Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stew


























Ingredients

2 Lbs Beef, (Top Round or Chuck)
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Onion, Diced
3 Carrots, sliced
2 Russet Potatoes, Cubed
14 oz Corn
14 oz Green Beans
8 oz Tomato Paste
3 Quarts Water
1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Salt
Pepper
Beef Bouillon Cube (Optional)



When I was a kid, my Mom’s cooking was my entire culinary world, with the occasional exception of a family dinner out to El Chico or better still, Curly’s Catfish Cabin, a little hole in the wall catfish joint on Caddo Lake.  (Back in the Seventies, hole in the wall catfish joints were all over the place.  Whatever happened to those?)

Oh well, I digress.  What I’m saying was that Mom made simple yet tasty fare that I loved, and this recipe was one of my favorites.  She called it simply ‘Stew;’ not ‘Beef Stew’ (though there was beef in it), not ‘Hobo Stew,’ (I’m pretty sure no hobos were involved in the making of her stew) and certainly not Brunswick Stew (I don’t think we even knew where Brunswick was back then, let alone New Brunswick).  No, it was simply stew, and it was a delightful orange -colored broth with chunks of beef (usually leftover roast from Sunday) and whatever vegetables were on hand (corn and green beans always seemed to make an appearance).   It was a warming dish served on cold autumn and winter nights, always with plenty of cornbread for sopping purposes.  

I can’t remember the last time I had a bowl of Mom’s stew that she herself had made.  When my sibs and I grew up and moved out, she slowly stopped making Sunday roasts, and thus the basis for stew was gone.  Sadly, she passed away without me ever thinking to ask her for her recipe.  I’ve been longing for this stew lately, so I consulted my sister, and she had a few thoughts, and with that, I went forth and tried to replicate Mom’s stew.  The result is close, but it’s not an exact match to the flavor I remember, but it was quite delicious, so I decided it was worthy of blogging.  I’ll probably continue to tweak it over the coming years. (Ed. Note:  I've retitled this post 1950's Housewife Stew in honor of Mom and to give it a more colorful name)







Melt Butter in a large pot or Dutch oven.  



When hot, brown the beef in the butter, 



in batches if necessary (do not crowd or you’ll steam the beef, not brown it) on all sides and reserve.  



Add the diced onion and cook until translucent, about eight 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.   



When the onions have cleared, add the paprika and Worcestershire sauce, stir and cook for another minute. 



Add water...



...and bring to a boil.  Return beef to pot...



...cover and let boil for a couple minutes.  



Reduce to a simmer and cook beef for an hour or so before you add anything else.  This will allow it to ‘stew’ and get tender.  After this time, add the carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans and tomato paste.  



Cook another 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.  Taste stew and adjust flavor as necessary with salt and pepper.  Add the bouillon cube if a bit more ‘beefy’ flavor is desired. 



Serve with some hot homemade cornbread for dipping (or sopping, as we like to say down here) purposes.

 

And so, that’s it.  This is certainly not the ‘fanciest’ stew recipe you’ll ever come across, but it’s a darn tasty one, reminiscent of my childhood.  I think I’ll keep it. 

Until next time,

Pass me another slice of cornbread!


Chris

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Smoked Whole Turkey






















Thanksgivings fast approaching, so let’s talk turkey.  What shall we talk about?  How about the fact that I love turkey, and one bird is just never enough for the various turkey related holidays we have around here.  I always roast a big bird in the oven, and fry a second in a deep fryer outside.  Two birds make sure that there are plenty of leftovers.  But the last couple of years, I’ve been doing three, because, well, I love leftover turkey, and so do several other members of the family.  The third bird has ended up being smoked, and oh, my friends, it is a heavenly way to cook turkey.  Simple, too.  And you can do it in advance, saving time during the hectic cooking frenzy that always seems to exist on Thanksgiving.

