, I cooked up some awesome chicken breasts. I mean I was truly impressed/inspired! Since then I’ve cooked chicken breast,pork chops and roasted fish (mahi mahi). I‘ve also done the accompaniments (potatoes,vegetables etc…) and everything I‘ve done has turned out well. The food took on a luscious,smoky taste. Recently I got extra ambitious and decided to try a whole chicken. As with everything else I have cooked in the stove the trick is to keep it from burning. This requires almost constant attention as there are a lot of variables when working over an open flame and in the wood burning oven.

     I began by spatchcocking the chicken. While this sounds like it could be complicated what it means is to remove the backbone of the chicken for roasting. I just uses a pair of kitchen shears and cut it out.

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     The next step, and a very important one, was to brine the chicken. Brining give you and incredibly moist and flavorful bird. My brine is just salt and sugar (although you can add spices for flavor as well) my recipe is:

1/2 gallon cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

     I brought the ingredients to a boil and allowed it to cool completely. You could do this the night before and just leave it on the back of the stove (covered).

     I then marinated the chicken in the brine for 3-4 hours (refrigerated). After which I towel dried it and sprinkled it with a mix of salt (little), cumin and black pepper.

     Not to miss a step but I had already gotten my fire going a couple of hours before to make sure it was good and hot. I then placed my chicken in the cast iron skillet and set it in the oven,making sure it was close to the flame, but not directly on it. I then closed the doors and let the magic happen!

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     Not wanting to oversimplify the process it bears saying that I checked it every 5-10 minute making sure it wasn’t burning and that it sat level on a log. I also added white wine and water to create pan juice to baste with and control the heat under the bird. Constant shifting and turning were part of the drill. I also used my thermometer (calibrated) to make sure when my chicken was done. One and a half hours later I had a bird that any chef would be envious of. I mean when you go to that 4 star restaurant and they have  roast chicken on the menu ($25.00 and up),this is what you get (although maybe not as good).

     For those of you who say “I can’t do that!” you can still brine your bird. You can maybe try it on the grill outside when the weather gets warmer. the important part is to have fun with the experience! I know not everyone has the equipment to take this on but cooking is an adventure and the journey is what make the experience memorable.

Written by Ed Schenk

February 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Posted in BBQ, Chicken, chicken, Entertainment, Recipe

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Thoughts of Ocracoke Island

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IM_A0008                                                                        The neighborhood

   It’s been a long time since my last post. I apologize. I am feeling it’s time to get back to my second passion,writing!.

     Since my last post I was able to make a trip back to my second home (Ocracoke Island N.C.). To those not  acquainted this is a barrier island on the outer banks of North Carolina where I spent vacations as a child and have visited each year for the last decade. While we have  always rented a house (my buddy and 
I). The last couple of time I chose to come down to the island early. The house we rented would not be available until Sunday but I chose to leave Thursday afternoon. Fifteen hour in the car later I Caught the ferry leaving the workaday world behind.

 ferry pic

While I am not, generally, a rustic person I have camped on the island,a couple of days, for the last 2 years.

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          Home for a couple of days                                     The View from the backyard                              Bluefin

                                                                                                                                                                        

This last year I found myself hanging out at the campground feeling hungry and called a takeout order in to ( what I believe is) the only Thai restaurant on the outer banks. My thought process was that the seafood would be absolutely fresh as almost everything served on the island comes from day boats. I chose the Penang Curry with shrimp. It was everything I expected. Sweet and spicy with the freshest shrimp available and served over rice. I decided that I would have to recreate the dish when I got back to Detroit.

OKRACOKE ISLAND 2004 023 OKRACOKE ISLAND 2004 025

                                                         Trying to catch Dinner! Me (left) and Steve(right)(2004)

     I had most of the ingredients I need to reinvent this dish. I always have Pankow Breadcrumbs and and have had Java Curry Cubes in my freezer for some time. The plan is to bread the chicken in Pankow and Coconut and serve it with a Penang Curry Sauce over stir fried Rice Noodles.

