Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cherries Part 2 - Turkey Cherry Chili

I just noticed my last post didn't have a title. That sucks.  I could have come up with something catchy and alliteration-y like all my pumpkin posts.  Cheery Cherries?  Cherry Chow?  Cherries for Chomping.  That's the one.  Let's just pretend I called it that!

This recipe kind of started out as a joke.  Mondays tend to be "crock pot" day in the house, and I was looking at what I had on hand and what I could make with it, and with cherries, and this just sort of developed.  Even after I decided I was actually going through with it, I wasn't sure that it was going to work.  I called my husband on the way home from work (a bad day at work, on top of that) to ask him to open up the crock pot and make sure what was cooking was actually food.  There was, in my opinion, a good chance that I was stopping at Gold Rush Chicken on my way home.  (BTW, fellow Milwaukeeans, Gold Rush is the best chicken in the whole world.  Quite possibly the only restaurant I have endorsed so far on this website.  It is not good for you.  I'm sure they're not buying local chicken.  You will probably regret it the next day.  But SO good!!!  Make sure you put the bag the chicken comes in into a plastic bag before putting it in your car, or you will have a grease stain on your car seat!)

But it was food.  It was good food!  It was good, hearty, Wisconsin-y food.  I'm really pretty damn proud of how good it is.  A good entry for the contest... except that it didn't taste like cherries.  And, again, I feel like, as on Iron Chef, cherries need to be the star of the show.

So try this.  Don't be afraid of it.  I promise.  It's not as weird as dandelion soup.  None of the ingredients are weeds.  It's a good meal for a cold winter night.  Or, really, a not that cold winter night because it's been pretty warm this winter!

I used butternut squash in this because I don't like beans.  And as far as I'm aware there aren't any WI grown kidney beans.  But I'm sure you could use your favorite beans in place of (or in addition to) the squash.

In my mind, this needed more heat.  My friend Denise (who I do refer to as "Wimpy Spice" because she can't stand anything spicy) thought it was perfect.  I'm pretty sure I will make it again, and when I do I will probably chop up one of the Thai chilies to add some heat.

Turkey Cherry Chili 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup Cherryland's Best Dried Cherries (you should hear how sarcastic that sounds in my head.)
  • 1 pt homemade (or store bought) chunky spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups Cherryland's Best Tart Cherry Juice
  • 2 Thai chilies, whole
In a large frying pan over high heat, or crock pot on "brown"setting,  heat up oil and brown onion for about 5 minutes.  Add turkey, season with salt and pepper, and brown for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic, and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Transfer to the crock pot, if not already there.  Add squash, dried cherries, spaghetti sauce, and cherry juice, and stir to combine.  Cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove whole chilies before serving. 

I served this over elbow noodles.  I was pretty excited to find there's an organic pasta company in Chicago (less than 100 miles!) who make elbow noodles and tri-colored rotini.  This probably wasn't necessary, but I like pasta in my chili.

This was really thick. If you like a soupier chili, add two cups of turkey or chicken stock.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

So Friday's post (especially the awesome on that no one got to read) was about learning about recipes, combining them, and making new recipes.   This is actually a new concept for me.  Sure, I can substitute as well as (and probably better than) the next girl, but it's not very common that I come up with my own recipes.  I tend to just Google until I find the recipe that matches the food I have in my head.  I figure, everything's probably been written anyway.  It's funny.  I probably own 50+ cookbooks, and I hardly ever look at any of them.  Some of them have legitimately never been opened, except at the store when I bought them after looking at all of the pretty pictures.  I like cookbooks for the same reason I keep wanting to go back to school.  I like the idea of knowledge.  It is important to continue to grow, to learn new things, to change your mind, and to move your way of thinking forward.  In theory.  In reality, it's important to get my job done, keep the house clean, do the laundry, and try to find time to work out.  So I buy the books, with the hope of learning in the future, but end up just storing them in my kitchen like a very expensive accent wall.  This is, in my mind, the next step in my culinary journey. 

I want to really learn what works together.  I want to have a meal in my head, and create the recipe without having to find it on the internet.  I can do this with pasta; is everything else really that different?  Or, am I just used to making pasta ala whatever the hell is in my fridge, and I've never given myself the opportunity to do the same with other meals?

