Monday, December 17, 2018

Tangy Five Bean Salad



















If you've been hanging out around the Eat'n Man blog much over the past nine years that it's been around (yes, almost nine years blogging, kids) then you've probably noticed we like chow of the rather decadent variety.  Butter, cheese, cream, lard and even tallow and duck fat had made appearances in our dishes, and they were oh so flavorful as a result, but every once in a while, we like to tone things down, or maybe just balance them out, with a nice salad.  And so, without further ado, our own little version of that ubiquitous picnic and pot luck piece-de-resistance, the five bean salad. 

Why five beans?  Who knows.  I've seen recipes for bean salads with as few as two beans (I guess if they went down to one type of bean, it would just be a 'something else' salad with beans) and as many as fifteen types.  Fifteen different beans, sheesh!  That's just showing off.  Besides, who knew there were so many beans.  And that's a lot of bags or cans of beans to buy and open for a salad, unless you are making a really big ole' bowl full of beans. 

Well, to be fair, the bean salads with ten, fifteen or more beans are usually made from a pre-purchased mix of beans, but hey, where's the fun in that.  No, the main reason to make a bean salad at all is so it will have a pretty and appealing mix of colors when you bring it to your office holiday party or a box social.  (what's a box social?  I have no idea, it just seemed like a funny thing to say)  No, for ultimate table-side appeal and good ole bean flavor, five is perhaps the prefect number.  And we've taken the guesswork out of selecting your bean varieties by choosing the most perfectly flavorful and color-coordinated beans we could find, tossing in a few other veggie friends for good measure.  Let's get started:


Ingredients

1 14 oz can Black Beans
1 14 oz can Red Beans
1 14 oz can Cannellini or Navy beans
1 14 oz can Cut Green Beans
1 14 oz can Wax Beans
1 can Golden Sweet Corn
1 Medium Red Onion
1 Medium Red Bell Pepper
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Champagne Vinegar
1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Handful Minced Cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste


So, as you can see, we're using canned goods here.  Nuttin' wrong with 'em, they are tasty, healthy and cheap, particularly if you purchase the store brands like we did here (expect we threw in some Le Sueur brand corn to class up the affair) 

So, open up them beans and get 'em in a mixing bowl, like we have here. 



Note the nice colorful contrast of the various beans we've selected.  Breathtaking.  In fact, all they need is a little red and purple, which we'll provide by....

Dicing our red onion and red bell pepper. 



And adding that to the bowl along with the corn. 


And give everything a little stir with a whisk. 



Next, let's make the dressing.  First, add olive oil to a separate, smaller mixing bowl.  Make sure to use top notch Extra Virgin olive oil, as we want some of the olive flavor to come across. 



Then add your Champagne vinegar. 



If you've never used Champagne vinegar before, you're in for a treat.  It's has the most delicate flavor of any vinegar I've tasted, and I've started using it more and more these days.  If you must, you can sub Apple Cider vinegar. 

Add the Dijon mustard. 



Then the sugar.



Then finally the Italian Seasoning and cilantro. 

Mix things up with a whisk until thoroughly combined.  Or if you want, use a blender. 



Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  I usually end up with about a half teaspoon of salt and the same of pepper at this stage.  I'll add more as needed after I mix the salad. 

So, add about half the dressing to the bean bowl and mix.  Taste and continue adding dressing until you've reached the flavor you like.  You'll likely add it all.  Adjust salt and pepper again and then cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill the salad in the fridge for an hour or two so the flavors will meld. 

Stir one more time before you serve and that's it. 



Until next time,


Chris






Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Smoked Tomato Soup


























As many of you know, my smoker is one of my favorite cooking appliances, and I put it to good use throughout the year with briskets, ribs, turkey, pork butts and so on.  But smoking isn't just about meats--you can smoke up other foods as well.  Foods like...soup.

Yeah, sounds weird, but I've been enjoying some great smoked soups over the years, such as my smoked corn and sausage soup that I posted here a few years back.  I've had a pretty good tomato soup recipe for a while, so I thought I'd introduce the flavor of smoke to it as well.  And no, we won't be trying to balance a bowl of soup in our smoker--we'll just smoke the veggies first, natch.



