What a Jerk-y!

October 8, 2013 § 10 Comments

A friend of mine asked why I haven’t been posting lately. Well, life gets in the way. But also I’ve been cooking much of the same things so nothing too interesting or new, lots of Korean dishes (they need their own posts). There has been a few of things in the past month that I found interesting and new. The most recent has been homemade beef jerky and the one I’ve been most excited about.

Yup, beef jerky. We love them, eat them by the pound if we had them. Years ago when Bisher’s was still in the Old Poway location (and under the old ownership), they used to carry a spicy sweet jerky that was akin to crack. Couldn’t stop eating it but it was almost as costly as its weight in gold. Could have been for all I knew. I would have sold the kids if that’s what it meant to get more. Luckily I don’t have kids. Well, that’s if you don’t count the four-legged versions. Anywho…

The notion of making jerky is not a new one, been rolling that idea in my head for quite some time. Even tried the oven method once upon a time with sub-par results. Just never got serious about it since a dehydrator would be another gizmo to store somewhere. I really didn’t want to do the whole smoker method which required that I sort of watch over the smoker all day. With a dehydrator, I could just plug it in, walk away and in so many hours, jerky! Since life is short, I said why not. I had a gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket (as the Mister claims) and so I gotz me a new food dehydrator. The Mister wasn’t convinced that it would be cost effective to make our own say to buying Jack’s. But it’s not about being cost effective but more about time effectiveness AND having jerky that’s better than what we could buy.

I got the Nesco FD-80 based on the reviews. I liked the shape of it and the ability to control the temperature. It was a bit bigger than I realized but I was glad for the size when I did my first batch of jerky.

The recipe I used was pretty straightforward. I was making kalbi that day so I used the same liquid base and went from there.

  • 1 C soy sauce (I used Sempio Korean soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine (can substitute with sake or soju, I was out of both)
  • 2 tablespoon Worchestshire sauce
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 3/4 C sugar (you can use brown sugar too)
  • 2 garlic cloves (can substitute with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), adjust amount to your own liking
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon powder ginger (you can always use fresh, I was lazy)
  • Pinch of Accent (msg), about 1/8 teaspoon (leave out if you’re squeamish)

Everything went into the blender for the marinade.This will marinade up to 2.5 lb of sliced beef.

I went with flank steak from Costco since flank is low in fat content. There were 2 pieces in the package but I just used one of them, about 2 lb. Sliced it without freezing it first. One hour in the freezer will make slicing easier but I didn’t this time. I removed some of the excess fat but there weren’t much. I was able to get two fairly consistent thickness, the thickest being 1/4″ and thinnest at 1/8″. Didn’t worry about the different thicknesses since the thicker ones went on the top 2 trays and closest to the fan and heat. Beef went into the marinade, into the fridge for 20 hours. It was 20 hours only because that’s what it worked out to be. Goal was to marinate overnight. I don’t know, can the meat be over-marinated for jerky? Certainly if the slices were too thin.

Next morning, drained and patted dry the meat so they weren’t soaking wet. Stacked and ready for drying! Like I mentioned, the thicker slices were on the top trays with the thickest on the outside of the trays since those areas dry faster.

I checked around the 5-hour point. The thicker ones were starting to look good and the thinner ones are coming along beautifully. The thinner ones were ready in about 7 hours and the thicker ones 1.5 hours later. The flavor turned out great. The thinner ones were very similar to the ones from Bisher’s, just not as hot (more pepper flakes next time!). The thicker ones were chewy, the way the Mister likes them.

The cons of having this inside the house is that the whole house smells like a teriyaki jerky factory all day long and when it gets to the almost ready point, I found it really hard not to sneak a thin piece, for taste testing purposes of course. The pros obviously is a turn-on and leave setup, for the most part. And that you can easily sneak a piece to taste test. Also after the first few hours, my nose got used to the smell. Drove the dogs crazy.

The jerky will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for 3-4 weeks, as if they will last that long in this house. If the jerky has some fat on them, like in some of my strips where I couldn’t trim them away without tearing the meat apart, those should go in the fridge if not eaten in a few days. Those were the ones I ate first actually and the rest went into the fridge after a few days. Got a bag of it stashed way in the back for the MIL since I promised her a bag to call her own.