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Coconut Crusted Chicken with Stir Fried Rice Noodles in a Penang Curry Sauce

Serves 2

  • 2 4 oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1/2 cup Pankow Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut
  • 1 egg + 1 cup Milk (or water)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup Rice Noodles (wide)
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 Square Java Curry Paste (available in Asian groceries)
  • 1/2 cup Bean Sprout
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro (freshly Chopped)
  • vegetable oil
 
  1. Combine Coconut and Panko and reserve
  2. Wisk milk/water with flour to create a batter.
  3. Dip Chicken in the batter (draining excess) and dredge in the Coconut/Panko blend using the standard breading procedure rules ( in an earlier post)
  4. Set  aside for at least 10 minute so the Breading will set.
  5. In a separate pan combine the Coconut Milk with the Curry paste. Bring to a boil and wisk until combines. Keep warm for service.
  6. Cook Rice noodles according to direction and shock (stop cooking )in cold water.
  7. Fry/Sauté breaded chicken in vegetable oil until a golden brown color is achieved. Finish in a 350 degree oven until internal temp is 165 degrees.
  8. Stir fry Rice noodles.bean sprouts and peanuts in a little of the vegetable oil until warm.
  9. Add1/4  of the curry/coconut mix and toss. Add cilantro and toss again.
  10. Place a portion of the rice Noodles on a plate and arrange slice chicken around it.
  11. Drizzle with remaining sauce.

Notes Food:

  • Panko is readily available in most supermarkets.
  • The Java Curry paste I used was from a Japanese grocery. It works well with this application. A Red or Green Curry sauce might not work as well in this S.E. Asian preparation.
  • The egg/milk/ flour combo is a Japanese take on Standard Breading Procedure. By creating a batter they eliminate a step.

Notes: Ocracoke Island

  • Ocracoke Island has it’s own dialect which, if you listen carefully, you will hear spoken by the Island residents! It’s been in use since the island was settled in the 1700’s.
  • Hoi Toide = High Tide

    feesh= fish

    Dim witter= dumb ***

  • Until the 1960’s wild ponies had the run of the island and the local boy scout troop were the only “mounted” unit of the Boy Scouts due to the fact that they captured and trained the wild ponies. Due to progress they have since been corralled and remain an Island feature.
  • If visiting don’t miss picking up a jar of the local fig preserves. Figs grow wild on the island but also look for the Apple trees which have been growing on the island for hundreds of years. In recent years I have found Prickly Pear Cactus growing as well.
  • I also recently found, what I think is, the worlds largest rosemary plant growing there. It was in somebody’s front yard!
  • In addition to being a fisherman’s paradise there is also clamming and crabbing available.

Written by Ed Schenk

February 5, 2011 at 9:07 am

Techniques 101 –Breaking Down a Chicken to 8 Pieces

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    ( In tribute to Jack Ubaldi)

    Many years ago I attended the New York Restaurant School. This was my first experience with formal culinary education. It was a tremendous experience that set my course in life.

     Amongst the instructors was a gentleman who taught butchering named Jack Ubaldi. He was a great man! If you click on the link you can learn more about this well known butcher, restaurateur, author and teacher. Under his tutelage I learned how to break down a side of beef,pork, lamb. How to break poultry down and, something no chef I have come across knows how to do, remove the bones from a chicken while leaving the skin and carcass intact ( I will cover this in another post!). These are skills I use to this day!

   One of Jack Ubaldi’s best known traits was to bring a bottle of wine with him to class. I remember fondly Jack giving me the keys to his locker and being sent for the wine because it was not enough to learn how to butcher, we had to learn how to cook what we cut!. We would cook a Newport Steak or Denver Ribs or whatever we worked with as part of our class.

     Butchering is a lost art. As much as the American Culinary Federation  does to keep standards high for skills required to be a Certified Chef, there are a large number of practicing culinarians who call themselves Chef who have no concept of how to break down a side of beef into quarters and then usable cuts or could explain the confirmation of various animals. This is due in large part to the prevalence of portion cut beef and chicken that has eliminated the opportunity for Chef’s to use this skill.

