Friday Nov 21, 2008

Grilled Sweet Potato Soup

Software:

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes or yams - yes they are different
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 "section" fresh ginger
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt, please
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp allspice (grind it yourself)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper - yeah right :)
  • 1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp lime juice and the zest from the lime
  • cigar for the cook
  • beverage for the cook

Hardware:

  • Man-Grill
  • stove top
  • motorboat
  • timer

Chop the sweet potatoes into half-inch rounds. Chop the onion likewise. Peel the ginger root but do not chop it - it's grilled whole. The onion and potatoes don't need to be too small, because the motorboat will make soup out of everything at the last step.

Grill the sweet potatoes, ginger, and onion on medium heat for 12 minutes, 6 per side. after 12 minutes, finely chop the ginger. Add potatoes, ginger, onion, stock, allspice, and cayenne to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Let soup cool for 15 minutes. Then motorboat the soup until smooth. Then add 1/2 and 1/2, parsley, lime juice, and zest and heat to serving temperature.



2004 Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2004GeyserPeak.jpg

2004 Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Simple but effective label, color nice but not opaque, simple nose, less body than I like in a Cabernet, plenty acidic, short-medium finish. Not one of my favorites, but still decent.

Sunday Aug 31, 2008

Filet Mignon, Ladypeas, Corn, Butterbeans, and Jalapeno Cornbread and 2006 Two Hands Angel's Share

The afternoon meal made use of the Man-Grill: Filet Mignon, a cut from the tenderloin, and Silver Queen corn cooked in the husks.

Nothing special about this meal from a marrying-of-flavors standpoint, What made the meal stand out was the quality and freshness of ingredients. The corn, ladypeas, and butterbeans were all fresh bought the day before from my local Farmer's Market.

The Filet Mignon is cut from the tenderloin and is an especially tender and tasty cut. Today's examples were USDA Choice. If USDA Prime is your game, or even Kobe (Wagyu), then I recommend ordering from Lobel's of New York. Very expensive but oh so wonderful.

Soak the corn, in husks, in ice water for at least an hour. Cook the corn in husks on the warming grill away from the burners but at the highest heat the Man-Grill can achieve for about 30 minutes. It will be juicy and blazing hot.

Cook the filets at the highest possible heat for 2 minutes per side, and as always, time everything with an electronic timer. Leave the lid down while cooking and resist the urge to open the lid.

Today's cigar was a Sancho Panza Glorioso. I'll call it 88 out of 100 for it's wonderful construction (box-pressed) and woody, earthy flavors. A very good cigar for about 3 USD.

Today's wine is one of my favorites: Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz from Australia. I make it 91 of 100, and a great bargain at about 20 USD per bottle. Powerful fruit notes, teeth-staining purple in color, with legs all the way up to its neck, it is one of the many excellent Shiraz from Two Hands.

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Saturday May 31, 2008

Twice-Cooked Pork Picnic Roast Burritos

Welcome to today's episode of Cigars and the Man-Grill. Today we make some wonderful twice-cooked pork shoulder roast burritos with a corn, peppers, onion, and tomato salsa. The burritos and the filling are colorful, attractive, summery and spicy, full of excellent vegetable matter, and use what's leftover from the pork picnic roast, and best of all, made entirely on the Man-Grill.

Notes for the food-sensitive: pork, salt, alcohol, and peanut oil are used in this dish.

Let's start with a few definitions. A Man-Grill is an outdoor cooking device with a bed for heat generation and suspended grates for a cooking surface. The device uses a metal or porcelain bed to contain and focus the heat energy produced by the fuel. A Man-Grill uses propane, charcoal, or wood for fuel. Men use this device for a variety of cooking and social purposes. In fact, nearly anything can be cooked on the Man-Grill. A Man-Grill is particularly attractive to men because of its outdoor location and large metal implements. Additionally, most foods cooked on the Man-Grill tend to be finger-foods, and we men like to play with our food.

A pork shoulder picnic roast is taken from the lower part of the shoulder of the domestic pig (sus scrofa). It can be used for hams, pulled pork, and in our case, just roasted.

A burrito (taco de harina) is a food item made from wrapping hot flour tortillas around almost anything edible and eaten by hand. Buy the expensive tortillas from the cooler, or make your own, they are easy to make.

