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Upgrade Your Tailgate With A Fresh Menu

tailgate foodFor some, tailgating is more important than the game itself.  It’s the smell of burgers on a grill, the chill of an ice-cold beer, face paint and community gathered together to cheer on the… whatever your mascot of choice is.  Sometimes it’s an early morning game though, and a burger just doesn’t sound delicious.  Or maybe you are just looking to spice things up!  Whether it’s the booze or the food that keeps the parking lot party going for you, there are a few simple things you can do to make your next tailgate a real hit.

First, the menu.  It doesn’t always have to be burgers and hot dogs!  Mexican, Italian, even bacon and pancakes are all great ideas to change it up.  Think outside the bun and get creative with your menu.

Second, the equipment.  Whatever you are using to cook your tailgate foods now will work for other menus too.  You may just need to think about it a little differently.  We use water baths, or bain maries if you are fancy, to heat up foods that are awkward or have already been cooked.  All you need are two disposable aluminum pans like this.  One that is deep to hold the water, and another that is shallower to hold the food.  Fill the deeper pan with about 2 inches of water and use the fire from your grill to heat it up.  The steam from the hot water will heat the shallow pan on top and provide a non-direct heat source for your lasagna, quesadillas or scrambled eggs.  Best part, when you are done, everything can be recycled, or even reused!

If you are a purist, and want to cook all your food on-site, think about packing a griddle or skillet.  For foods that don’t grill well, like bacon, pancakes, pasta sauce… you get the idea, your flame from the grill will act like a gas stove and you can cook just like you do at home.  Don’t forget about a good-old-fashioned Crock Pot.  Cook your dish at home and pack it up.  You don’t even need electricity.  Those things will hold heat for hours!

Third, the CHEER!  Tailgating is supposed to be fun, not fussy.  So above all else, relax and have a good time.  If you are happy, your guests will be too!  Just don’t forget the ice.  No one like a warm beer at a tailgate.

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Save Your Summer: A Guide To Sun-Drying

sun-dried tomatoesIt’s the end of the growing season for most of our summer herbs and vegetables, or at least close to it.  Maybe you were really lucky and able to eat everything you grew, or gave it away.  Or maybe you are like the other 99% of the population and you ended up with a bumper crop of all of your favorite things.  It happens to the best of us.  Our eyes are bigger than our proverbial garden stomachs and we buy too many plants.

But what happens to the extras?  After your neighbors and co-workers have had their fill, you’ve canned, pickled and preserved until your shelves are full but you can’t bear to see the precious hard-work go to waste.  There is still one easy, and very tasty way, to save the last bits of summer.  Sun-Drying!

I was thinking about this during the #SolarEclipse2017, when everything was all about the sun.  And it’s an excellent way to preserve fruits, veggies and herbs!  It also lends them to your favorite fall and winter recipes different than canning would.  So, what is good to sun-dry?  Almost everything!  But before you toss your produce on the back porch and call it good, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The whole point of sun-dying is to remove as much moisture as possible from the produce in order to preserve the flavor and nutrients for later use.  Bacteria and mold need moisture to survive and grow.  Remove it, and no more bacteria.  Some produce is going to take longer than others to achieve optimal dryness, so you have to pay attention.  Hot, all-day sun is best, and pay attention to humidity levels.  We want water leaving the produce, not going back in!

Equipment.  Tossing some tomatoes on a sheet pan and calling it good is only going to get you a big, moldy blob of tomato goo.  You need to make sure there is plenty of room for air to circulate around the entire vegetable or fruit to make sure it dries evenly.  Use a sheet pan, lined with parchment and a drying rack.  This will elevate the product to allow even air flow.  Also, unless you plan on standing over the product for a day or two, you might need to protect it from critters; bugs, squirrels, birds and the like.  You can easily make a cage of chicken wire or other wire grafting material and cover it with cheesecloth or some other kind of netting-like fabric.  Remember, sunlight is key, so make sure you can see thru it well.   You can also purchase something like this from Amazon.

Size.  In this case, it matters.  Just like when you cook food, it needs to be of uniform consistency and shape.  Also, the smaller the food, the faster it will dry.  For tomatoes, slice them in half or quarters and remove the seeds.  For zucchini, squash, peppers, etc, slice them into ¼ inch rounds or strips.  Slicing is a good idea for fruits too.  You also want to cut your produce to allow air inside the flesh.  The skin is there to keep air out.  So you need to break the skin to allow air in.  For berries that you would want to keep whole (because who wants to slice a million pounds of blueberries?!), blanch in boiling water for a few seconds to crack the skin.  This could work for cherry tomatoes too.

