Wednesday, May 28, 2008

deep fried pickles? YES!

Dearest Internets,
Want to take a darn tasty BBQ pork sandwich and elevate it to a crazy level? Add DEEP FRIED PICKLES. Really! Do it! drain some hamburger dill slices, dry 'em off with paper towels, dredge them in flour, then dip them in a batter made from 1 cup flour, 1 Tablespoon baking powder and a light-bodied beer. Fry them until they are GBD (Sorry...that's Alton Brown speak...Golden Brown Delicious), and kaboom! They're excellent just as munchies, too, of course, however, like I said, ours went on BBQ pork sandwiches. Jack made them from pork steaks (slices of pork butt for those not familiar with this St. Louis cut of pork), grilled then sliced thin and tossed in a homemade raspberry BBQ sauce. Sweet, spicy, fatty...the pickles add salty, crunchy, and a bit of sour. CHOMP!

You're welcome,
iron stef

P.S. Speaking of grilling (yay warm weather!) are some grilling ideas from the Iron Stef Archives:
-teeny burgers and how to top them.
-Jack's Sandwich of Awesome.
-Make a fabulous Chicago-style hot dog relish.
-Tequila lime chicken!
-Grilled salsiccia sandwiches.
-Giant smooshed sandwich with grilled veggies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ducked up

I was excited. I was finally gonna get back in the kitchen and make something spectacular and fancy AND delicious. The ducks had been in the freezer longer than I care to admit. I wanted to do right by them. I'd never cooked wild duck. Jack was familiar, as he'd grown up hunting them. But his family always ate them fried. My ducks needed more excitement than that. Then the friend who had killed the fine-feathered fellas gave me a recipe from the book Gourmet Gone Wild. “Chinese Mahogany Mallard” sounded like perfection. I had no more excuses. The quackers came out of the freezer.

Lemme post this recipe so you know what I was in for.

Chinese Mahogany Mallard

2 4-pound oven-ready mallard duck
3 teaspoons salt

Basting sauce

1 cup dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
¼ cup dark corn syrup
¼ cup rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 star anises
1 teaspoon crushed red peppercorns

Clean the Ducks well. Remove the wing tips and the lumps of fat from inside the vent. Blanch in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, remove, and dry well. Rub the ducks with salt inside and out, and refrigerate overnight.
For the basting sauce: Heat all the ingredients, bring to a boil, and blend well. Set aside. When the ducks are ready, brush the basting sauce all over them; give them several coatings. Then let them dry, uncovered, in a cool and airy place, such as the refrigerator, for at least 4 to 5 hours.
To cook: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange oven racks so the ducks will fit on the top rack of the oven. To catch drips and prevent smoking, place a large tray or shallow pan with 1 inch of water on the bottom rack of the oven under the ducks. Roast the duck for 30 minutes. Baste again and reduce oven to 350 degrees. Roast for another 60 minutes or until done, basting with the remaining sauce every 20 minutes.
To serve: Let the ducks cool down a little, and chop them into bite size pieces. Serve hot or cold with steamed white rice. Reduce the extra basting liquid and serve as a sauce or dip.

Okay, got that? So first off, my ducks were serious. They were wild and were killed all gangsta-like. They were mostly cleaned for me, but both still had one feathery wing attached, as per a law or something…to prove they were of legal sex and species…or something…I’m not a hunter…I don’t know. All I knew was “EW! YIKES! FEATHERS!!!”. I grabbed my non-existent cajones and chopped them wings right off. Manly. Then I blanched the wingless ducks. It smelled pretty good…that quick moment of boiling. Like a strong chicken stock or something. Ohhh…exciting. This was going to be good. The salt rubbing commenced. Rub and wait. That’s life, no?

After all the macho plucking and hacking and rubbing, I made the basting sauce. I made it according to the recipe exactly, except I was not able to find red peppercorns, so I used plain old black pepper and a pinch of “chilly powder” from the Indian store. Note that I did not properly “taste as you go” when I put this together….

So a day in the fridge, all salty, I pulled out the Ducks the next morning and brushed the sauce all over them. It was oily, the sauce and the duck skin, but most of it stuck. I put the basted beauties back in the fridge while I went to work for the day.

All day at work I was so excited to get home. I was gonna cook wild duck. It was gonna be Asian and it was gonna be AWESOME. Primo Duck, y’all. I had planned to make coconut rice, in which I merely replaced some of the cooking water with coconut milk, and some baby bok choy. It was gonna be a masterpiece. 2 days in the making.

As the recipe says, I roasted the ducks on a high heat for a while, basted them again, turned down the heat, and roasted them some more and basted them some more. Meanwhile I had burnt the HELL out of the coconut rice. You see, there is this one burner on our stove that heats up fast and heats up hot…too hot. I use it to boil water quickly. I should NOT use it to make rice. It is a rice assassin. Kills rice. Dead.

Our stainless steel pan is still recovering…it has tiny oblong black polka dots right now. Effing rice murdering burner. The rice was upsetting, but not the end of the world. I had back-up in the form of Noodles. Noodles to the rescue! After stir-frying the bok choy in oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds, fresh garlic and ginger, and soy sauce, I tossed some cellophane noodles around in the same pan. Boom. Two complimentary side-dishes to what were sure to be my perfect Chinese duckies.
I followed the recipe after all. It had taken two days afterall. The duckies LOOKED good:


“I think these are freezer-burned.” I hear Jack say, amidst the sweet-bitter smell of burnt coconut rice and my own sweat. So I tasted some. Blech!