     One of the easiest tasks of butchering involves breaking down Chicken into individual pieces. The process starts by removing the wings from the carcass.

chicken 1

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The second is to remove the leg and thigh and then separating the leg from the thigh.

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The most important thing to remember is to use the path of least resistance ( Note the center picture where there is a separation of the darker meat –leg, and the lighter flesh – thigh). This is where you want to make your cut. Your cuts should be through the cartilage instead of the bone.

chicken 8 chicken 9   chicken 10

Lastly the breast should be separated from the back and either left bone in or ( in a further step) made boneless.It can the be split into 2 pieces through the central breast plate (which in a young chicken is cartilage).

chicken 11

Bon Apetit

Written by Ed Schenk

May 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Living in a Maple Wonderland

with 16 comments


syrup-pancakes     I would like to like to begin this post by introducing some friends of mine. They go by the screen names Gizmar and Psychgrad. They are the mother and daughter team behind Equal Opportunity Kitchen  andAdopt a Blogger Badge _4 my mentors in the Adopt-a Blogger program. Giz and Psychgrad have been blogging together since 2007 and have graciously offered to help me with my blogging. For the last month or so we have been e-mailing each other, checking each others sites out and working on a post together. While checking out their site I came across a couple of posts about Maple syrup. Now Maple syrup is one thing I haven’t tackled ( except if you count pouring it on my pancake with great enthusiasm) but living in Michigan I am aware that there is a fair amount of production of this special product. There are also activities associated with the product. I hope to attend one of these events and eventually tap a tree, boil it down to make syrup and follow up with that pancake thing I mentioned earlier. In any case being right in the middle of Maple syrup season we decided that a post on this subject would be timely. The photos were taken by Psychgrad last season the with recipes from Gizmar and myself.

     Long before the first Europeans came to North America the native peoples were making  maple syrup. How they happened upon this treasure is the subject of some debate but several native tribes tell  that, long ago, pure maple syrup ran from the trees and that one of the gods thought this too easy for the people and that they would take it for granted so he gathered water up into the skies and and poured it onto the trees watering the syrup down into sap. After that the people had to boil the sap in order to make the syrup.

     When the Europeans arrived the natives taught them how to take the sap and make syrup from it. The French Canadians began making in the 1600’s with the British colonists in New England following suit. It was an important commodity early on as the cost of sugar (which had to be imported) was prohibitive. As settlements were established in the west the tradition of making maple syrup went too. While Canada produces the most Maple syrup many Northern US states from Maine west to Washington produce maple syrup as well .

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     The process for making maple syrup is a very time consuming process. First maple trees are “tapped”.

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“Tapping” is when a hole is drilled into the maple tree to allow the sap to flow. a spigot is inserted and the sap drips into a container. The sap runs best on days when the nights are cold but the days are mild (February,March and April). Each day the sap is gathered and it’s brought to a central processing point. It is then boiled down to remove the water and concentrate the sugar.

pioneer sugar making

When the sap is collected it contains 97% water and 3% sugar but by the time the process is finished the numbers are reversed and the syrup contains 97% sugar and 3% water.

rustic maple cabin

     If you live in the Northern tier of the United States (or in Canada)  chances are Maple syrup events are going on in the late winter and early spring. People gather to celebrate the coming of spring and the syrup harvest (Maple syrup is actually the first “crop” of the season). There are an assortment of activities at these festivals. Of course there are sap collecting, syrup making demonstrations and usually a pancake breakfast.  These events are great family friendly activities that shouldn’t be missed! Here in Michigan you can find out about Maple syrup events at the Michigan Maple Syrup festival site. For our friends across the river in Ontario you can visit the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers website or Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugarbush. Of course there are several other states that produce Maple syrup  and if you live in ( or think you live in) one of those states just Google it on the internet and you will find events in your area!

      Even though maple syrup is best known as the topping of choice for pancake it also works great in many other dishes. My friend Giz and I have come up with a couple of recipe that that scream “Maple Syrup! It’s not just for breakfast anymore!”