Oxidation.  You know when you’ve cut into an avocado and it starts to turn brown?  That’s called oxidation.  It’s when air mixes with the molecules of the flesh of the fruit and makes it turn an icky brown color.  It’s still delicious, just not delicious to look at.  It mostly happens to fruit and there are a couple of ways to prevent it.  Soaking the fruit in a mixture of lemon juice and water will usually do the trick.  Ascorbic acid and citric acid work well too.  You can buy them in powdered form to sprinkle on the flesh of the fruit.

Leafy greens and herbs.  Air drying herbs is my favorite way to preserve them.  I can only eat so much pesto by January before I wish I had some plain fresh basil.  Freezing in olive oil, or making an herb oil is good too, but limiting to how I can use it in a finished product.  Pick the leaves from the stems of the herbs and lay out on a parchment lined sheet pan.  You don’t need a drying rack in this case because of the flat, thin nature of the leaves.  Spinach, kale and chard are all great to air dry too.  You want the leaves to be as separated as much as possible.  And thicker, curly leaves like kale will take longer than the tiny leaves from herbs like thyme and oregano.  Dry whole, chop later.

If you don’t have a lot of direct sunlight, or maybe you don’t have the space to sun-dry, the oven works well for drying too.  Set it to the lowest temperature setting possible, and apply the same rules as above.  The oven will most likely take less time, as it is a more direct heat applied in a smaller space, but the results should be the same.

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After School Snack Attack

healthy snacksAfter-school snack.  Let’s face it.  It’s basically the 4th most important meal of the day.  And between a full day of school, homework, sports, band, dance and chess club, it should be!  Kids are just smaller versions of adults, and if you want them to make it thru the day without a sugar crash or major meltdown, good nutrition in the middle of the day is a great place to start.

You don’t have time to make your own Greek-style yogurt and beef jerky, or maybe you do.  But a box of Cheez-Its does not a healthy snack make.  The trick to snacks is having options the kids actually like, and getting them to eat it.

Unfortunately, pretty much anything on the shelf at the grocery store with the word SNACK on it is full of sugar, fat and loaded with empty calories.

 

There are 4 things to keep in mind when considering a snack choice for kids.  After all, the whole point is to keep their brains and bodies moving for another 4-5 hours.  What should you look for?

 