The Man of the Man-Grill will need the following hardware:

  • fuel for the Man-Grill
  • Man-Grill, clean, in good condition
  • appropriate libation
  • metal or silicon tongs
  • wooden spoon
  • serving bowls
  • sharp knives
  • cutting boards
  • timer - never cook without a timer
  • heating device for tortillas. I use a metal colander suspended over boiling water
  • storage device for vegetable cuttings - I put them in an enclosed compost heap

and the following software:

Corn on the cob is a delicious summer treat. We tend to use white corn instead of yellow corn because of the slightly sweeter flavor profile of white corn. Corn on the cob (with husks intact) works very well on the Man-Grill. Soak in the husks for 30 minutes in ice-water prior to cooking.

We only partly cook a pork roast the first time around because we use it for different types of recipes and finish cooking it as part of the final recipe. This is a useful technique that ensures that the pork is not overcooked.

Chili peppers are literally a matter of taste. The uber-hot peppers like the habanero and the Scotch bonnet tend to dominate a dish with their tremendous heat. Poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, and finger-hots have great flavor but they don't wreck your taste buds with a the equivalent of a phaser-shot of heat. Hence, I almost always cook with one or more of the less hot versions, and I use several of each in this recipe.

Tomatoes of practically any variety will work in this recipe, as long as they are red and ripe. Cherry tomatoes yield a crunchier burrito than fresh garden tomatoes. The real key to choosing is: which ones look the best in the grocery store or on the vine?

Bell peppers (capsicum annuum) are "sweet" peppers that develop from peppercorns of the cultivar. They come in green, red, and yellow. I use all three colors in this recipe, chiefly for the color they add.

Allium cepa (onion), is a garden bulb. I don't care what color or cultivar they are, they are all good, and practically any variety will work in this recipe. Today's episode uses white onions because they looked best in the grocery store. If you choose scallions, use 10-12 for volume.

Garlic (allium sativuum) is also a type of onion, with a powerful odor and taste. One can never have enough fresh garlic.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is the leaves of the coriander, an annual herb with a very distinctive flavor and aroma.

Limes are a wonderful sour citrus fruit. Lime juice is used to kick up the fresh taste of this recipe.

Avocados are a soapy, waxy fruit. Optional.

Cholula sauce is a brand of pepper sauce of which I am particularly fond. Optional.

Pace Triple Pepper Salsa is a commercial salsa made from habaneros, green chilis, and anchos. Optional.

Tequila is an alcoholic libation made in Mexico from blue agave. If you use tequila, use a good tequila like Hornitos Reposado. In fact, never skimp on any ingredients, no matter what the ingredient. Spend more and use less. Make sure you taste the tequila before using it to cook with - don't want to use any sour tequila. That's a joke.

Red pepper flakes can be bought in the grocery store, but I make my own from cayenne and jalapenos I grow in the front yard every year. I only grow about 12-15 plants per year and that produces enough pepper for an entire year of cooking. Pick the peppers, and either dry them the oven or Man-Grill them, grind up what's left in a coffee-grinder (I have several coffee-grinders, only one of which is used for coffee, the rest are used for tasks not requiring the full-on food processor), and save in a glass jar with a cork stopper.

Olive oil: don't skimp goes double here. Buy only the absolute best extra virgin olive oil. It will be expensive, but the cook does not use that much of it. Hint: you will not find the really good olive oil in the grocery store, unless it is a specialty store or gourmet store. Keep a supply of regular, garden variety olive oil for lubrication of pans and skillets and such, and save the uber-good extra virgin oil for flavoring. Peanut oil is also an excellent lubricant, and has a very high smoke point and very little flavor. Peanut oil with its high smoke point is ideal for indoor use.

Always, always keep Kosher salt around for cooking. Kosher salt is salt with a large grain. Note that Kosher salt typically does not contain any additives like iodine - not that iodine in salt is a bad thing, I'm just sayin'. Kosher is a relative term here. Some brands of "kosher" salt contain items that are not kosher.

Pepper Mill. Locked and loaded with good peppercorns. Always use fresh cracked pepper. Life's too short for anger, bad wine and pre-ground pepper. Again, buy the best peppercorns in small quantities.

Let's get started. Pre-heat a Man-Grill as hot as you can get it, 500-600 degrees F is excellent - about 15 minutes should do the trick. You'll need 15 minutes to husk the corn and do the slicing and dicing.