Here's a reason to give it a try:

To celebrate the 280th birthday of George Washington, MKEfoodies and Cherryland's Best of Appleton are sponsoring a "Great Wisconsin Cherry Recipe Contest."  The prize: $100 and $100 in cherry products.  Fancy.  But, it says that recipes will be judged on "their use of Door County Cherries, taste, creativity, uniqueness, and their "Wisconsin Spirit" (meaning using local WI products), so I feel like this is just the contest for me.  Why the heck not, right?  I like cherries, and dried cherries in the middle of winter are a nice treat.  Plus, cherries are good for you, so it's a win-win-win!

And, the contest requires original recipes only.  Which makes sense.  It wouldn't be very nice for me to enter a recipe contest using someone else's recipe

I kind of thought my first try would be the winner, straight off the bat.  Mostly because it was lamb, and I love me some lamb.  Delicious.  But it wasn't the winner.  It was delicious, but it didn't really taste like cherries.  I'm taking this contest like an Iron Chef challenge: the cherries need to be the star. Lamb has too overpowering of a flavor (delicious as it is), and the cherries were just overpowered.

I served this with sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and garlic mashed potatoes.

Cherry Braised Lamb Shanks
(Makes enough for two with plenty of leftovers)

  • 4 lamb shanks (about 3/4 lbs each)
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 large onion, about two cups roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup Cherryland's Best Dried Cherries (I'm such a sell out!)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
-->1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeng
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh, frozen, canned.  Doesn't matter.  Just make sure they're peeled)
  • 1 cup dark beer
  • 1 cup Cherryland's Best Tart Cherry Juice
  • Coat a large Dutch oven generously with olive oil and bring to a high heat.

    Season the shanks generously with salt and pepper, and brown well on all sides in the Dutch oven.  Work in batches if you feel they are crowding each other.  Once browned, transfer shanks to a plate or pan and set aside.

    While the shanks are browning, puree the onions, carrots, celery, cherries, and garlic in a food processor until it becomes a course paste, about 1 minute total.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Discard any excess fat from the pan.  Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the pureed cherry mixture and spices, including bay leaves.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  (At this point, I tasted, found it a little bitter, and added a handful more cherries.)  Sautee until the puree is very brown and aromatic, about 20 minutes.  They should form a crust on the bottom of the pan but SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO BURN.  Stir constantly.

    Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Taste again and adjust if needed.  Add beer and juice and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has reduced in half.

    Add the shanks back to the pot, along with enough water to make sure they are fully submersed.  Cover the Dutch oven, and place into the pre-heated oven.  Cook 2 ½ to 3 hours, checking every 45 minutes.  If the shanks are uncovered, add more water.  Skim any fat off the top each time you check.

    Uncover the pot during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

  • Friday, January 27, 2012

    Stupid Blog

    I had almost a full blog posted, and it disappeared.  It was very thoughtful and deep and SO well written that it probably would have gotten me my own show on cooking channel.  And now it's gone and I am bitter.  Boo.  There goes my chance of fame and fortune.

    Guess I am stuck being your plain, boring food blogger... for now.

    I don't have the time or energy to re-craft the whole thing.  It's like when you leave a really ranty drunk-dial voicemail message, and when you're almost done you get the "If you are satisfied with your message, press one.  If you would like to re-record, press two."  No, computerized phone bitch, I am neither done nor do I want to re-record.  I want to finish my drunken rant uninterrupted, and then go back to being amused with how clever I am!

    Anyway, the point was that food mistakes are good.  Even if a meal is completely inedible, you can learn something from it.  Also, if a meal is inedible, you should order up some sushi, because you earned it. It was also about learning from your successes, and building new recipes off of those successes, and excluding based on the failures. 

    Having to find interesting things to post every other day (it's my goal, even if it doesn't really happen) has made stray from my regular, go-to, top 10 recipes.  One way that I have stretched myself is by combining recipes I know into weird Frankenstein recipes.  Usually this works.  Sometimes it doesn't.