  1. Calories. Depending on your child’s activity level, calories matter. But most kids don’t need a 550-calorie cheeseburger happy meal.  Keep it between 200-400 calories.  That’s plenty to get them thru until dinner.
  2. Nutrition. We gotta keep them moving, so the snack should provide a good balance between protein, fat and carbohydrate.
  3. Timing. Scrambled egg sandwiches are a great option to keep your kid fueled up for sports. But maybe not 10 minutes before swim practice.
  4. Easy. Good news! You don’t have to spend 40 hours each week sourcing organic hemp seeds and crushing your own almonds for almond butter.  That’s what you have Friend That Cooks for! 😉 And for those of you that don’t, we put together a list of 15 awesome choices that go together in a flash.
  • Celery, Dried Fruit, Peanut Butter: 2 stalks celery- halved, palmful of small dried fruits- think raisins, cranberries, or chopped banana pieces, 2 tablespoons peanut butter- or almond, sun-nut or other butter of your choice.
  • Peanut Butter and Pretzel Sticks: Again, whatever kind of nut or non-nut butter you want, just a couple of tablespoons, and about ¼ cup of pretzel sticks.
  • Clementines and Dark Chocolate: For a lighter, sweeter snack idea, pair the easy-to-peel citrus with 1 ounce of dark chocolate. This one makes a tasty dessert for adults too!
  • Zucchini Bread Muffins: Add some plain flavored protein powder, or a handful of chopped nuts on top, for an extra protein kick. Check out this recipe here.
  • Snack Mix: Avoid unwanted sugars and extra calories and make your own!  Trader Joe’s is a great place to stock up on nuts, dried fruits and seeds.  Portion out the mix into ¼ cup individual snack bags for even more portion control.
  • Granola Protein Bites: There are literally hundreds of recipes on the internet for something like this. But here is one that we’ve tried and our clients really enjoy.  The flavor combinations are endless, so feel free to play.
  • Fruit and Coconut Water Popsicles: This one is great while the weather is still warm. The electrolyte boost is also perfect for your sports players and dancers.
  • Peanut Butter and Banana Toast: It can’t get any simpler than this. Once slice of whole grain bread, 1 Tablespoon PB and a half a banana.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: These are great to have on hand as “add-ons”. Pair with the zucchini bread muffins, or even some hummus and veggies for a protein punch.
  • Hummus and Veggies: Sabra makes handy individual cups for even less prep! Sub the hummus for guacamole for something different.
  • Tuna Salad and Veggies: 1 can tuna packed in water- drained, 1 celery stalk- chopped, 1 hardboiled egg- chopped, 1 Tablespoon plain Greek yogurt or mayo, 1 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Celery stalks, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes are all kid friendly and easy to prep ahead.
  • Cheese and Crackers or Fruit: 2 ounces of cubed cheese and 5 crackers is all it takes. If you can get away with it, pick a whole grain cracker option for maximum nutrients.  1 small apple or a handful of fresh berries to change it up.
  • Yogurt and Fruit: a small palmful of fruit goes really well with Greek yogurt.  The natural sugars in the fruit will flavor plain yogurt nicely, so don’t be afraid to give it a try.  A few chopped nuts go a long way too.
  • Tortilla Roll-ups: Think small, fajita sized tortillas, wrapped around some leftover meat from last night’s dinner, a smear of hummus, guac or spreadable cheese and voila!  Sliced bell peppers fit nicely inside that roll-up if you want to sneak in some veggies.
  • Nuts and Everything: 1 ounce, or about a palmful of roasted almonds or pistachios pair nicely with fruit, cheese or just about anything else.  The protein and fat content of the nuts keep the energy flowing until dinnertime.
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Chef’s Spotlight- Elizabeth Armstrong

 

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight features our new admin and office assistant, Elizabeth Armstrong.  Elizabeth was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated from Olathe South High School in 2006 and went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Mass Media Advertising with a minor in fine arts from Washburn University in 2013.  Elizabeth spent a period of time designing websites and teaching drawing classes to elementary school kids.  She has also worked in the service industry for 14 years.

Elizabeth has a passion for all kinds of art and helping others. Staying creative is an ongoing outlet for her. She enjoys going to art exhibits, being out in nature, spending time with her niece, going to concerts and binge watching Netflix.

WELCOME ELIZABETH!  Not technically a chef, but definitely an important addition to our Friend That Cooks family, Elizabeth started with us in early May.  She works in our new headquarters office in Shawnee as our office assistant, website tamer and social media guru.  Check out her work on our Facebook and other social media platforms.

 

 

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Build Your Cookbook Library Like A Pro

We all have it.  That one book sitting on the counter.  Bent spine, dogeared, bookmarked and stained.  It’s the go-to.  The favorite.  Maybe it’s a collection of family heirlooms, a digital wallet stored on your iPad, a wedding present from your dear Aunt Sally, or a corner bookstore find.  A good cookbook can help plan that Thanksgiving feast for 20 or Tuesday night’s meatloaf supper.

For our chefs, they are a source of inspiration, and a education.  Just like a any other professional, chefs need to keep up with current trends, and brush up on techniques learned early in our careers.  It’s more than a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.

We get asked all the time, “What book should I have in my kitchen?”.  So we wanted to put together for you a  list of our chefs’ favorites.  Some are more reference books than recipe books.  But we still think they are great, even for the most novice of cooks.  Check out our list below and comment on your favorites.  Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates from Friend That Cooks!