Take the corn out of the ice-water and husk it - remember to put the husks in the compost heap. Cut the kernels off the cob and save in a bowl. The ice-water bath made the kernels easy to shave, and will help with moisture retention later. Slice all those wonderful chili peppers and add them to the corn bowl. Slice the bell peppers into bite-sized pieces, add to corn bowl. Slice the onion into bite-sized pieces and add to corn bowl.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half, or slice fresh garden tomatos into bite-size pieces and save in another bowl (use a large bowl or your final large serving bowl) separate from the corn, onion, and peppers. Punch up the garlic and add to the tomatoes. Sprinkle Kosher salt and pepper (not too much of either) on the tomatoes and garlic. Add sliced avocados if you want.

The corn bowl should now contain corn, chili peppers, onions, and bell peppers. There is a another bowl with tomatoes and garlic.

Shave the pork into slices large enough to put on the Man-Grill without falling through the grates - we'll cut it into bite-size pieces later.

Grab your favorite libation, a cigar, the corn and pork bowls and head out to the hot Man-Grill staging area. I use a cast-iron skillet for the corn mixture. Season the skillet with peanut oil (or olive oil, note that the more olive oil you use will affect the taste of everything later) and pour the corn, chili peppers, bell peppers, and onion mixture into the skillet. Season with a little bit of Kosher salt, and a lot of fresh cracked pepper. You can grind away with the pepper mill at this point, but go easy on the salt. Cut one of the limes in half and squeeze the juice into the skillet on top of the corn mixture. If you are using tequila, add about a half-cup to the corn skillet (pull the skillet away from any flames first) - if you are a hot-dog like me you will impress your friends with a little flame-in-the-skillet action at this point. The corn mixture will cook on an extremely hot Man-Grill in about 7 minutes.

After 5 minutes have elapsed, place the pork - remember it's not fully cooked - on the grill. If you are using fully cooked pork, do not place it on the Man-Grill. The heat will turn your fine pork into shoe leather. After 1 minute, pull the pork off the Man-Grill and slice into bite-size pieces and add to the tomatoes and garlic. You'll have one minute to do this before the 7 minutes expire. Start heating the tortillas at the same time.

After the full 7 minutes has expired, add the corn/onion/peppers mixture to the bowl with tomatoes, garlic and pork and toss well. Ladle into big flour tortillas and serve hot with Cholula and Pace Triple Pepper Salsa on the side. For a touch of class, microwave some wet napkins and place them in tea-towels on the table. Those who need or want them will be impressed, not thinking that Man-Grilling can have such a note of thoughtfulness.

A short note about today's wine. I've chose the Liberty School 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Inasmuch as I tend toward the best inexpensive wines I can find - inexpensive meaning less than $50 a bottle - Liberty School suits me well. It is not a first-class wine, nor does it possess a multitude of the defining characteristics of a Cabernet Sauvignon. However, it is perfectly satisfactory for an evening with a couple of glasses if you don't expect too much. For a more definitive inexpensive Cabernet, try a Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis.

Today's cigar: Fonseca Serie F Robusto. A powerful, robust, manly robusto. One of the best non-Cubans around. This cigar is not for the faint of heart and packs a tremendous punch, is full of flavor and might be the best cigar under $10 on the market in this man's opinion.

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Friday May 16, 2008

R.I.P. Robert Mondavi

Mondavi, a giant in the American wine world, and in the wine world at large, died today.

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Friday May 09, 2008

2003 Two Hands Samantha's Garden Shiraz

Wine 618155

2003 Two Hands Samantha's Garden Shiraz is a really subtle piece of work. I love the Australian Shiraz and blends, and this one is no exception to that love. Beautiful aroma and nose, not too snarky, powerfully forward fruit when uncorked. First impressions are of an opaque purple wine, with tremendous legs. A sip tells me this is a special wine, very subtle, not what one would necessarily expect from an Australian Shiraz, but it's true, nonetheless.

Powerful forward fruit makes for a real treasure of a wine.

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Saturday Mar 01, 2008

Flank Steak & the wok

Nice dinner today: rice, flank steak (a wonderful cheap cut that needs help), onion, broccoli, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, pepper corns, sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Make some good white rice first, and add a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar or even a tsp. or so of good sake for every 2 cups of water. Use kosher salt to salt the water, it helps when the starches start to do their thing.

