Stir-Fry Pepper Steak

Stir Fry Pepper Steak

Back when I was a single college student, not as into cooking as I am today, there was a pepper-steak making kit, I think made by La Choy, that I liked making. I don’t know if it’s even sold anymore. You’d buy the steak separately and cut that up, but the vegetables came pre-cut in a can, along with a little packet of powder you’d mix with water to make the sauce. So it was mostly pre-made, but involved just enough cooking to make you feel like you accomplished something. And it was tasty.

But those preserved vegetables that came out of the can probably weren’t quite at the peak of their nutritional value. These days I still sometimes get the hankering for a simple stir-fry, but I use better and fresher ingredients. This is quick, easy and really good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15oz. can bean sprouts
  • 1 cup dry rice (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 15 oz. low-sodium beef stock
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

1.
Start cooking the rice according to the rice brand’s cooking instructions. It should take about 20 minutes to cook- just in time for the stir fry to be done cooking.
2.
Cut the red and green peppers into thin strips. Slice up the mushrooms. Cut the green onions into about 1/2″ strips. Mince the garlic and ginger up finely. Cut the steak into thin strips similar to the peppers. Remove the bean sprouts form the can and drain. Now most of your work is already done:

Chopped Stir Fry Ingredients

3.
Now we make the sauce. Mix a heaping tablespoon of corn starch with a little water. Mix that into the beef stock, and add the soy sauce and black pepper:

Stir Fry Sauce

4.
Now heat a couple tablespoons of peanut oil in a large pan, and brown the steak strips with the garlic and ginger. If you have a wok with gas stovetop burners, by all means use that- I have a wok, but alas my stove has electric burners so I use a flat pan to get the temperature hot enough– stir fry should involve high heat and plenty of stirring:

Steak, Garlic and Ginger

5.
Add the remaining vegetables except for the bean sprouts, and stir-fry until the vegetables are cooked just enough to be still somewhat crisp and still brightly colored:

Meat And Peppers

6.
Add the bean sprouts and sauce and cook a little longer, stirring, until the sauce thickens up a little. Serve over the rice. Enjoy!

Grilled Lamb Chops with Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Lamb and Asparagus

We finally had some warm spring-like weather fit for grilling this weekend. 72 degrees on Sunday-very welcome after the brutal winter we endured. I had a little venison to grill that my brother-in-law gave us, but I didn’t think it would be enough for dinner. So I decided to pick up some lamb chops. I used a marinade I’ve used on cuts of beef before which works just as well on lamb chops (and venison, too!). The marinade in this recipe is for just a few chops, so if you have more to grill feel free to double the marinade amount.

The grilled lamb chops turned out delicious! Similar to a fine cut of steak, but different enough in flavor to be a nice change of pace. They’re definitely going into my summer grilling rotation. The venison was very good too, but I’ve had grilled venison before, and I knew what to expect. The lamb chops were unexpectedly tasty. I’ve eaten lamb plenty of times in different dishes and cooked various ways, but I don’t know if I’ve grilled lamb chops anytime recently, and these were nice, thick-cut chops, looking like miniature T-bone streaks.

For sides I picked up some asparagus– grilling asparagus directly on the grill is really simple and one of my favorite ways to cook it. I also made a batch of mac and cheese, Clarkston Union style.

Ingredients, lamb chops + marinade:

  • 4 lamb chops
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely minced or crushed in a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Ingredients, asparagus:

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

 

1.
Mix the marinade ingredients and marinade the chops for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight.

Marinating Lamb

2.
Fire up enough charcoal to cover 1/2 the grill (or turn the burners on high on one side of the gas grill, if you must use one). Same grilling method as in my Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post: First brown the outside of the chops on both sides by quickly grilling over direct heat, then move to the cooler indirect side of the grill to finish cooking. I also briefly soaked a few apple and hickory chips and threw them on the coals for a smoky flavor.

grillingLamb

3.
Coat the asparagus in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When you move the chops to the cooler part of the grill, throw the asparagus on the hot side of the grill (perpendicular to the grate, of course!) and make sure you turn the asparagi by rolling them so they grill up quickly on all sides and don’t burn. When the asparagus is done, the chops should be done (I like my lamb chops to be medium-rare, just like my steaks). Enjoy!

grilledAsparagus

Crab Cakes with Mustard Sauce

Crab Cakes This is one of my wife Kristina’s favorites. I’ve spent years improving upon my recipe, which is kind of an “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” version of crab cakes, but it still keeps the crab the center of attention, as it should be. Good crab cakes start with high quality crab meat and don’t add too much in the way of filler ingredients… If they’re almost falling apart as you’re cooking them in the pan, they’re put together right!

The mustard sauce goes really well with these crab cakes.