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is great for everyday recipes.
Charcuterie, for meats: smoking, curing, salting and more. 
The Chefs Reference Guide is a great resource for the advanced home cook.
Instead of Google, grab a copy of Food Lover’s Companion. A great resource for anything food.
Composing the perfect dish is a breeze with Culinary Artistry. A great resource book for all home cooks.
Genuinely delicious and fun “fancy southern” cuisine from a Top Chef contestant, Fire In My Belly.
Learn everything pasta in Flour+Water: Pasta.
If bread is your thing, or maybe you want to learn, Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast is great to have in your kitchen.
The French Laundry Cookbook delivers beautiful pictures and exquisite technique.
TV show personality delivers classic and fun foods in Guy Fieri Family Food.
Sean Brock, a Charleston legend in his own right, shows you how to make classic, southern dishes that are beautiful and sustainable.
Momofuku is a must for anyone looking to step-up their Asian culinary game.
On Cooking, a texbook and staple for any cook. A must-own for all.
Staff Meals is fun and original cookbook with wholesome recipes, unique ingredients and a laid-back approach.
Bon Appetit’s The Grilling Book should be your can’t-live-without, summer grilling guide.
Get serious pastry skills with The Pastry Chef’s Companion recipe and resource guide.
Not just for vegans, Thug Kitchen’s NSFW first official cookbook has taken the food world by storm. Get serious about eating more vegetables and get a copy of this book…yesterday!

 

Ethnic Food Lover’s Companion makes cooking your favorite ethnic dish a breeze.
The Cook’s book is a great resource for tips and tricks from chef’s all over the world.

 

If you like breakfast foods, you need The Breakfast Book. Think farm-house simple.
When you aren’t sure what to pair with this, or how to spice that, The Flavor Bible is every cook’s go-to.
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Healthy Eating From Plant to Plate

Plant to Plate Meal Prep

Fresh Herb PlantFresh Herbs from PlantMeatball Marinara from fresh herb plant

From plant to plate! Our in-home #PersonalChefs will utilize your garden to help save money and add some extra flavor into your healthy weekly #mealprep dishes.

This meatball in marinara with pasta, broccoli and green beans is just one example of how our chefs can use fresh herbs and vegetables from your garden in the dishes. Using your own garden will not only save you money, but also insure that your getting the freshest ingredients.

As the summer goes on, you will start harvesting more herbs and veggies than you know what to do with. Let our chefs create dishes from your garden that you can freeze for later or eat right now. We can make tomato sauce, casseroles, bread, or soup to freeze for the winter. Or you could throw a huge veggie barbecue for your friends and we’ll do the cooking! Whatever you decide, let us help you get the most out of your green thumb.

Learn more about how we can utilize your garden ingredients and our meal prep services at our website!

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meal prep | bun thit nuong

Meal Prep Picture
www.friendthatcooks.com

Meal Prep Bun Thit Nuong

Bun Thit Nuong style bean noodle bowl meal prep with Chili-Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin and topped with fresh herbs.

Just one example of exotic In-home weekly #mealprep dishes made every day by Friend That Cooks #PersonalChefs.

See more at www.friendthatcooks.com #healthyMeals #Fitness 😋

#KansasCity #Minneapolis#StPaul #TwinCities #Chicago #StLouis #Omaha #DesMoines #Denver #Wichita #Milwaukee #Indianapolis

 

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Happy New Year

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Holiday season. In typical fashion, I ate too much, drank too much, and had a heck of a good time. As the New Year creeps in, there are always excited and well-meaning declarations of improved health, living a simpler life, etc. I don’t know about you, but my resolutions always fizzle out around February 1st. So this year, I’ve decided not to make resolutions. I’ve decided to make a plan for health and wellness.

Many people think going to the gym and being on super restrictive diets are the answer for weight loss and health. It is only a small part of the bigger picture. The exercise will keep your heart healthy and increase stamina and strength. The restrictive diets work because you starve yourself. Your body is forced to lose weight because you are burning more calories than you are taking in. That isn’t very healthy and it is extremely difficult to maintain long term.

Here are some healthy tips to begin the New Year and maintain your goals for health and wellness.

1. Portioning is the key. You shouldn’t feel deprived of anything, that’s why diets don’t work. I like to begin with 5-6 ounces of protein (more if I am working out heavily). Protein not only fuels your body, it helps keep you fuller longer. Obviously, the leaner the better, but we are taking baby steps. Ribeye’s will always be my favorite.
2. I find grains are the hardest for me to control unless I portion. I could eat an entire loaf of bread and be completely content with my life. This is bad. Again, 6-7 ounces of whole grains daily will give you the satisfaction of the carbs we all crave without overdoing it. Whole grains contain dietary fiber, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid among many other vitamins we need to keep our bodies nourished.
3. Vegetables are my favorite…really, they are. The variety changes seasonally and there are so many wonderful things that can be done to vegetables to make them more amazing than they already are! Balance is the key to success, so 2.5-3.5 cups of vegetables a day is recommended. Asparagus with lemon, garlic and a little olive oil is a great way to get a serving of vegetables and it tastes great. I also really like charred root vegetables (in season now). The char means the sugars in the vegetables have caramelized and concentrated for a deeper sweeter flavor with a touch of smoke.
4. Dairy is another weakness of mine, let’s face it, I just like food. I don’t know if I could live without cheese, I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like. Thankfully, 3 cups of dairy is the suggested serving amount. It should also be as low fat as possible. If you aren’t going the low fat route, just eat less. I’m doing a happy dance because this means I can put a little cheese in my eggs and eat a little yogurt and honey with breakfast.

