Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Bacon Explosion

What do you get when you weave a bunch of bacon together and stuff it with ground pork? The mother of all pork recipes:

Vegetarians, observers of Kosher diets, and those without ample supplies of Lipitor need not click through to the article, just enjoy the image below.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Clean Kitchen, Spotless Bathrooms, Filthy Minds

That statement, proclaimed proudly in window paint in the front of a Dallas Deep Ellum burger joint, told me that I was in the right place. The line out the front door offered further confirmation.

On the recent visit to Dallas, my good friend Charley took me out to lunch at the Twisted Root Burger Company. This walk-up-and-order-call-your-name-out gastro-dive is doing it right. Big, fresh, properly cooked burgers with imperfect edges that catch a bitchin' sear in all the right places. Rare? No problem. Med-rare? Sure. Well? Chili's is just down the street, amigo. Nothing for you here.

They offer a couple different kinds of hand-cut fries (hence "twisted root" for their home-grown version of curly fries). They make their own ice cream for crying out loud. In addition to all the usual burgers/toppings several specialties offered were a "vinsin" (sic) burger, home-made ancho or chipotle chile sauce, fried onions and others.

I went for the chipotle, guac, and cheddar burger with fried onions and an order of twisted roots. Upon payment, you're handed your order "name". Don't bother supplying your own name, as one is conveniently provided for you on a greasy little slip of paper. Once the order is ready, the very witty proprietor calls out your name - along with any pop-culture non-sequiturs that may be relevant, such as: "Albert Einstein, your burger is ready; but you probably already knew that." Or: "James Brown, your order is ready......HAAAAAYYY!" Strawberry Shortcake, Brittany Spears, Papa Smurf were some less fortunate names. I lucked out with Optimus Prime. Oh yes, much more than meets the eye.

The wit and timing of order calling actually distracted me somewhat from the juicy hunk of goodness that was my lunch. Did I mention that they also make their own mustard and TWO kinds of ketchup?

These people do have filthy minds. This place was a palace, a temple, the Playboy Mansion of burger porn.

Thank you, Twisted Root, for ruining just about every burger joint I have ever been to. Thanks to you and maybe Taylor's Automatic Refresher in Napa, my life swirls into a vortex of disappointment every time I foolishly think that the burger I am ordering will bring me back to your hallowed halls of 80/20 meat and fresh cut fried potato-y goodness.

Twisted Root Burger Co. on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 5, 2009

Actual Holiday Spirit Captured in Image

...this explains much of the disorientation that occurs during the festive time of year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Risotto with Roasted Mushrooms and Italian Sausage

Now back at home, I made a dinner that is total comfort food: a creamy risotto with roasted mushrooms and Italian sausage. It involves quite a bit of stirring but overall it is quite simple and incredibly pleasing. Here you go:

1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 cups of stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 1/2 cups of water (less/more as needed)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1lb crimini or white mushrooms, stems removed and roasted and chopped as below
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Roast mushroom caps top-side down, on cookie sheet (allowing for juices to stay put in caps) for about 15 minutes or until tender. Prepare stock in separate pot and keep to a simmer. Carefully add mushroom liquids from inside caps to the stock pot. Rough chop mushrooms and set aside. Brown sausage in a pot and remove temporarily. Remove most fat from sausage pan - leaving behind just a bit of it as well as the brown goodness.

Add olive oil and onions to the pot that you cooked the sausage in saute until translucent. Add the garlic and white wine and reduce until almost all the liquid is gone, scraping up the brown bits in the pan.

Add the rice to the pan with the onions and saute for about a minute. Stirring constantly, add 1 cup of stock to the rice at a time, allowing for the rice to fully absorb almost all liquid in between cups. At altitude, I typically have to stir/add liquid for about 30 minutes.

When rice starts to become tender and creamy (although not quite done) add sausage, mushrooms and Parmesan to the rice. Continue cooking/stirring/adding liquid until the rice is tender but still has a bite, and has a creamy texture. Just before serving stir in parsley, reserving some for garnish.

Variation....skip the sausage all together. Replace the crimini mushrooms with dried porcinis. Place 80z. of dried porcinis in a bowl with 2 cups boiling water and let sit for fifteen minutes. Remove mushrooms, chop and hold. Reserving the mushroom liquid to add to the risotto.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Slight Twist on Swiss Steak w/ Gremolata

I served this recipe with the bean soup mentioned in the previous post. Having all the intentions but not the time to create a pot roast, I substituted thin-sliced sirloin I found at the market, with good results. You could do the same with pot roast, just increasing the time to simmer by a few hours. Here's how this particular dinner went down:

4-6 thinly sliced steak cutlets (sirloin, in this case), hit with salt and pepper.
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups red wine (such as pinot noir)

Brown steaks in heavy saute pan over medium-high heat; working in batches and setting steaks aside once browned.
Add onion, carrots, celery and saute for about five minutes.
Add garlic and saute briefly.
Add wine, de-glaze pan and reduce liquid by half, making sure to get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Return steaks to the pan, also any juices that have collected in the dish where the steaks were resting.
Cover with the crushed tomatoes.
Add water as needed to bring water level just below the top of the steaks.
Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 to 2 hours - until steaks are fork tender.
Once cooked, add salt and pepper to taste.

1/4 cup finely chopped Italian/flat parsley
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Zest of one lemon.
Combine all ingredients at least 2o minutes prior to serving.

To serve:
Remove steaks and cut as needed to individual portions and arrange on serving platter. Cover with a bit of the vegetable mixture from pan, garnish with gremolata. Reserve a good bit of the vege mixture and serve in a gravy boat or the like, as well as the gremolata - so diners made add more to taste.

Serve with roasted or on top mashed potatoes, or my favorite: on top of a dollop of creamy Parmesan polenta.

Simple Italian White Bean Soup

Another recipe that I prepared for family recently:

2 cans cannellini beans
1 onion
2 pieces bacon (or pancetta)
2 cloves (or more) garlic
2-3 cups arugula, spinach or other green that goes well in soup
1 cup white wine
3-4 cups of chicken stock
Salt to taste

Cook bacon in heavy stock pan until crisp. Remove, chop and set aside.
Remove almost all bacon grease from the pan, leaving behind browned bits and a little bit of fat.
Saute onions until translucent.
Add garlic and saute briefly.
Add wine and reduce by half.
Add beans, stock and bacon to onion and garlic mixture.
Add stock and bring to a simmer.
Add greens and serve.

Good garnishes:
A float of good olive or truffle oil.
Croutons made from day-old bread and olive oil.
More bacon or pancetta.

I have also pureed this soup smooth with good results - this version definitely requires the crunch of bacon or crouton topping.