This recipe makes 4 large crab cakes, so it’ll either serve 4 or 2 with good appetites. If I make this for 4 I double the recipe and serve 2 crab cakes to a plate to make sure everyone has enough.

Ingredients, Crab cakes:

  • 1 lb. good quality lump crab meat
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 1-2 stalks celery
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for coating the crab cakes
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg white
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

 

Ingredients, Mustard sauce:

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Splash of white wine
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of a coarse-ground spicy brown mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup olive oil

 

1.
Coarsely chop the red and green pepper, onion, celery and garlic.

Coarsely chopped vegetables

2.
Put the vegetables in a food processor and chop them on the pulse setting until they’re very finely chopped up, but not pureed.

Food Processor

3.
Saute the finely diced vegetables in a pan with a little olive oil on medium heat until they soften up, about 8-10 minutes.

Sauteed Vegetables

4.
Add all of the crab cake ingredients except the eggs to a large bowl and combine. Mix well, but be careful not to break up the lump crab meat- the pieces of crab should be evident in the crab cake. I used high quality lump crab meat that comes in a 1 lb. refrigerated can. I don’t know if it’s sold in regular grocery stores- it may require a trip to a seafood market. I’ve also removed the meat from crab legs to make the cakes but obviously that’s going to be time-consuming. If you go that route, you’ll need somewhere between 2-3 lbs. of crab legs to get 1 lb. of meat.

I mix the ingredients without the eggs first, so I can taste without raw eggs added yet and make any seasoning adjustments. Then I add one whole egg and the white from a second egg, saving the yolk for the mustard sauce, and mix the egg in.

Crab cake ingredients

5.
Spread about 1/2 cup of the Panko breadcrumbs on a plate, divide the crab cake mixture into 4 and shape into tennis or baseball-sized balls. Roll them in the breadcrumbs to coat, and flatten them out a little bit. Start heating up the pan on medium-high with some butter and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (we’re going to finish the crab cakes in the oven).

Crab cake prep

6.
When the pan is hot and well-greased with the sizzling butter, add the crab cakes to the pan and cook long enough to brown them- about 4-5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to let them burn. Now comes the fun part…trying to flip each crab cake without them breaking up. I have pretty good success with a two-spatula technique- one below and one on top when you flip. Transfer them to a greased cookie sheet and put them in the preheated oven to finish. I like to use a meat thermometer to make sure they reach 165 degrees in the center.

Cooking crab cakes

7.
Now we make the sauce while the crab cakes are finishing up in the oven. Add the chicken stock, egg yolk, splash of white wine and 2 heaping tablespoons of spicy brown mustard to a blender. Mix well, then open the top and with the blender set on a low mix setting, slowly pour the olive oil in. Blending with the egg yolk creates an emusion- which just means oil and water-based elements that don’t normally mix well can now be combined. Now pour the sauce into a pan on low heat (I use the same pan to cook the veggies, brown the crab cakes and heat the sauce, just cleaning it out in-between). Make sure the heat is low and constantly stir, or the emusion will break and the olive oil will separate out of the sauce and it won’t look too good (it’ll still taste good though). If it does start to separate, sometimes you can get lucky and re-emulsify by pouring the sauce back into the blender and blending some more.

Mustard Sauce

8.
The sauce should thicken up and be ready in 10-15 minutes of stirring, just about the time the crab cakes are done in the oven. Add the crab cakes to the plate with a couple lemon wedges and whatever side veggie you’re serving (I did broccoli here but I often serve crab cakes with asparagus, which is really good with the mustard sauce as well). Creatively drizzle some mustard sauce on the plate and you’re ready to serve. Enjoy!

Finished crab cakes

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned Beef

In honor of the fast approaching St. Patrick’s Day, here’s my recipe for corned beef and cabbage. I like to serve it in a bowl with some of the broth it’s cooked in, and with plenty of other vegetables added, especially root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes. So it’s more like a corned beef and cabbage soup or stew. A Black and Tan (pale ale with Guinness Stout on top) makes a fine accompaniment.

I used a 4 lb. brisket of corned beef, which should serve about 4 people with leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Corned beef brisket, about 4 lbs.
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 ribs of celery
  • 2 medium-sized carrots
  • 2 medium-sized parsnips (optional)
  • 1 largish turnip (optional)
  • 4 medium-large potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves

 

Corned Beef in PotAdd the corned beef brisket to a large pot and fill with enough water to just cover the brisket. If the brisket came with a little pack of pickling spices, add them to the water along with the bay leaves, peppercorns, and coarsely chopped garlic. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. It’ll cook for about 3 hours total.

Wash and peel whatever combination of carrots, parsnips and turnips you’re adding and coarsely chop them up along with the onions and celery. Add these vegetables to the simmering water and corned beef after it’s been cooking for about 2 hours.