Flank steak is a cheap cut of beef - but getting more expensive as folks learn how good it can be - that needs a little help. I marinate sliced flank steak in sesame oil, soy sauce, cracked peppercorns, fresh ginger, and maybe a little rice wine vinegar. The longer it marinates the better. Go easy on the vinegar, a teaspoon is sufficient. The flank steak, sliced into thin slices, and a diced white onion are first on the wok, cook 'til GBD but not completely cooked - it will go back into the wok with the veggies.

Wok (some people grok. I wok.) the veggies, add soy sauce and sesame seeds, when the broccoli is still crunchy put the onions and flank steak back in and heat it up in the wok, and serve super hot with hot rice and chopsticks. Hot sake - the good stuff, not the cheapo stuff - would go well with this meal.

A digression on soy sauce: do yourself a flavor and get some good soy sauce, not that popular supermarket brand. You'll thank me and your taste buds will thank me. Soy sauce should taste like fermented beans, not like salt. Personally, I'm fond of DHC aged Japanese, but there are many good brands.

The wine - I know said sake but I did not have any I was just thinking it would be good - was a terrible disappointment. The 2005 Simi Alexander Valley Cab just did not make the grade for me. I am always on the lookout for good supermarket wines but this is simply not a great wine for me. Your mileage may vary. I am not the world's biggest Cab fan anyway, but a cab should be much more cassis and black currants, none of which I was able to discern. Rather than finish the Simi, I opened a bottle of 2004 Marquis No.9 Shiraz ... ahh, that's the ticket.

What would I do different: more ginger. I went easy when I grated the ginger for the flank steak marinade because ginger has such a powerful flavor, but I should have used more. Less peppercorns. They're good, but perhaps a little hefty on the aromatic profile for this meal.

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Wednesday Feb 27, 2008

De Lisio Krystina 2005 Shiraz (Grade: A)

De Lisio Krystina 2005 is an outstanding 100% Shiraz from Australia. Shiraz lovers should flock to this excellent wine from a fine vintage. Plenty of forward fruit and some tannins, too, which makes me think this will last a few years. The bottle I just opened will not last past tomorrow night, though. Fortunately, I have another, and intend to buy more. This wine is slightly more subtle than many in-your-face Australian Shiraz (not that there is anything wrong with in-your-face Australian wine, those are my favorites), and still retains the subtle pencil-shavings and peppery notes I admire.

Photo

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Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Stir-Fry, Woks ... and the Man-Grill

Today's episode of Cigars and the Man-Grill is about stir-fry, woks, and wine. No cigars today.

A wok is an ancient, round-bottom cooking device that originates in China. The best woks are properly sized for their intended utilization, made of carbon-steel, and properly seasoned. One thing to know about woks: there is no need to buy an expensive, department store wok. I got mine at AceMart.COM for $12.98. It's 14 inches in diameter at its widest point, carbon-steel and restaurant quality - meaning it should last a long time and is not necessarily very attractive. I use mine on the grill with a wok-ring.

Wok Ring1124787305

A carbon-steel wok must be properly seasoned. The most effective method is to alternately heat and cool the wok with peanut oil - peanut oil has a very high smoke point and coats the steel very nicely. Apply a thin coating of oil, heat the wok up on full power for about 5 minutes, let it cool to room temperature, and repeat until properly seasoned. Some sticking may occur on a new wok, but no worries, if it is properly seasoned the food will fall away with a slight nudge from whatever device used to stir fry.

Today, I made a stir-fry of - in order of insertion into the wok - onions, snow-peas, broccoli, bay scallops, noodles, and bean sprouts. Once the vegetables (up to the broccoli) are hot and still crunchy, remove them to a bowl and stir-fry the scallops in sesame oil for about 3 minutes, add the spouts and noodles, season the lot with a good soy sauce - I like the aged Japanese variety from DHC - and after a couple minutes add the veggies and heat them up and serve very hot.

Wine after the meal is an outstanding Shiraz called Two Hands Angel's Share. One of my favorites, Angel's Share is powerful and fruity, peppery just a Shiraz should be. Another great find from Robert Parker's Weekly Wine Buys, Angel's Share is a $20 wine that tastes like a $50 wine.

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Sunday Nov 11, 2007

2004 Carbonnieux (Blanc)

Bordeaux is associated with red wines, but there are some excellent white (blanc) wines, for example, the Carbonnieux 2004 Blanc. A beautiful golden color, dry, but not too dry, it smells good, and it feels good in the mouth, and best of all, it tastes good. I bought a bottle at a new wine store today, chilled it (not too cold), and we're enjoying it right now. Recommended for wine lovers.

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