Friday, July 31, 2009

Grilled Hamburgers

Do we even need a recipe for hamburgers? Yeah, we do. It isn't hard to make an average burger, but the perfect one is elusive. Like any recipe, some aspects of burger preparation are arbitrary. But there are a few rules. Follow them, pick the toppings of your choice, and you'll never order a burger at a restaurant again.

So what is most important to grilling a good hamburger?
1) Use ground chuck. You won't regret it. If you can, grind your own chuck at home in a food processor.
2) Sear both sides of the meat over high heat, then finish them off slowly away from the flames.
3) Poke a dimple into the middle of each patty before cooking. This prevents the burgers from poofing into balls.

grilled hamburger

1 lb ground chuck
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Red onions

Mix the meat, salt, and pepper just until they come together. Don't ever do it. Carefully form 1/3 of the meat into a patty. Only compact the meat to the point where it won't fall apart. Use a finger to make a quarter-sized indentation into the center of each patty, about half and inch deep. Keep in mind that the meat will shrink a bit on the grill. Slice some red onion and cover lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Just enough to coat the slices.

Prepare a two-zone fire on your grill (basically, all the coals on one side). You will know that the fire is hot when you can only hold your hand above the grate without pain for about 2 seconds. Sear the burgers over the coals for 90 seconds per side, then move to the edge of the coals to finish. 3 minutes per side away from the coals should produce medium doneness, but this is different on every grill. You'll have to experiment on you own. After you move the meat away from the high heat, place the onions directly over the flames for a couple of minutes per side. Then move away from the heat until they are soft enough for you.

1) Add a slice of cheese on the top of each burger during the last minute or so of cooking.
2) Freeze slices or 1/2 inch cubes of blue cheese for 20 minutes prior to cooking. Insert the frozen slices inside each patty as you form them. The cheese will unfreeze, but won't melt while on the grill. This is called the "Andrew Sweeny Deluxe."
3) Mix in some ancho chili powder with the meat and top the finished burgers with some avocado slices.

PS - Learn how to use hardwood lump charcoal

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jerk Chicken Recipe

After trying a few different jerk marinades, we found a clear winner in Weber's Charcoal Grilling--The Art Of Cooking With Live Fire. You can change the proportions as much as you want, but a few things are fundamental: 1) Chili's are your friend, particularly spicy ones like serranos or habaneros 2) Dark meat is the best, especially drumsticks. Don't even think about using breasts. 3) Cook over low and indirect heat. Invest in some applewood chips to mimic the smokey flavor of authentic jerk chicken, which is traditionally cooked over pimento (allspice) branches.

jerk chicken

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
8-10 scallions, roughly chopped
3 serrano chilis, roughly chopped with seeds.
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

10 chicken drumsticks
2 large handfuls applewood chips, soaked in water for a couple of hours

Combine marinade ingredients in a blender until all the solids are liquified. Remove loose pieces of fat from the chicken. Cut a few slashes into the meat of each drumstick to allow the flavors and smoke to penetrate to the bone. Combine the drumsticks and marinade in a ziplock bag and let marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Prepare a two-zone charcoal fire for low heat. You won't need to fill your chimney all the way to the top, so perhaps 1/2 way full is ideal. Once the coals are hot, dump them off to the side of your grill so that they take up only 1/3 of the surface area. Close the lid and wait until the internal temperature drops to about 350 degrees fahrenheit. "Low" grilling is generally considered to be between 250 and 350 degrees, so you need to start at a hotter temperature to account for the drop in temperature that will surely occur. Once the temperature has stabilized, drain half of the wood chips and place on top of the coals. When they start to smoke, place the drumsticks skin side down on the grate as far away as possible from the coals. Save the marinade. Close the lid and let them cook for an hour. Place the holes of the lid over the chicken to ensure that the smoke passes over the meat as it exits the grill. Keep an eye on the temperature and add 8 unlit briquettes if the temperature drops to 250 or less.

Bring the remaining marinade to a boil to kill the germs from the raw chicken. Flip the drumsticks over after the first hour is complete. Brush some marinade on both sides. Place the rest of the wood chips on the coals, close the lid, and let them cook over low heat for another hour.