    Taste wise, this recipe worked really well in my opinion.  Looks wise, it's pretty brown.  So I've got to work on that...  The recipe itself is a combination of two recipes from my regular repertoire: pork chops braised in apples and onions, and Coq a Vin.  The thought process goes like this: Chicken is good braised (Coq a Vin); things can be braised in apples and onions (pork chops), so lets braise chicken in apples and onions.

    The failure here is in the color.  This chicken was delicious, but I ended up throwing some of it away.  I really believe that is because it wasn't a pretty color.  If I did this again, I think I might substitute red wine for the apple cider.  This would make the sauce darker, and the whole thing not mud colored.  Also, this could have used some potatoes or past or something to soak up some of that sauce.  But, otherwise, really good.

    But, not as good as the awesome post that stupid blogger deleted. 

    I used my stand by Coq a Vin recipe as the base, mostly to figure out how much liquid to use, and how long to cook the chicken.  Even though this recipe is more like my pork chop recipe, I didn't use that as the base, because I'm not cooking pork chops... if that makes sense.  Chicken needs a certain amount of liquid and a certain amount of time to braise properly, regardless of what the liquid is and what else you put in it.

     This is also a good use for apples that have gotten a little old and you don't really want to just eat anymore.  You could also just make them into a pie.  If you weren't completely stocked up with apple pie filling, that is.

    Chicken Braised in Apples and Onions:
    Served with roasted beets, wilted spinach, and goat cheese

    • 1 3 1/2 to 4 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
    • 2 tbsp olive oil or (if you're feeling frisky) bacon fat
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
    • 2-3 firm apples, peeled and chopped
    • 3 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
    • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 2 cups chicken cider, red wine, or a combination of the two.  (I think, next time, I will use 1 cup wine and 1 cup cider.  Hard, if you've got it and you're willing to put it into food as opposed to straight into your belly.)
    • 1 bayleaf

    Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.   Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat (or bacon fat.  Have I mentioned that I keep a jar of bacon fat in my fridge.  Every time I make bacon, I pour leftover fat from the pan into the jar and stick it back in the fridge.  Then, I scoop it out and cook with it.  Economical and DELICIOUS.)  Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken in batches and brown on all sides.  Transfer to a platter and set aside.

    Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions to the pan.  Saute until lightly browned and soft.  Add the apples and continue to cook until the apples are just tender, about 5 more minutes.  Increase heat to medium high, add the garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant - about two minutes.  Please, for the love of god, do not burn the garlic or I will come to your house and slap you.

    Add the stock and (hard) apple cider/red wine and deglaze the pan.  Add the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, and reduce to a gentle simmer.  Carefully place the chicken back into the pan, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the thickest part shows no pink when cut into.

    Serve over some sort of starch so the sauce doesn't pool all over the plate like mine did!

    Saturday, January 21, 2012


    What is there not to like about carnitas?  I love pork.  I love Mexican food.  I love tequila.  (Okay, not really directly connected to carnitas, but for some reason just sitting around drinking margaritas without Mexican food makes me feel like a lush.  Unless it's really hot out.  Strange, because I don't feel that way about wine...)

    According to Wikipedia (which is back up and running, thank god!  I don't know how I survived prior to having immediate access to questionable information about things that don't really matter...), Carnitas literally means"little meats," and is pork that is braised for 8 to 10 hours at a very low heat, before being pulled apart and then roasted at high heat (375-425 degrees) for a few minutes.  I had never done this final step before, as my recipe just calls for seasoning the meat and throwing it into a crock pot, but I am nothing if not OBSESSED with following the rules of cooking... no, wait.  The opposite of that.

    Anyway, the reason given for this final step was to "produce the desired alternating texture of succulent softness and caramelized crispness" which sounded delicious, so I thought I would give it a try.  I think there was a difference, and it really didn't add much cooking time, so I would continue this step.  Also, it makes a lot of sense for how I cook, which is making WAY more meat that Jeff and I can consume in one meal and then heating it up throughout the week for lunches and whatnot.  I figure you only roast up what you're going to eat that day.  If you need more, I only left the meat in for 10 minutes so it's pretty easy to just finish off more.  That makes me think that this would be a really good meal for a dinner party, because you could make all the meat the day before and then just heat it up day of.  Those Mexicans - they're so smart!