So was it time consuming and did the Mister think it was cost effective? He loved the taste and said it was better than any store bought version. And since all he had to do was open a bag to have some, it was extremely time “un-“consuming for him, hehe. But really, compared to what else I’ve attempted in the past, this was quite easy in prep and clean up. Oh yeah, the trays went straight into the dishwasher. So easy.

Next batch will be an attempt to make a Paleo version for the Mister at his request. I’m planning on using tamari, lots and lots of cracked black pepper with lots of red chili flakes to give it heat. He wants it hot, he’ll get hot. If it turns out well, guess what the SIL is getting for Christmas? (Holy crap, only 77 more days as of this posting.) So stay tuned for that one in the (hopefully) near future. It’ll be a good one for those who don’t want or can’t have sweet jerky.

Japchae

August 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

Since coming back from the Bay Area, I’ve been eating a lot of Korean food. At home, I’ve made mostly bulgogi (post to come) and galbi, but I recently tried my hand at making banchan, well, other than the simple cucumber salad. I typically buy banchan from Zion but since I like to have banchan on hand for just about anything lately, it was time to try making my own. I’ve been craving japchae lately although I don’t really know if japchae is actually considered a banchan dish or not. But anyways…moving on.

For Korean recipes, I usually go to my first source, Maangchi. If you haven’t checked out her sight or her videos, you gotta do it if you’re interested in Korean food. I normally don’t see japchae at Zion, and with the craving and all, it seemed like a good one to start with. It’s also a nice option for the Mister since it’s *mostly* Paleo friendly. At least now he can have another type of noodle other than kelp noodles. For hard core Paleo folks, leave out the sugar. Thank goodness I don’t have those kind of constraints!

So for my first japchae attempt, I followed Maangchi’s recipe almost exactly. There were a few things that I had to adjust, like the cooking time for the sweet potato noodles (dangmyun). Maangchi says to cook the noodles for 3 minutes but the brand I used said 7 minutes. It actually took about 6 minutes for the noodles to get soft. She also mentioned not to rinse the noodles after cooking. Other recipes I’ve read (online and in cookbooks) all recommended rinsing in cold water thoroughly. Lesson learned here, rinse after cooking because the noodles are soooo starchy that it took way more sesame oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. A whole lot more than what the recipe called for. So rinse those noodles immediately, people! That is unless you like sticky noodles and a shit load of sesame oil.

The other things I modified was just the amount of vegetables. I wanted more carrots and onions so I used 2 carrots and 1 very large onion. Once all the prep is done, this dish comes together very quickly. Oh yeah, one other note, Maangchi’s recipe called for 2 bunches of noodles. That’s about half a package of noodles. When I was at Zion, I looked at all the various brands of noodles and most of them weren’t separated in bunches within the package. Most packages were about 1 pound so for her recipe, use about 8 ounces. Oh yeah, one other thing to note. Maangchi cooked most of the ingredients separately and then added them all together. To make it simpler, you can cook the onions and carrots together to save a step.

Overall, we enjoyed this version, even with the extra sesame oil. I liked the white mushrooms in there as well. What’s really nice is that you can add whatever kind of vegetables you want in this as well as any protein. Want to go vegetarian? Leave out the meat or substitute it with some tofu (fried ones perhaps). Only like one kind of vegetable? Then add only that, albeit I think it needs onions for a fuller flavor. The sweetness of the dish can easily be adjusted. I don’t like mine that sweet so I cut back a bit on the sugar. I like just a hint of sweetness.

This dish holds well as a leftover. The noodles don’t get bloated like cellophane noodles and kept its chewiness for a few days of reheating. Loved it! I’ve added some spicy chili paste sauce to one lunch and that was really good, gave it a nice kick. Another time I added a few dashes of Golden Mountain sauce (or Maggi sauce) before reheating and that gave it a different and yummy twist. Best part is that I’m getting a good serving of veggies, if I eat enough of it at one sitting. This is definitely one banchan that I’ll be keeping as a regular.

Cheek Meat Tacos (with Salsa Fresca)

July 1, 2012 § 4 Comments

See this?

This has been sitting in the freezer for a couple of months now. It’s 1.3 pounds of pork cheek meat. Beautiful stuff. I got this as part of my 50-lb meat pack and I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it, pork cheek tacos. It just took me a little while to get around to making it.

I had several cheek meat recipes flagged but I ended up adapting And Lashings of Ginger Beer’s recipe since it sounded closest to what I had in my head. I also liked the Salsa Fresca recipe since it’s very similar to the one I make at home. Only difference was the use of cherry tomatoes versus Romas. Quite frankly, I’m loving the use of chopped cherry tomatoes for tacos. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes came through (sometimes Romas just lack the tomato-ey goodness, you know?) and really complimented the taco.