Winning! Dairy is packed with calcium resulting in better bone health.
5. Fruit is like a healthy sweet treat. Many fruits are high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and a variety of vitamin B’s. Our daily allowance is 1.5-2 cups of fruit a day. I like eating fruit with breakfast or throughout the day as a snack between meals.

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. We have to change our thinking from, diets are super restrictive to diet is a way of life and should be balanced. If you are craving a piece of cake, have a small piece. If you are craving potato chips, eat a few. We just have to reprogram our thinking to use moderation and encourage a balanced diet.

Cheers to an amazing journey in the New Year!

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Cooking with Children

Cooking with children can be a really fun experience for everyone. It is a fantastic opportunity to bond, learn, and empower children with the experience of cooking. Organization is the key to any successful cooking experience. This initial step is especially important when working with an enthusiastic capable young person.

 

When I cook with children, I begin the experience with a simple conversation, “what do you like to eat and what do you like/want to make?” These questions establish a great platform to begin the process. First, it allows me to gauge their pallet. Some children are more adventurous eaters than others. Second, it allows the child to be engaged from start to finish. Creating a sense of ownership fosters enthusiasm, respect for the ingredients, and creates a fun space to learn and work together.

 

After we’ve established what we are making, we mise en place. This French term literally means “everything in its place.” We gather our ingredients, pots and pans, cutting board, knives, and any other equipment needed to begin cooking. I usually create lists of what we need and split it between us. This is another great beginning creating ownership in the dish being created.

 

Once we have our ingredients and equipment, we read the recipe again, together. This is something key in all aspects of cooking. Reading a recipe before you begin cooking gives you an understanding of the process and it familiarizes you so mistakes are less likely to occur. Reading together also creates a perfect time for questions. If there is a measurement or abbreviation of an ingredient your sous chef doesn’t understand, this is the time to explain it. We are setting ourselves up for success.

 

Now the cooking can begin! I have a couple rules for myself when working with a young sous chef. First, I delegate appropriate tasks. A twelve year old has the ability to do different things than a seven year old. Find age appropriate engaging things to do. For example, I’d teach the twelve year old how to cut an onion with a proper chef’s knife while allowing the seven year old to measure ingredients, mix and stir things on the stove (with a stool and a watchful eye). I remember being able to beat the eggs for breakfast at four or five years old and being able to move them around in a hot pan with a spatula at age six. Every child’s ability will be different.

 

I also let my young sous chef know they have to wait for me to do anything hot. This is a rule for safety. Again, age will make a huge difference.

 

One of my favorite recipes to do together is Bowtie Pasta with Bacon and Peas. It I easy and delicious.

8 ounces uncooked (bow tie pasta)

3 bacon slices

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

1 cup frozen green peas

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

3 ounces cream cheese

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  3. Place bacon on a cookie sheet with sides and bake in the oven until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and chop.
  4. In a large sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease over medium heat.
  5. Once the bacon fat is hot, add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are soft stirring consistently.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Add the peas and cook until hot through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved cooking liquid.
  9. Add the chopped bacon, thyme, salt, pepper and cream cheese to pan.
  10. Once cream cheese is almost melted, add the pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Enjoy the experience and the wonderful meal you’ve created together.

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Holiday Treats

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The leaves are multicolored and vibrant, the air is crisp and cool and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. It is also the perfect time to get ahead on some holiday baking.

There is nothing better than a cookie with crunchy buttery edges and a soft chewy center. I know, you are thinking, “Why would I bake now, won’t the cookies get stale before the holidays?” Yes, if you bake them today, they will be stale in 3 days. The soft center you worked so hard for will be for naught. Well, I have a pro tip I’ve been using for years…FREEZE YOUR DOUGH. Wait, what? Freeze the dough? Yes!