The skin can get a little rubbery from the low temperature cooking, so throw some new coals on the fire after 2 hours of grilling to start a medium-heat fire. Finish off the drumsticks for a couple of minutes per side over the fire to crisp the skin.

We've tried many other recipes from this book and it is GREAT! It is a helpful grilling resource to help build different types of fires, recognize when food is done by sight or touch, and gives ideas of new things to cook on a charcoal grill.
Weber's Charcoal Grilling--The Art Of Cooking With Live Fire

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rosemary Focaccia Recipe

This recipe is adapted from a book we recently got as a gift, and are LOVING, called The Art Of Simple Food. The focaccia is easy to make and filled the house with a delicious smell of fresh rosemary.

rosemary foccacia

2 tsp dry yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water
pinch of sugar
3 1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c rye flour
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
3/4 c cold water
olive oil
coarse sea salt

Stir together yeast & warm water. Add a pinch of sugar. Add 1/4 c white flour & 1/4 c rye flour. Let mixture sit until bubbly for about 30 minutes.

In a seperate bowl, mix 3 1/4 c white flour, rosemary, and salt. Add to bubbly yeast mixture. Add cold water and 1/4 c olive oil. Mix thouroughly by hand or in an electric stand mixer. If mixing by hand, do so on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes until dough is soft and elastic. If it is sticky add a small amount of flour (not too much, it should remain very soft). If using a mixture, use the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp cloth to let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. It should double in size. We let it rise in a warm oven that we had warmed on the lowest setting and then turned off before putting in the dough.

Once the dough has risen, gently remove it from the bowl and flatten it on a well oiled sheet pan (10" x 15") by gently pressing down from the center out towards the edges. If the dough resists or springs back, let it rest for 10 minutes and then continue shaping. Do not deflate or smash the dough. If you have a pizza peel you can simply flaten the dough on a floured surface instead of a sheet pan and use it to move to the oven.

This is a pizza peel for those who don't already have one:

Pizza Peel Each

Next, put dimples in the dough with your fingers. Like this:

Drizzle the dough with olive oil (about 2 T). Cover dough with damp cloth and allow it to rise again for 2 hours, until it is double in size.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 450 (just make sure the dough is not in there!) If you have one, place a pizza stone on the lower rack and let it heat for 30 minutes.

Before baking the bread, sprinkle the dough with 1 tsp coarse sea salt. Put the baking pan or just the dough directly on the pizza stone. Bake focaccia 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove bread from pan and cool on a wire cooling rack. Best if eaten warm from the oven.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Tim just introduced me to the joys of popovers this year. Can't believe I've lived this long without eating them! The only catch is that you have to buy a special popover pan for this recipe. Buy one, you will not regret it.

2 eggs
1 c milk
1 T melted butter
1 c flour
1/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees, spray popover pan with pam (spray generously).

This is what a popover pan looks like. . . although these popovers look like they were over mixed! Chicago Metallic 6-c. Nonstick Silverstone Popover Pan

Beat 2 eggs until light. Add remaining ingredients. Beat until blended for 30 seconds with an electric beater. Batter should look like heavy cream - do not over beat it or the popovers won't "pop" properly. Similar to the ones in the pan above!

Pour batter into pan so that each cup is 1/3 full. Bake 20 minutes at 450. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 more minutes. They will be brown and crusty when done.

Best eaten straight from the oven with butter and honey.

Other recipes you may like:
buttermilk biscuits
cinnamon coffee cake

Cincinnati Chili

There are no Skyline Chili restaurants in Chicago, but there should be. Some might say that Chicago is a hot dog town, and there isn't room for any more meat. We disagree.

Chicago Chili

1 t salt, plus more to taste
1.5 lbs ground beef chuck
2 T vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T chili powder
2 t dried oregano
2 t cocoa
1.5 t ground cinnamon
.5 t cayenne pepper
.5 t allspice
.25 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 C chicken broth
2 C water
2 T cider vinegar
2 t brown sugar
2 C plain tomato sauce

Cheddar cheese
Kidney Beans, drained, rinsed, and warmed
White onion, chopped fine
oyster crackers

Set a pan over medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic for another minute. Add the meat and cook over low heat until no longer pink.