    Another interesting thing that I learned from Wikipedia is that cartinas is singular, and is JUST the meat.  So, you could use carnitas in anything, and it would still be carnitas.  Which makes me feel good, because my final product is pretty gringo'd up.  Cheddar cheese because I couldn't find any I couldn't find any local chihuahua cheese (also, chihuahua cheese freaks me out - goat cheese comes from goats, where does chihuahua cheese come from?!?), I'm not sure tomatoes are appropriate, and I'm sure bruschetta topping isn't.  Corn tortillas would be the right choice, but there is a local restaurant that makes their own flour tortillas and so I went with that instead.  Sour cream?  Not in any recipe I've seen.    


    I did use some non-local ingredients here, but they came from a local, privately owned business.  I need chips, and I need guacamole.  Some might say "need" is too strong of a word.  To them I say, "leave me alone, okay?  This is hard, geez.  Give me a break!" 

    Modified from William Sonoma: Essentials of Slow Cooking

    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 boneless pork shoulder roast (3-4 lbs)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup Mexican Lager style beer
    • 1/2 habanero chili
    • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
    • splash of orange juice
    • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
    Season pork generously with salt and pepper.

    In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the pork and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary.  Remove the pork and set aside.

    Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the beer and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

    Transfer the pork to a slow cooker, and pour in the beer mixture.  Add chili, zest, lime juice, and orange juice, and transfer to a crock pot.  Cook for 10 hours on the low heat setting.  In the last hour, add oregano.

    Once the slow cooking is over, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

    Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Coarsely cut and shred the pork using a sharp knife and a fork.  Skim as much fat as possible from the surface of the cooking liquid.  Transfer the pork to a heavy, oven proof pan and add enough liquid to cover about half way up the meat.  Keep the rest of the liquid warm, just at a simmer.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the liquid in the pan just evaporates.

    Transfer the meat to a warmed platter, moisten with additional cooking liquid, and use in tacos, burritos, tamales, etc. as you see fit.

    Since, of course, I made way more meat that two people could eat in one meal, I have a lovely leftover recipe.  This does use non-local kumquats, which are probably my favorite fruit ever.  Especially since they're only available in the dead of winter.  They're like little bursts of sunshine, and I wasn't going to miss out.

    If you're not trying to be as local as possible, I would use some rice noodles in this recipe, but I did use my own home made spaghetti.  To which I added pork, a few more peppers, some fresh cilantro from the farmer's market, reduced braising liquid and, of course, kumquats.  I sauteed up some garlic with the peppers, then added in two cups braising liquid and simmered until reduced by half.  Then I added the pork and continued to simmer until heated through.  Cooked noodles, then kumquats.  Dish it out, and top with cilantro and more kumquats.  Everything was crazy spicy, but the kumquats are sweet and sour and overall it was pretty awesome.

    I don't get people who don't like leftovers.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Dogs Can Be Local Too

    This is an old post.  It's a Christmas post, so it's real late.  I probably have better things to write about, true.  I've got pictures of meals that were pretty darn good, and pretty darn local.  I actually feel like, after almost a year, I'm starting to get the hang of this.  I'm starting to get an idea of what I need to stock up on.  I'm going to be a little more discerning in my canning next year.  There are some things I need less of (random salsas, chutnies, hot peppers, and garnishes), and some things I need more of (straight up tomatoes, tomatillos).  There are also things that I didn't can any of, that I need (fruit, jellies, mild green chillies). 

    So things to talk about, yes. 

    But right now, fun.

    Lets be honest; I feed my dog regular bagged food.  I see the commercials for feeding my dog "real food," and I feel bad for about a second, and then I remember my dog would prefer a dead bird, or something rotting out of the garbage.  Maybe a side of goose poop.  So... yeah, I'm feeding him dog food from a bag.

    But I do tend to spend too much money on presents for pets (my pets and other people's pets), so this year, all the pets got home made presents.  They're pets... they didn't know it was Christmas.  They don't know that I'm a month late writing this post.  They know that I'm not feeding them, and they're angry that I'm not feeding them.  So I guess I will feed them. 