Son of a BLEEP !!!

Yup, the tangy-yuck taste of old refrozen ice permeated my labored-over ducks. We peeled the fatty skin off…which helped. Unfortunately, all the work of overnight refrigeration and marinating and such was for flavor on the SKIN. All for naught. We could only eat the dark flesh…which was slightly less blechy. I tried dipping it in the basting sauce, hoping it would make up for the lack of the primo skin and fat. The basting sauce, however, had turned out too salty. Of course.

Cooking this made me sweaty. It frustrated me. I had high hopes, and they were dashed by such silly things as freezer burn , burned rice and over-salty sauce. Shenannigans!!

So…not an iron stef-worthy dish. BUT, not every cooking excursion can be perfect. There are lessons to be learned…right? So, I had to share…especially after being inspired by Thursday Night Smackdown’s recent Morimoto fiasco. She is much more funny and potty-mouthed than I (cussing does not become me…I have tried…It looks silly on me, for real)…but it’s people like her who help me through such kitchen issues…you gotta laugh at yourself. In fact here are some past Iron Stef “learning experiences:”
Almost delicious split-pea soup, How to ruin a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and my first beef stock.

These mother duckers did not ruin my life…they merely made for a not-so-yummy meal. It was a meal none-the-less…right? There was baby bok-choy…so it wasn’t a total loss…

Anyway, there have been much worse duck disasters:

Monday, May 19, 2008

charleville winery

This weekend we visited Charleville Winery in Ste. Genevieve, MO. St. Genevieve has quite a few wineries, but this is our favorite. It is a bit more out of the way than any of the others, but worth it. Besides yummy wines, they also brew their own beer and a root beer that is to die for. You can take the wine and beer home with you, but they don't have a way to bottle the root beer, so that you'll have to enjoy while you're there. You can taste the wines and beers for free, served to you with great enthusiasm by the winery's owners. So, pack up some casual picnic foods, grab some friends and go to Charleville to enjoy the beautiful views, tasty libations and friendly faces. Here are some photos....

This is Emma, a dog who lives at the winery. Yes, besides friendly people there are plenty of friendly cats and dogs who will stop by and say hi while you're there...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

reason # 397 to make teeny burgers

Teeny burgers, which made an appearance on Iron Stef here, have become a regular dinner option at the Iron Stef homestead. They are easy and casual and fun. Also? Since you can eat more than one, you can play with toppings way more than you would with a big 'ol regular burger. With teeny burgers, the possibilites are endless! Last night I played a little game of "what's in the fridge?"

In the above photo I have 3 topping combos, from bottom to top: Muenster cheese and thinly-sliced green bell pepper soaked in hot sauce; stilton cheese with thai black pepper sauce and red onions; habenero cheese and tomatoes.

I had high hopes for this stilton one, but all the falvors were to strong, and when combined they took on, strangely, the taste of anchovies. I love anchovies, but...this just didn't work. Usually I love burgers with blue cheese...maybe the stilton was just too pungent. Oh well, all my other combos were yummy.

I especially enjoyed this "Italian" number...mozzerella, roma tomato and pepperoncini:

What do you like most on your burgers?

Monday, May 05, 2008

totally terrific tofu tushies

Last week, Lisa of Show Me Vegan, made these a-dang-doreable tofu-tini's. Basically, pressed tofu, cut into martini shapes with a martini cookie cutter (anyone who has an martini cookie cutter is aces in my book, BTW), brushed with olive oil, coated with panko bread crumbs (seasoned w/ salt & peppa) and baked in a 400 degree oven for a half hour or so.

Now, i know what you're thinking. Iron Stef? Meatloaf cupcake and bacon-makin' lady eating Tofu? Truth is, I really really really like tofu. I even crave it sometimes! I know! Crazy! But it's true. I've never had it baked. Holy cow is tofu good prepared this way...addicting, even!

I could have just cut them into rectangles, but I was inspired by Lisa. The only cookie cutter I own, however, is a heart shape...which I use to make yummy butt cookies, rather than heart cookies. What can I say. I seem to be a 13 year old boy. Butt shapes make laugh. So, Tofu Tushies it was.

I made a peanut sauce to dip the crunchy booties in. I can't give you an exact recipe, because it was a taste-as-I-go kinda thang. It's butt-shaped tofu for gosh-sakes! Anyhing goes. The base was peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, and it was flavored with ground ginger, curry powder, hot chili pepper and a touch of cinnamon...I added water until I got a good dipping consistency...not too sticky, not too runny. Also, as you can see by the "hot thong" on one of my tushies, I also dipped these arses in "cock sauce".


From the Archives: Iron Stef does Mexican!

It's Cinco De Mayo! Grab a Margarita and check out my past Mexican-related food ventures....

Corizo, egg & Raisin tacos

Pork & Hominy Chili

Fish Tacos!

Tamales from scratch. yup yup.

BBQ Beef pot-pie with Chipotle-Masa crust.

Zucchini, Mushroom & Hominy Tacos

Tequila Lime grilled chicken

Dulce de Leche Duo cookies

And of course, a nice cold Chelada to wash it all down...