Your best friend for cookies is a portion scoop like this:

20161111_102837

The portion scoop allows you to scoop the cookie dough and freeze individual cookies. You can bake as many or as few cookies as you need and they will ALWAYS be soft and delicious.

Here is a recipe for my favorite sugar cookie. This cookie is great because anything can be added to it. I’ve made them with butterscotch chips and pistachios. I’ve iced them with nutella. The list is unending for this cookie because it is an excellent base for any addition you’d like.

The Best Sugar Cookies

4 2/3 cups All Purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soad

1 teaspoon salt

2 3/4 cups sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, room temp

6 ounces butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 table spoon vanilla

Method

Preheat oven to 350. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Combine the sugar, cream cheese, and butter in a mixer and beat until incorporated. If you over cream the mixture, there will be too much air in the cookies and they will become really flat. Once the mixture is well incorporated, add the eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix until the dough is uniform in texture. Portion the cookies with your handy dandy portion scoop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently flatten the cookies so they aren’t dome shaped. Bake until the edges are golden and crispy, approximately 20 minutes.

*the yellow (#20) portion scoop is approximately 1 5/8 ounces. The cookies will be the size of a normal meatball. If you use something smaller, please adjust the cooking time down so the cookies don’t burn.

*if you aren’t going to bake the cookies immediately, please refrigerate the portioned scoops of dough for 10 minutes or until they have firmed back up then place in a plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 months.

20161111_102453

Happy Baking! The recipe makes about 30 cookies.

 

 

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Time for a Tailgate Party

Fall is one of the best times of the year for sports. There is a little slice of the season where Football, Baseball and Basketball are in full effect. It is also the perfect time to try new snacks for your next tailgate party.

When I tailgate, I want to have a great time, but I also want to eat great food. The grill is an easy way to create delicious food. One of my favorite things to grill is the chicken wing. They are easy to cook and easy to eat. Spice up your next tailgate with these show stoppers.

Thai Grilled Chicken Wings

2 pounds chicken wings, remove tips, separate drumetts and flats

1/2 cup oyster sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. If the chicken marinates any longer, the wings will be too salty. Grill marinated wings for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Enjoy with sriracha or hoisin for dipping.

 

Cambodian Inspired Grilled Wings

3 pounds chicken wings, remove tips, separate drumetts and flats

6 lemongrass stalks, remove outer layer, slice tender inner layer

3 tablespoons lime zest

6 garlic cloves

2 shallots, chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 cup honey

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 tablespoons fish sauce

6 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika

wooden skewers, soaked

 

Combine lemongrass, garlic, lime zest, shallots, ginger, and turmeric in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce, honey, paprika, and wings to a bowl to marinate for at least three hours, covered and refrigerated.

Once the chicken is marinated, grill for about 8 minutes or until cooked through.

 

Happy Tailgating!

 

 

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The Art of Braising Meat

We get asked all of the time, “what’s your secret to cooking great tasting meat?”, so we decided to give you a little how-to guide to braising meat so you can rock dinner. This tutorial is about braising which is a low and slow kind of cooking method. For grilling, stay tuned, we will cover that in a different newsletter. This is also a general guideline and not a specific recipe. There are an infinite number of combinations of meat, aromatics and liquids out there. To list them all out be impossible. If you are thinking, “what kind?” or “how much?” of any ingredient mentioned, send us an email and we can give you some ideas. The pictures you see here are of a 4lb beef brisket. The fat cap (or fat layer) is on the underside to better show you how it was seasoned. Also, before searing, it was cut in half to better fit in the Dutch oven. More on that later.

Step One: Buy some meat

brisket-raw
Whether it’s beef, pork, lamb or other, it doesn’t really matter. The principles are the same. But, quality does. Make sure you are buying your meat from someone you trust. Avoiding previously frozen meat matters too. Without getting too science-nerd on ya, when you freeze anything, the water molecules within the cell walls freeze too. And what happens to water when it freezes? It expands and breaks down the cell walls, which in turn can make for a mushier texture. Great for bananas in banana bread. Not so great for a piece of meat. That’s not to say you can’t use frozen meat. Just make sure it was frozen properly, and take the time to thaw it out properly- in the fridge for a day or two.