    And, if I'm making home made dog treats, I guess they have to be local.

    Basically I cooked up some carrots, mashed them, mixed them with some cottage cheese and a little bit of mint, and then added flour until it was the consistency of cookie dough.  I rolled it out and cut it into dog treat shapes (bones, little men, and cats)

    And then I baked them until crispy, which was about 10 minutes.

    And then I fed them to Dusty.  He was happy.  The cats (who are just outside of the edges of this picture) swooped in and got the crumbs. They were also happy.
    I'm so good.  I'm so good...

    Nom!  Wait.  Do dogs say nom?  All my friends are cats, so I think it's okay...

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Really?  Has it really been a full week since I last posted?  Damn. 

    Things have been super crazy at work.  Not that I would ever post my blog at work, you know, because that would be wrong.  WRONG.  Totally inappropriate, and I certainly would not engage in time theft.  Because, again, wrong. 

    That is why I need my own cooking show.  I mean, come on... if Nadia G can have a cooking show, why the hell can't I?  Just because I don't have an obnoxious accent?  I can fake one.  I can fake one at least as well as she does...

    Let's start a petition.  Get Kate her own show on Food Network.  Or Cooking Channel.  Or, heck, Travel Network.  Marc Summers... Help me out!

    But, back to the real world, work has been stressful.  True, that has no reflection on my posting, but it does reflect on my cooking.  The past week's meals have been kind of "meh."  Not bad, per say, just not impressive, either.  Not anything that I'd tell you to make. 

    Slow Cooked Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew?  Okay.  Filling.  Hearty.  Not very pretty and not really a good use of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which are kind of expensive.

    Apple Sauce Baked French Toast?  Bad.  Barely edible.  Really the only thing that saved the meal was that I also made bacon and it's hard to be mad about anything when you're having bacon for dinner.  Brinner (Breakfast + Lunch = Brunch; Breakfast + Dinner = Brinner) is my favorite meal.  I enjoy very little in life more than eggs, salty meat, and a glass of red wine.  This meal did not live up to the promise of all that Brinner has to offer.

    I did, however, make a mean baked chicken.  Butterflied, with a spicy rub of fresh garlic, shallots and oregano,  smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and a chunk of candied ginger (one of my favorite foods.  I'm going to go eat one right now!)  I used a modified Alton Brown method - I broiled the whole thing skin side down for 10 minutes, flipped it, broiled it skin side up for another 10 minutes, then baked at 350 until it was 160 degrees in the chicken breast (yes, I got a meat thermometer for Christmas.  Double yes, I'd been living without one before that!)  Almost perfect.  Still a little pink in the thigh.  Next time I will take it up to 165.  But the skin was nice and crispy, and the white meat was perfect...

    The best part, though, was the vegetables.  Vegetables not generally being the awesomeist thing in the winter, I was happy to whip up some good greans. I got some fresh turnips at the market with their greens attached, and I was very excited to cook them up.  Unfortunately, having never made turnip greens before, I trusted the websites over my better judgement.  I like my greens barely cooked.  Lightly sauteed, wilted, that sort of thing.  But, I know that turnip greens are a hardier green than a spinach, so I believed the website when it told me to boil it for 10-15 minutes.  I think, though, that my turnips were a little younger than what was expected because when I checked after about 5 minuets, they were goo.  Gross.  So I'll try again and just saute them down like I would spinach.

    My favorite part of the greens, though, was that I had to chop everything up in advance.  Jeff was out at a band function, and I wanted to quick make them as soon as he got home.  So I chopped everything up and put it into little bowls like a TV chef.  Mise en Place, BITCHES!

    This is, circling around from top left: onion, bacon, turnips, bok choy, garlic, and the stem of the bok choy.  Fry up the bacon over medium heat until it's starting to render but not yet crispy.  Add the onions and cook about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, turnips, and bok choy stems and cook about 5 minutes more.  Add the bok choy leaves, season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze a lemon over the whole thing, turn the heat off, and cover.   Delicious!  And all local except the lemon...