Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cuban Picadillo

Picadillo is the name of a stew that originated in Spain. The name picadillo is derived from the Spanish word picar, which basically means minced. The recipe I am going to share with you today is the Cuban I find it the most delicious of the various picadillo recipes. The taste sensation  can best be described as Spanish with strong Caribbean flavors.

The Cubans use picadillo in a wide variety of dishes. In it's simplest form, it is served as is, like a stew, typically along side a mound of white rice. It is also served in taco shells and in flour tortillas. Sometimes it's served in a bun....think of it as a Cuban sloppy joe. Another favorite use is in empanadas...which are essentially turnovers baked with picadillo inside. However you like to serve it, this Sam Sifton recipe makes for great comfort food on cool fall evening. It serves six.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 ounces dried chorizo, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ pounds ground beef
 Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
cup raisins
cup pimento-stuffed green olives


  1. Put the olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over a medium-high flame, and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onions, chorizo and garlic, stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to soften, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with a fork as it does. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg and stir to combine. Lower the heat, and let the stew simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover the pan, and add the raisins and the olives. Allow the stew to cook for another 15 minutes, then serve.

Pairing: Pacifico Mexican Beer

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

I'm both a foodie and a techie. I'm constantly in search of everything new in the food and technology worlds. I have the good fortune to have been retired for the last four years ("Every day is Saturday"). This leaves me ample time to take a full lap of the Internet each day in search of what is new.

On my lap yesterday, I stumbled on this slow cooker from Belkin. Now anyone familiar with the tech world knows Belkin makes really cool products...from smart apps to iPhone accessories to energy management devices. What Belkin does not do is make cooking products. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? But it seems that this is their first foray into the cooking world. It's a Internet connected slow cooker selling for a mind-boggling $132. There's a single on/off button on the slow cooker. All of the controls are managed by an app you download to your smartphone. This is hard for me to grasp.

This is a picture of my slow cooker, which was acquired sometime in the late 70's. Notice the really cool avocado color, which just happened to match the appliances in my condo at the time. This was acquired back in the day of disco, polyester clothing and really long hair. George Faber was ripping it up every night with Rupert's Orchestra at the hottest venue in town...Rupert's Nightclub. Drop the Corvette off at the valet....button up the three-piece suit....and every Friday night was like walking into a ladies prison with a pardon in each hand.

I only ask one thing of my slow cooker and that is to cook shit slow. It has a single button. And it works every bit as well as it did 36 years ago. It no longer matches my appliances, which may be a good thing. It cost about $12 in the day...and you can still get a perfectly good one new at Target for $14. So why in the hell do I need a $132 WiFi connected slow cooker? 

I could only come up with one scenario where it might possibly come in handy. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, I foresee the need to travel great distances to forage for food and highly-rated, vintage red wines. Knowing that I am not going to return in time to turn on my avocado Rival Crockpot, I think it would be incredibly useful to pull out my iPhone 6+ and fire up the Belkin Slow Cooker so that we would have something warm and yummy after a hard day of foraging and slicing off zombie heads. But then that begs the question, will we have WiFi in the Zombie Apocalypse?

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, sliced into half moons
3 1/2 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

  1. Heat a deep sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onions and cook on medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until the onions have caramelized lightly.
  2. While the onions are cooking, take the brisket out of its packaging and pat it dry. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat and turn on your vent or fan, if you have one. Sear the brisket until a golden brown crust appears on both sides of the meat. Remove and place in a slow cooker insert, fatty side up.
  3. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the meat. When the onions are lightly browned, pile them on top and around the meat. Mix the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and pour into the slow cooker insert.
  4. Cover and cook in the slow cooker on LOW for 8 hours. Remove meat from slow cooker. The brisket can be sliced or shredded immediately and served with the onions and juices. 

Wine pairing: Merlot

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mexican Pot Roast

The goal of this recipe is not to serve a Mexican pot roast. The goal of this recipe to provide exquisitely flavored, shredded beef for your tacos or fajitas. The best part of the recipe, besides the taste, is that it is ridiculously easy....just dump everything into a slow cooker and walk away.

Now this will shock my readers, but I buy my pot roast at Costco. Costco sells it for $3.99 a pound. The roasts are chuck, come two to a package and they usually weigh in at 6-8 pounds (3 to 4 pounds per roast). I cook with one and freeze the other. I created a special way to freeze these large pot roasts as they are just too big to fit in my vacuum food saver bags.

Air is the enemy when causes freezer burn, which ruins the meat. So first I wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap. I do it twice by laying two large sheets of cling wrap in a cross pattern, enabling me to wrap it around the roast and then end to end. Then I do the same with heavy duty foil. Then I slide the whole thing into a freezer bag in which I have squeezed out all of the air. Works like a charm every time.

At the end of the recipe, you are going to shred the meat. You'll then remove the fat from the sauce and add the meat back to the sauce. While you can easily skim the fat off of the sauce (because fat rises to the top), I like to use a fat separator. Just pour all of the sauce into the separator and the fat will rise to the top. Because the spout exits the at the bottom of the separator, you can pour out all of the good sauce and leave the fat behind.

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 pounds)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup beef broth


  1. In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cut roast in half; rub spice mixture over meat. Transfer to a slow cooker. Top with onion and garlic. Pour broth over meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Remove meat from slow cooker; shred with two forks. Skim fat from cooking juices. Return meat to slow cooker; heat through. Using a slotted spoon, place 1/2 cup meat mixture on each taco shell or tortilla. Top with your favorite ingredients.

Pairing: Pacifico Mexican Beer.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crispin and Bacon Brats

"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet,
to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow,
or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

~ William Shakespeare~

Last week I shared with you my discovery and fascination with Crispin Hard Cider. Last week's recipe used that marvelous hard cider as a marinade. This week we are going to use hard cider and bacon to create a brat that can only be described as wretched excess.

Followers of my blog know that my typical way to prepare brats is to boil them first in beer and then finish them off on the grill. This methodology has several benefits. First, it assures you that the brat is fully cooked. Second, it imparts the wonderful flavor of beer to the sausage. And finally, the excess fat is boiled away before you put the brat on the grill, eliminating flare-ups and burned brats.

The methodology will be the same here. But instead  of boiling them in beer, we are going to cook them in Crispin Hard Cider. Now I'm partial to the English Dry version of the cider, but you can feel free to use whatever flavor of hard cider you like. Once the brat is cooked, you will wrap each one with a strip of bacon and cook on the grill over indirect heat. Crispin and Bacon brats! The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

4 brats
1 small onion, thickly sliced
One 16.9 ounce can Crispin Hard Cider
4 strips thick cut bacon
4 brat buns

  1. Place the brats in a small to medium pan. Add onions and cider to the pan.
  2. Bring cider to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer brats for 20 minutes.
  3. While brats are simmering, fire up your grill. Keep coals confined to just one-half of the grill, as you will be cooking the brats over indirect heat (the side with no coals)
  4. Remove brats from pan and wrap each brat with a strip of bacon. Secure bacon to brat with toothpicks.
  5. Place brats on the side of the grill where there are no coals. Cover and cook until bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes.
  6. Remove from grill and serve.

Pairing: I would opt for an ice cold Crispin Hard Cider. But if you want to wash down your brat with wine, you must choose Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir and bacon...a marriage made in heaven.