We tried other toppings as well, pickled onions and jarred (gasp!) green salsa but both overpowered the shredded meat. The picture were the three medley (left to right): jarred salsa verde, pickled red onions, salsa fresca (Roma tomato version).

Let me just say how addictive these tacos were. We loved it so much that I went on a hunt for more cheek meat. I went to two different Mexican grocery stores up in Escondido and was able to find beef cheek meat. Using the same ingredients and method, the beef cheek meat turned out just as delicious although it had a bit more gristle than the pork cheek meat. I think it was attributed to the quality of cheek meat. The beef cheeks had substantially more fat and connective tissue, the majority of which I removed. Anyway, even if you can’t find cheek meat or don’t want cheek meat, you can probably use whatever meat you want. I think short ribs, pork shoulder, stew meat, any meat good for braising would work.

One of the things that I added to the recipe was roasted red bell pepper and roasted Pasilla chile pepper. I roasted these over my gas burner but you can roast them over any live fire source (gas or charcoal grill works great). But you can also roast them in the oven using the broil function. You can do a search for how to roast peppers or check out eHow here for their instructions.

Here are my peppers just after I roasted them. I didn’t roast the red bell peppers until it was completely blacken, well, because I was lazy. But you can see that the Pasilla pepper peel was pretty much all blackened.

Here they are steaming away. I let them sit for about 20 minutes before I removed the peels, seed core and ribs.

Here is the pork cheek meat, simmering to a thick rich pot of goodness. See the specks of red bell pepper and Pasilla peppers? This just after I had shredded the meat. Look at how much liquid is still left! Those cast iron pots really keeps the moisture in. It took about 30 minutes to reduce down the liquid from this batch.

Here’s a shot of the beef cheek meat filling. You can see some of the red bell peppers in there. The Pasilla peppers aren’t as apparent since it almost dissolves into the mixture. Delicious.

When I picked up the beef cheek meat, I also picked up a back of small corn tortillas from Vallarta. The bags had just come out, freshly made, everyday.

I think it was Dennis that once asked what my favorite brand of tortillas were. I think this is my favorite brand now.  It takes a little longer to heat up since it’s thicker than those mass-produced brands (you know, the crappy “Mission” kind that breaks apart with any kind of bending).

Leftover meat mixture can be kept in the fridge for a week. Just nuke and serve. Oh so good!

Cheek Meat Tacos
Adapted from “And Lashings of Ginger Beer”
Ingredients
  • For Shredded Meat
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled and seeded, chopped
  • 1 roasted Pasilla pepper, peeled and seeded, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb pork (or beef) cheeks, cut into large pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Broth or water, enough to cover meat
  • For Salsa Fresca:
  • 1 small basket of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 1 Serrano or Jalapeno chili, seeded and deveined, minced
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
For Meat:
  1. If using oven method, pre-heated to 300 degrees F and that the pot you are using is oven safe.
  2. In a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add pork and lightly brown all the sides, about 5 minutes. Don’t crowd the pot, do it in batches if necessary. Remove the pork and set aside, leaving the excess oil and any burnt bits in the pan.
  3. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to pot, add onion and garlic. Cook until translucent.
  4. Return the pork to the pot, add roasted peppers, bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin, chili flakes, vinegar and tomato paste. Once mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat to low (simmer). Add broth so that it almost-but-not-quite covers the pork. Put the lid on and simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes.
  5. If using oven method, put covered pot into oven and cook for at least 2 hours, stirring every 30-40 minutes.
  6. I never had a problem with the meat mixture drying out during cooking but if you find that your mixture is drying out at any time using whichever method, if the mixture drying out at any time, add 1/2 cup of water. I’ve never had a problem with the pot drying out during cooking but if you find that the meat mixture is drying out at any time, add an additional 1/2 cup of broth or water.
  7. You’ll know when the meat is done when you can press on the meat with a spoon and it falls apart easily. Take it off the stove (out of the oven) and shred the meat in the pot. You can use a couple of forks but I just use a wooden spoon and press the meat apart.
  8. Put the pot on the stove and using low heat, cook and stir to reduce the pork-sauce a little so that it darkens and thickens. Cooking time will depend on how much sauce is left and how thick you want it. I usually let it simmer for another 30 minutes but you can speed it up by using medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. While the pork cooks, put together the salsa fresca.
For Salsa Fresca:
  1. Mix first 5 ingredients together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Easy, right?