Ingredients

4 Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
1 Red Bell Pepper
4 Small Sweet Peppers
1 Medium Onion
4 Cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 Leaves Fresh Basil
1/2 Cup White Wine
28 Oz Whole Peeled Tomatoes
28 Oz Crushed Tomatoes
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Can consomme
1 cup heavy cream (optional)

I like to use both fresh and canned tomatoes in this soup.  Reasoning:  Each has unique flavors that the other doesn't.  The canned develop flavors in the canning process that are desirable, but the fresh have subtle, delicate flavors that disappear when canned, so they are my base tomatoes for the soup, and that's what gets smoked.  I use four good-sized beefsteak tomatoes for this, maybe mixing in a large heirloom if they are in season.



Half the Beefsteak Tomatoes, Bell Peppers and Small Sweet Peppers and smoke them in as cool a smoker as you can get with mild fruit wood for 1 hour.  I usually use a mild fruit wood like cherry or peach for this recipe.  Stronger woods like hickory are a bit much for this delicate dish, and of course mesquite would be way too much (I pretty much never use mesquite for anything, despite its ready availability here in Texas)



After an hour the tomatoes will look about like this. 



Go ahead and pull them and bring 'em inside.



Use tongs or a spatula or maybe a combo of both as the tomatoes will be slippery and soft.  Try to keep the skins on--they have picked up a lot of the smoke flavor so we want them in the soup initially.  (we'll strain them out later)

Dice the onion.  Heat olivc oil in large pot and saute the onion in it.



 Add minced sweet peppers. Dice Bell Pepper and add.



 Coarsely mince the fresh basil leaves.



Add the minced basil to the pan.



Add minced garlic when onion is starting to brown.

After a few minutes add white wine and deglaze the pot.  .

Add whole peeled tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and the smoked tomatoes from your smoker.



Add chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.



Add Smoked Paprika.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

After this time, use a spatula to loosely break up whatever tomatoes are still intact, then use a stick blender to puree the entire pot of soup.  (you can puree in batches in a regular blender if you don't have the stick)



Strain soup through food mill or chinois.  I'm using a fine-mesh chinois like this:





I ladle the soup into the chinois...



Then use the pestle to gently strain the soup though the mesh.



When you've got as much strained out as you can, discard the solids left behind and repeat until you've strained all the soup.  What's left behind will be almost velvety smooth and tangy, with a nice slight hint of smoke flavor.  Add the Consomm√© and heat a few minutes longer.

For a slightly creamier soup,add a half coup of heavy cream and heat through.

We served ours without the cream, but with a nice grilled cheese sandwich on the side--truly the perfect accompaniment to tomato soup.



Until next time,

Chris




Friday, April 27, 2018

Parmesan Green Beans Blistered in Mesquite Olive Oil




















I've always liked green beans, and it's a good thing, because they were a staple in our house while I was growing up.  Of course, back then, we usually got our green beans from a Del Monte can and simply heated them on the stove top.  But these days, being a foodie and all, I find I can do better, first by using fresh ingredients and then by ramping up the flavor.

This dish has both of those requirements, yet it remains super simple to prepare and easy on the pocketbook.  It also makes a lovely presentation, so it's a good side to make when you're fancying things up with your main courses and you need something that won't put you out.



Fresh green beans are full of nutrients and taste much better than the mushy versions in the can.


Ingredients

1 Pound Fresh Green Beans
1/3 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Pure Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Mesquite Olive Oil
Lemon Juice for garnish

Directions

Wash the green beans and then trim ends off of them.



Admire your cut green beans.



Heat the pure olive oil in a large skillet until very hot, say 450F. (leave the mesquite oil out for now)
Add green beans to skillet.



They should begin sizzling immediately.  Let cook a couple minutes then toss.



After the first toss, the beans that were on the bottom should have started to blister a bit and sear.  Continue to toss and cook until most of the beans are blistered and slightly blackened.



Add Mesquite olive oil.  Use it sparingly, it is potent.



If you don't have the Mesquite-smoked olive oil, feel free to experiment with other flavored oils.  Garlic oil would be nice.  Toss to coat.  Cook one more minute.

Place beans in mixing bowl.  Add Parmesan.  Toss to coat.



Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.



Until Next Time,


Chris

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

New Orleans Style Red Beans and Rice




















When I was a kid, we lived in East Texas--not too far from the Louisiana border, so there was always a hint of Cajun and Creole cuisine at hand.  The pinnacle of this had to be the local 'fancy restaurant' in our world, a seafood place known as Johnny Cace's.

Johnny Cace's was a legendary local eatery that that had been around for decades even back then, and it was always a special night when we got all gussied up and made the drive to dine there.