Peel the potatoes if you like and chop them into 1 or 2 inch chunks (I usually don’t peel the potatoes because I like the potato skins- I just wash the outside skin really well). Wash the cabbage head and remove the outside leaves. Cut the cabbage head into quarters and cut the stem out of the cabbage. Add the potatoes to the simmering water at about 2 1/2 hours of cooking time, and add the cabbage on top.

Let simmer for about another 1/2 hour until the potatoes are soft and the cabbage is well cooked. Remove the corned beef, cut slices against the grain and serve in a bowl with some of the broth and the vegetables. Enjoy!

Bonus: how to make the Black and Tan in the picture:

Start with a good Irish pale ale- I like Bass Ale for this. Fill a glass half full of pale ale. Then take a large spoon and hold it upside-down over the glass. Carefully and slowly pour Guinness Stout (the only real choice for the “black” part of the Black and Tan) over the spoon so it layers on top of the Pale Ale. Enjoy (responsibly)!

 

Shrimp Jambalaya

Shrimp Jambalaya(Jambalaya aux Chevrettes)

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe, Gumbo Filé, from the ‘Picayune Creole Cook Book‘ and said I’d try more recipes from this historical New Orleans cookbook. Here’s another, just in time for Mardi Gras (or for Lent, because as the recipe says, if on Friday and you do not eat meat, you can substitute ‘oyster water’ in place of broth. Or in our case, bottled clam juice in place of broth, because you probably won’t be able to get a hold of enough oyster water. I discussed not being quite sure what ‘oyster water’ even is in the Gumbo Filé post).

So here’s what I did differently this time in this recipe from the Picayune recipe:

First, 80 lake shrimp in the Picayune recipe? 80?? I’m not even exactly sure what New Orleans lake shrimp are. Maybe they’re very small shrimp. The cookbook mentions river and lake shrimp, and says that river shrimp are smaller and more delicate than the lake shrimp. But how much larger New Orleans lake shrimp actually may be, I have no idea. anyway, 80? I used 20 jumbo shrimp for my recipe, which was fine for serving 4.

The Picayune recipe calls for cooking the shrimp for waaaayyy longer than I ever heard of doing– first it says to boil the shrimp according to another recipe in the book, then to cook the shrimp for another 45 minutes along with the rice in the jambalaya. I think this must be a difference in basic philosophy in how to cook shrimp between the day the Picayune book was written and these days. I have no idea what you’d even be left with, shrimp-wise, after boiling the shrimp, then further cooking for 45 minutes. Maybe that’s why the Picayune starts with 80 shrimp– perhaps they shrink down to little rubbery calamari-like bits. I cooked the shrimp the way it’s usually done these days, by adding it just a few minutes before the jambalaya is done.

This recipe, which you can follow on page 163 of the Google Books copy of the 6th edition of the Picayune Creole Cook Book if you want to see the original instructions, calls for cooking the rice with the Jambalaya, but I cooked it separately as in the Gumbo Filé recipe, because rice cooked with the jamablaya will keep absorbing liquid and quickly turn mushy, especially the next day if you have leftovers.

Finally, I went ahead and added a few more ingredients I’m used to with meal like this, like bell pepper and celery to make the veggie trinity along with the onion, and a little oregano.

Ingredients from the Picayune Creole Cook Book:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of Rice
  • 3 Tomatoes
  • 80 Lake Shrimp
  • 2 Onions
  • Cayenne to Taste
  • 1 Tablespoonful Butter
  • 1 Tablespoonful Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoonful of Chili Pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Sprigs each of Thyme and Bay Leaf

(I think the last ingredient listing meant 2 sprigs each of thyme and parsley, plus bay leaf, because the recipe directions mention adding chopped thyme, parsley and bay leaf)

Ingredients I used:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of Rice
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 20 Jumbo Shrimp
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 Bell Pepper
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • Cayenne to Taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock (or bottled clam juice)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • 2 Sprigs Parsley
  • 1 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 Bay Leaf

 

Serves 4

Chop up the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook in a pot with the butter, stirring until the vegetables are well cooked and a little browned. Mix in the flour. Then add the finely chopped garlic, thyme and parsley and fry, stirring, for another 5 minutes or so.

Add tomatoes and either chicken stock or clam juice which has been heated up. I added about a quart of homemade chicken stock, plus a little bit of quick seafood stock I made by taking the shells from the shrimp I used in the recipe plus a couple extra sprigs of thyme and some black peppercorns and boiling in some water in a little pan for a 1/2 hour or so. I did that just to add a little more seafood flavor to the jambalaya. You could also use 1/2 chicken stock or broth and 1/2 clam juice, or as mentioned, all clam juice.

Add the bay leaf and the remaining spices and simmer on low for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. A few minutes before serving, add the raw shelled shrimp. The shrimp should cook only long enough so it just starts to turn from translucent to opaque.

Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if you like. Enjoy!

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