Oxtail Soup the Pressure Cooker Way

June 19, 2011 § 7 Comments

Back when the weather was still a bit cool, I finally made oxtail soup in the pressure cooker. I followed the recipe but only added 2 cups of broth. I can’t find my notes on cooking time but if my memory is correct, I cooked it for 45 minutes. These are the oxtails just before the pressure cooker lid went on.

The oxtails cooked about 5 minutes too long because the meat was falling off the bone. I like the meat to still have some cling. So how did it compare to the stove-top version? Well, it was good but the oxtail and broth lacked the depth of flavor that the stove-top version has. I was a bit surprised that the oxtail didn’t taste as rich since it was browned before cooking. Not sure if it’s because it was cooked a little too long or because of the pressure cooker but nonetheless, it just wasn’t as succulent. I’m guessing the broth was a bit lacking because it didn’t reduce down, which would have intensified the beefy flavor. Overall it was good but I think I’ll stick to the stove-top method. I think in order to get achieve the same depth would add more time to the whole process, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of using a pressure cooker. I don’t know, I might try it one more time with some adjustments.

BTW, the noodles in the first picture were actually kelp noodles (which are Paleo/Primal friendly). The texture is very similar to Asian cellophane (bean thread) noodles. It doesn’t absorb liquid and flavor as readily as cellophane noodles but is a very good substitute. It needs to be kept in the fridge and unused portions will keep for a long time in water.

Grilled Tri-tip and Tomato Blue Cheese Salad

June 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

 

Other than stir-fries, I’ve also been doing a lot of grilling and barbecuing. Did I mention I love my new charcoal grill? I say it every time I use it. About the only thing I don’t grill on the new kettle is kalbi. That, for some reason, I find much easier to do on the gas grill. Anyway, back on topic.

So we got a tri-tip for me to grill (the Mister chose grass-fed and finished beef). I’ve had people ask me if I notice a difference between standard vs. grass-fed/finished beef. We’ve been eating a lot of meat lately from different sources and I have to say that we DO taste the difference. The most apparent is between farm-raised pork and store-bought pork. I smoked some baby backs from Costco along with some BBs from farm-raised pigs and boy, what a difference. Don’t get me wrong though. The Costco BBs (and their steaks) were still pretty awesome. So I guess my point is if you get a chance to try grass fed/finished beef and farm-raised pork, do it. Okay, once again, back to the topic.

So he got me a tri-tip to grill. Simple seasoning: kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I used the Weber Gourmet BBQ System I got a few weeks ago since I wanted to get some awesome searing on this baby. The searing was a bit more apparent before it went on indirect heat.

I pulled it off the grill when the thinner end reached 135 degrees. Foiled and let rest for 10 minutes. The fatter end was a bit redder but we like that.

I served some Bibb (Boston/Butter) lettuce on the side aswraps along with some pretty tasty green salsa by Mrs. Renfro’s. This was da Mister’s find and it’s also awesome with eggs. Very nice kick.

I had tr-tip sandwiches the next day. The Mister had it as is, slightly warmed up.

Along with the tri-tip, I made a tomato blue cheese salad. The recipe is a spin on a Tyler Florence’s recipe that uses buttermilk. Since I don’t always have buttermilk on hand and I found that the original recipe’s dressing was a bit too thin, I reworked it and it tastes just as good. You can adjust the blue cheese to your taste. We like  the little chunks of blue cheese. This dressing is also good on other salads. For this meal, I added some Persian cucumbers and the remainder of the Bibb lettuce. This was a mix of store-bought yellow cherry tomatoes and a handful from the garden. My tomatoes are just starting to ripen and I have to pick individuals to stay one step ahead of my tomato-stealing dogs. Well, one of them is really good at stealing tomatoes and he knows exactly when they are perfect for stealing picking. I put up a barricade so maybe they’re safe for now.

Tomato Blue Cheese Salad
Adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes, or red grape tomatoes, or both
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

For dressing, combine blue cheese, milk, sour cream and olive oil in a medium bowl and stir together with a fork, mashing a little to break up the cheese. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chives. Set aside.

Wash the tomatoes and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise season with a pinch of salt. Add the tomatoes to the dressing and toss to combine then garnish with freshly ground pepper, to taste.

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