Quality also means grade. Budget determines quality grade, mostly. If you have a few extra bucks to spend, get Prime. Choice is the best choice for the dollar…(see what I did there?!) You spend a little less, and still get great quality. Select is the lowest grade you can buy at the store. Unless you are pinching pennies, I don’t recommend getting it. It’s really not worth it. So just buy Choice.

brisket-small

Step Two: Prep the meat

You don’t want to go straight from the fridge to the stove. Ever. Again…science. Let your meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. “OMG! Won’t I get sick if I leave my meat out that long?” NO! You won’t. Unless you left it in your hot car for an hour after you got home, it’s probably going to be fine. Just be smart.

Remove any extra fat or silver skin that wasn’t removed by the butcher. I don’t mean remove all the fat. You need some to make the meat not suck. But too much and your meat will be greasy. You want a nice 1/8 inch layer. And there should be some marbling. That’s why you bought Choice, remember. (Fat carries flavor, so leaner cuts tend to have less flavor.) Pat the piece of meat dry with a paper towel or two. This removes any extra moisture from the surface of the meat.

SEASON YOUR MEAT BEFORE YOU COOK IT*!!!! This may be the most important step. Unless you have a medical condition that prohibits you from consuming salt, season your meat with salt. Most of us at FTC prefer Kosher salt, but you can use whatever you want. And pepper. Use pepper. Sprinkle all sides of the meat with a layer of salt and pepper. It’s not just for flavor. Also, science.

beer-braising

Step Three: Prepare the aromatics

This is the stuff that makes the meat taste really good. Things like herbs (remember that disclaimer about infinite number of possibilities), sliced onion, chopped garlic, shallots, carrots, celery, etc. You don’t need a lot of it. Half an onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs (dried or fresh) a carrot and a celery stalk will do just fine for a 4lb roast.

You also need a liquid and some acid. Tomato, red wine, beer, and cider all work well as an acid. You will need about ½-1 cup of acid. Broth, stock and juice are fine liquids. Basically, you need something that tastes better than water. About 2 cups should suffice.

Step Four: Prepare the heat source

The oven should already be on and preheating to between 275 and 325 degrees, depending on the meat. But first, we must sear the meat. That takes a high heat source. You will want to use a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot, something with an oven safe lid. We don’t want to wash a lot of dishes at the end of this, so try to use only one pan. But if you don’t have one, you can sear in a skillet and transfer to a roasting pan.

Get the pan hot. Not rip roaring, call the fire department hot. But hot. You are going to put a big hunk of meat in the pan that is going to suck up all the heat in a short amount of time. If when you put a small amount of oil in the pan, it begins to smoke, the pan is too hot. Remove from heat, wipe out the pan, and try again. The trick is to get the pan hot enough that when you put the meat in, it stays hot and continues to caramelize the outside of the meat, but doesn’t burn down your house. And this is one case where the size of the meat matters. You need a pan that is big enough to house the meat comfortably.

Step Five: Cook the meat

brisket-searing
Add a small amount of oil to the pan, just enough that when you swirl the pan around the oil covers the bottom of the pan. And quickly it should start to shimmer. That means it’s ready. Carefully add your meat and let it sit. You will be tempted to check it. Don’t. Every time you lift the meat surface from the pan, it stops cooking. So just trust us and leave it. This is called caramelization. It is a science word that means good tasting meat.

After a couple of minutes, you should start to see the meat turn a beautiful golden or dark brown around the edges. Now would be a good time to check.brisket-browned If it has turned said GBD (golden brown delicious) color, flip the meat and repeat on all sides, until you have a nice crust around the entire outside. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Turn down the heat a skosh, add the aromatics and stir them around a bit until they start to release their juices*. Then add the liquids and scrape up any cooked-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the meat to the pan (or to the roasting pan if using a separate pan for the oven with the aromatics and liquid), transfer to the oven (covered) and let the meat cook until it is tender. For a 4 lb beef chuck roast, that is about 3 hours.

Step Six: Serve the meat, and take a pic for Instagram

Because that’s what we all do now, right? braise-meat-small

*If you want to use the braising liquid as a sauce, you will want to thicken it. Either, dust the meat with a light coating of flour after seasoning with salt and pepper, or add a heaping tablespoon of flour just after adding the aromatics, and before adding the liquid. Either way, there will be enough flour molecules to thicken the sauce while it cooks.

**If you have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten or just don’t like it, don’t use flour. There are other products out there that can be used as a thickener, but most should be added at the end of the cooking process. Email us if you have a specific question.