Grilled Chicken Glazed with Maple Syrup and Whole Grain Mustard

 

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts ( 5-6 oz)
1/2 cup Liquid Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1/2 4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup pure Maple syrup
1/4 cup Whole grain Mustard

 

  • Trim the Chicken breast of any fat or skin.
  • Mix together the Steak seasoning, Garlic and oil.
  • Marinate the Chicken in the Seasoning mix above for 1 hour.
  • In a sauce pan reduce the Maple syrup by 1/3 and stir in the Mustard. Your glaze is done.
  • Grill until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
  • Glaze your chicken breast on both sides and continue grilling until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Remove from heat and glaze once more if needed.

maple glazed chicken

  • You may have notice that I used a store bought steak seasoning (Kroger brand). This is because it work well for my purpose. It’s a very concentrated (liquid) seasoning so it only take an hour or so to marinate. If there isn’t a Kroger store I’m sure they have an equivalent product. If not, or if you choose otherwise you could use and make your own marinade.
  • I reduce the syrup a bit to ensure that it doesn’t run off the chicken when I brush it on. It also intensifies the flavor.
  • I don’t start glazing until the Chicken is almost done. This prevents the sugar in the maple syrup from Burning.

From Gizmar at Equal Opportunity Kitchen we also have a Maple Salmon recipe:

Maple Glazed Salmon

plated salmon

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup light soya sauce
1/4 cup dark rum
3-4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (some use 1 1/2 – I like more)
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
salt and pepper to taste (I eliminate the salt)
1. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil
2. Marinate the fish for 2 hours.
3.  Bake at 400 F for 20 min.

Enjoy the taste of Maple syrup this year and support local agriculture!!!!

Written by Ed Schenk

April 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

On the Grill – Smoked Chicken

with 18 comments


     smoked chicken

     I love to BBQ!! Something about the smoke and fire make it a primal experience for me.Through the years I have had a variety of grills from an oil barrel grill to a water smoker.I used to be a “Charcoal Only” person but several years ago i even had an opportunity purchase a gas grill , at a reasonable price. and learned to like it.I have grilled/ smoked everything from geese to potatoes! A goal of mine is to get comfortable enough with BBQ that I enter the world of Competitive BBQ ( I have a cousin on the east coast who does this quite successfully. Her team is the Purple Turtle team ).

     It has gotten warm enough to start smoking again. Although I will, on a whim, grill/smoke in even the most inclement weather I try to save my resources for spring and fall. Whole chicken were on sale at the market this week and provided me with the opportunity.

    One of the most important elements of BBQ is to  prepare your meat. For the chicken I used a brine. This does two things.  The smoke clings to the salt in the brine better and the chicken stays moist from the brine. This brine will be enough for 2 chickens. I brined them for 5 1/2 hours. Also, as long as you are getting a fire going you may as well smoke as much as you can. no sense wasting all that good smoke! When I do ribs I always throw a chicken on too.

 A basic brine recipe:

 

One Gallon water
One Cup Kosher Salt
One Cup Sugar (Brown)

 

Brine

 

Right now I still have my trusty Weber Kettle ( 20 years old) and am using to smoke. One of the important things to remember about smoking is that the rule is “Low and Slow”. I put the charcoal on one side of the grill and a drip pan filled with water on the other. I place the chicken over the drip pan so the fat that is rendered doesn’t burn. Also the water help to moderate the heat. My goal is to cook between 225 and 250 degrees.

Smoked Chicken 3     Although there are several  types of wood people use to smoke I like hickory. I soak my chips in water for an hour before tossing them on my fire. I have a thermometer in the grill to monitor temperature and I adjust accordingly by opening and closing the lid and/or the air holes on the top and bottom of the grill. My chickens took approximately 2 1/2 hours to cook.

Smoked Chicken 2

     We ate our chicken hot off the grill. I am making a smoked chicken and vegetable Penne Pasta with the leftover from the one chicken and the other one will go in the freezer for another day!

Written by Ed Schenk

March 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

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