My dad was a seafood fanatic, and JC's didn't disappoint--he would start with a platter of raw oysters, then settle in for some sort of whole fish offering, washed down with plenty of beer.  But of course, it was the other dishes that really excited us, the 'New Orleans cuisine.'  They served things like gumbo, shrimp creole, crawfish etouffee and so on.

This place alone sort of imbued in me a fascination for New Orleans that continued into adulthood, when I actually began to visit the Big Easy.  There I discovered even more local cuisine that Johnny Cace's didn't serve.  Things like beignets and cafe au lait, hurricane cocktails and of course, that most ubiquitous of NOLA side dishes, Red Beans and Rice.



RB&R became a staple for me every time I visited, and when I'd come home I'd always be disappointed that I'd have to wait until my next trip to get red beans this good.  (There were just none available in my area)  Eventually, I decided I had to do something about it.  I would have to make my own.

I sought out Red Beans and Rice recipes far and wide, and for a time I didn't find one that truly matched the excellence of the New Orleans version.  So I began to mix and match ingredients and techniques from the various recipes, and eventually I came up with what I considered to be a fair example of what I got in NOLA.

A couple of codicils before we begin--make sure you get actual small red beans, rather than pinto or kidney beans--this will make a difference in flavor, texture and color.



Also, the secret to making your red beans sing is using a smoked ham hock (or similar--more on that below).  This was the key ingredient that I was missing in my first attempts at the dish, and once I started using it, the beans really came together.

Ingredients

32 Oz Small Red Beans, Dried
2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion
4 Stalks Celery
8 Cloves of Garlic
3/4 Cup White Wine
1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
2 Teaspoons Hot Sauce
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Ham Hock (or similar, see below)
1 Quart Chicken Stock
1 Pound Smoked Sausage
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
3 Cup White Rice

Directions

Soak beans in water for four hours or so.



Drain the beans and discard the water.  Heat oil in large pot

Dice the Onion and Celery.



Saute Onion and Celery until soft.



Mince Garlic and add it to the pot.



Add wine and stir to scrape up browned bits



Add Thyme, Hot Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce



Next, let's talk about the proteins.  Traditionally, New Orleans style red beans and rice are made with andouille sausage, a spicy pork sausage that originated in France and was brought to Louisiana by French immigrants.  If you can track some of this down, by all means use it, but use any spicy, smoked sausage other than Italian in a pinch.  Here I'm using a smoked beef and pork sausage with a garlic addition.



Note that other piece of meat above the sausage.  That is a smoked ham shank, which I found at my local grocery store.



Traditionally, a smoked ham hock is used, but I've had some bad luck with hocks I've gotten at the grocery store--they are sometimes rancid and will ruin whatever dish they are used in.  I decided to try my luck with this shank, which is of course very similar to a hock, and I was feeling confident since it was vacuum-sealed and from a reputable company.



It turned to to work great, so I've bought a few more and frozen them for future use.  If you can get one of these, give it a shot, otherwise, you'll have to try your luck with a hock.  The beans are just not the same without this pork product.

Slice the Sausage into thin half-disks.



and place it in pot.



Place the Ham Hock or Shank in the pot, nestled over the sausage.

Add the beans.  I'm using two pounds here, so they just about cover the ham shank.



Add the Chicken Stock and top up with water until the beans are just covered.  Add the Tomato Paste, Paprika and Bay Leaves.



Bring to soft boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook three hours, stirring beans every thirty minutes.  Keep an eye on the liquid level, it should be fine but if too much boils away, add a little water.  Towards the end of the three hours, a sort of thick gravy will have formed.  This is what you want, so don't add any liquid at this point.

After the three hours, discard the bay leaves.  Things should look like this:



Discard the ham hock or shank.  Some people pull the meat and stir it into the beans.  I find this meat a bit tough, and since there's all that sausage in there, I don't worry about it.  Taste beans and adjust with salt and pepper to your liking if necessary.  (I don't add any salt prior to this point as the sausage and hock/shank have a good bit of salt in them)  Beans are ready to serve now.

Cook rice according to your chosen method.  I use a plain basmati rice that I cook in a rice cooker.  Not only does this make perfect rice every time, but it will keep the rice warm indefinitely so it can be served later.  I don't do anything fancy to the rice, it is there mainly for texture, the beans are the star of this show.

Serve the beans over the rice with additional hot sauce on the side.  Some people mix them together before they serve them, but I like to just heap the beans on top and let my guests mix them as they will.  The beans are also great on their own, as a side.



Until next time,


Chris