Some recipes call for the meat to be boiled before cooking the onions. But I don't see the point of this extra step, as long as you cook the meat slowly, making sure not to brown it too much.

Add the chili powder, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, black pepper, and salt. Mix with the meat for about 30 seconds over medium heat. Stir in the broth, water, vinegar, sugar, and tomato sauce while scraping the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to high. When the liquid boils, reduce to a simmer, about an hour.

Serve over boiled macaroni and top with accompaniments.

Learn about the origins of Cincinnati Chili.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Easy Guacamole Recipe

This recipe has been approved by a real Mexican, but probably not as spicy he would have liked. You might want to tweak the ratio of ingredients, but this serves as a good base.

guacamole and chips
4 avocados
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 serrano chilis
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
onion (optional)

Pit the avocados and scoop into a large bowl. Save the pit. Add the garlic, chilis (start with 1 to be safe), and some cilantro, and mash with a potato masher until chunky. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and as much salt as you desire, tasting with each addition. Top off with some more cilantro and fresh lime juice. Add a pit or two to prevent oxidation, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 3o minutes.

I prefer 2 chilis, with seeds, but this is usually too spicy for most. One chili is usually enough.

Alternatives: Add half a chopped white onion rinsed under cold water.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Recipe

Another breakfast recipe from King Arthur Flour. I swear we don't work for them...
This cake has a crunchy cinnamon topping that you'll want to lick off your plate. But I think my favorite part was the filling. I want to try making it with double the filling and half the topping next time.

coffee cake
Streusel topping
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 T ground cinnamon
6 T melted butter

1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup salted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 c plain yogurt
1 1/4 c milk
3 3/4 c flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan

Make the struesel topping first by mixing together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stir until combined - it will look crumbly. Save for later.

In a seperate bowl, make the cake filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.

In a third larger bowl, make the cake. Beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after you add each one.

In a separate bowl (you'll be doing a lot of dishes later), whisk together the yogurt and milk till well combined. Add the flour to the large bowl with butter mixture, and alternate with the milk/yogurt mixture, beating gently to combine.

Spread half the batter into the greased pan, spreading evenly and to the edge. Sprinkle the filling on top of this layer of batter. Then spread the remaining batter on top of the filling. Use a butter knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter. Don't combine filling and batter completely - just swirl the filling through the batter. Sprinkle the bowl of struesel topping over the batter in the pan. Bake the cake 50-60 minutes until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool about 20 minutes before serving from the pan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How to Boil Corn

By popular demand, I am actually going to post a recipe for boiled corn on the site. What started out as an inside joke, has lead to quite a number of searches for the actual recipe. Who am I to argue? Behold, the one recipe everyone has been waiting for!

Corn on the cob

Fill large stock pot 3/4 full of cold water. Cover and put on stove until boiling. Meanwhile, clean off corn, rinse, and get it ready to cook. Once water is boiling, add the corn and partially cover with lid. Boil for exactly 7 minutes, remove from water, add butter or salt if you want and eat it hot.

The important thing to remember is - do not add salt to the boiling water!

Enjoy! Learn more about how to cook corn.

Our buy this book for more than 170 corn recipes:
Crazy For Corn

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spicy Breakfast Potatoes - Oven Roasted Potatoes

Just made these spicy breakfast potatoes for brunch yesterday, and they were a big hit. You could eat them for any meal really.

2 yukon gold potatoes
olive oil
black pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
Pam cooking spray
Flat leaf parsley

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with Pam.

Wash the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Soak cubed potatoes in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Drain and sprinkle with pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Spread out potatoes on baking sheet & spray with Pam. Put them in the oven for 10 minutes, flip potatoes or shuffle them around on the pan, and cook for 10 more minutes until crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Chop up some parsely & sprinkle cooked potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and parsely.

We don't have a picture because they were eaten too quickly!

Other recipes you may like:
blueberry pancake recipe
potato and leek soup
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