The idea for the smoked bird came about when a couple of friends sent us a Greenberg Smoked Turkey.  It was some of the most amazing poultry I’d ever tasted, and this from a bird that’s been shipped through the mail!  I had to have more.  






A Greenberg Smoked Turkey

But of course, since I fancy myself a smoker of some merit, I had to figure out how to do it myself.  After a couple of years, I believe I’ve come close.  I’ve managed to settle on a technique that produces a wonderful smoked bird that, while still not quite a Greenberg, is delicious nonetheless. 

If you haven’t had one, Greenberg turkeys are intensely smoky.  Not oversmoked, by any measure, but the bird is quite blackened when it arrives, and the smoke flavor really penetrates into the meat and delights the palate with its richness.  The technique that follows is simple.  I’m going for that same deep penetrating smoke flavor without a lot of other adornments.  So, in this technique, there are no brines, no rubs, no injections or marinades.  We’re letting the turkey’s own flavor shine, delicately seasoned with the smoke. 

I start with a 12 to 14 pound frozen grocery store turkey.  



You can go fresh if you want, but don’t go much bigger than 14 pounds for smoking, as the longer cooking times necessary for larger birds can cause them to become over-smoked and ashy tasting.  Also, since I’m smoking mine in a Weber kettle, there’s not enough room for a much larger bird.  If frozen, thaw the turkey for several days in your refrigerator so that it is completely thawed by the day that you are going to smoke it.  I always smoke it two days before I serve it, then keep it refrigerated until serving day.  I find this is one of the factors that really gets the smoke flavor to penetrate deep into the meat.

Before you smoke it, you need to prep the turkey.  Remove the giblets and neck from the cavities, 



then cut off the plastic or wire straps that hold the legs together.  



You want to open up the main cavity so that heat gets in here and cooks the turkey evenly.  Also, if it has one, I remove the ‘pop up when done’ indicator from the turkey.  



These are notoriously inaccurate, and can result in an overcooked (and dry) bird, so I rely on a good meat thermometer. 



Pat the turkey dry and then go and prepare your smoker.  Light about half a chimney of charcoal and set it up for indirect cooking, to the side of your kettle or smoker.  Then place wood chunks or chips on top of the coals.  Choose mild to medium smoke woods, like Hickory, Pecan or any of the fruit woods.  



My smoking wood bins

For this turkey, I’ve selected pecan. 



Charcoal bin set up with wood for indirect cooking

Place the bird on the grate breast side up on the opposite side from your fire.



As you can see, I'm smoking the neck here as well, to freeze for later use to add smoke flavor to a pot of beans or similar.  

Cover your kettle, and open the top damper wide so you get a good smoke flow.


I love the smell of pecan smoke in the morning!

Adjust the bottom damper so that the chamber comes to a temperature of about 275F.  This is lower than most places will tell you (standard is 325F) but I find a higher temp cooks the turkey too quickly to develop the smoke flavor I’m looking for.  At 275F, a 12 pound turkey should take about four hours to cook.  But don’t rely on time estimates, use a meat thermometer so that you can tell when the breast reaches 165F and the thigh reaches 180.  Cooking breast side up and thigh side down helps get this higher temp in the thigh.  Pull the bird when both reach these temps. 



After about an hour, the bird will look like this.  Rotate it 180 degrees after two hours so the other side is close to the fire, allowing the bird to cook evenly.  After four hours or so, it should have reached proper temperature (use that thermometer to check!) and it will look like this:



At this point, you could serve right away, but like I said above, if you chill the bird in the fridge for a day or two, the flavor of the smoke will really permeate the meat itself, and not just linger on the skin.  I find it’s best served cold, so no need to reheat.  The gravy you’ve surely made will do that for you and your guests anyway. (You'll get some drippings in the bottom of the pan as the turkey chills in the fridge.  This will make some nice gravy with a hint of smoke flavor!)



Until next time,

Happy Turkey Day!

Chris