Category: Mad scientist

I make-a da meatballs 9 Apr

I make-a da meatballs

For whatever reason, I’ve been cooking a lot of Italian cuisine lately. Might have something to do with the pasta machine I received for Christmas, or it might be because I’m a little infatuated with Giada De Laurentis. In any case, I’ve been churning out lasagna, ravioli, and fettuccine dishes like you wouldn’t believe.

Since I am, at heart, a meatatarian, I try to incorporate as much meat into every dish as I possibly can. To that end, I’ve recently discovered an amazing local butcher shop, Acme Meat Market, located at 9531-76 ave here in Edmonton, AB, as well as a local farmer who raises Berkshire pigs, Irvings Farm. For the last few weeks, Acme has been my go to spot for beef, and Irvings Farm for pork.

With amazing suppliers with these, I figured the best way to make use of all this wonderful meaty goodness would be to make meatballs. Since I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, I did a little mixing and matching, and came up with a pretty decent concoction of my own:

I make-a da meatballs
I make-a da meatballs

Since I was just messing around, the “recipe” is kind of fluid. Also, I was in the mood to freestyle the amounts:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
finely diced red bell pepper, maybe 3 or 4 tbsp
about 1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs, maybe more, maybe less. Used panko, since that was all I had on hand
about 1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
Marinara sauce, about 3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Mix everything in a large bowl. Roll into balls, however large or small you like. Mine were about the size of golf balls. Place the meatballs on a broiler pan.
Brown the meatballs in the oven. Add to marinara sauce and simmer until cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Marinara sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
I dislike “chunky” marinara sauce, so I ran the vegetables through my food processor instead of chopping them. YMMV.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

Miso 26 Mar

Miso

Umami. The fifth taste. These are the experiments of the kitchen of Sumo; his continuing mission to explore flavors, to seek out new dishes, to boldly cook what no man has cooked before!

Ok, that last bit isn’t true; I just threw it in for dramatic effect. And yes, I was watching “Star Trek” before I started writing this.

The word “umami” is, not surprisingly, a Japanese term that is yawningly described as “the scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides”.

Yeah, I have no clue what that means, either. The only science stuff I’m any good at relates to the psychological and physiological effects of combat and high stress situations on the human body.

Fortunately, the Japanese have saved us from dreary scientific terminology. The more poetic translation of umami is “pleasant savory taste”, which is a little more interesting to my way of thinking. Then again, I’m not exactly objective in these matters.

Umami can be found in a variety of foods, such as anchovies, parmesan cheese, and soy sauce. Basically, any type of fermented food contains umami. One of my favorite examples of this is miso.

Miso is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soy beans. It’s rich, thick, and salty, and imparts boatloads of umami into anything it’s combined with. Traditionally, and arguably the most popular use for miso is in (drumroll) miso soup. Don’t misunderstand me; I love miso soup, but when it comes to subjects for me to write about, it doesn’t quite have the flair, the panache, or the style.

A while back, I came across a recipe for miso paste, which was described as a marinade for meat or as a dipping sauce. While both of those sound like good ideas, I like to try to be a little more adventurous with my experimentations, and decided to try it on a variation of yakitori.

I wanted to explore versatility of miso a little more, so a quick Google search led me to this brilliant concoction. Going to be honest here – the chicken was pretty good, but those potatoes, GOOD SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS, THOSE POTATOES!!!!!! I would cheerfully kill a man for a plate of those potatoes.

Miso Yakitori

Miso paste
13 oz awase miso – Awase is essentially a blend of aka (red) and shiro (white) miso. If you can’t find awase, just use equal amounts of aka and shiro.
1/2 cup sake
1 cup mirin
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Mix the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down low. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring as the liquid reduces so that it doesn’t burn, then remove from the heat. When cool, place in a container and keep in the refrigerator.

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
salt
1/2 cup miso paste

Cut the chicken into 1/2 inch wide strips, then fold in half and thread onto the skewers. Leave about 1/2 inch at each end of the skewer. Press down lightly on the chicken with the palm of your hand, then sprinkle lightly with salt.

Place the sauce in a small bowl with a pastry or barbecue brush.

Place the skewers onto the grill (or bricks, if using), and turn every 1 minute or so as they brown. Once the meat is lightly browned and you can see it sizzling, brush the miso paste on top. Grill for about 2 minutes more, turning about every 30 seconds and brushing more paste on each time. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drip more paste on top, and serve immediately.

Cold Day Comfort Food 26 Feb

Cold Day Comfort Food

When I woke up this morning, it was bloody friggin’ cold, which I suppose is to be expected at the end of August here in Canada. After nearly two months of temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, waking up to a 6 degree morning was less than pleasant.

(For any non-metric folks out there, think 77 F to 42 F.)

Colder weather always seems to put me in the mood for some form of comfort food, and few things are as comforting to me as macaroni & cheese. I’m not talking about that crap that comes in the box with the powdered “cheese”, but actual, honest-to-goodness mac & cheese, made from scratch.

I’ve made plenty of mac & cheese in my life, a fact in and of itself that demanded that I try something different. Originally, I intended to create a variation based on a classic cheese fondue, with Gruyere, Emmentaler , and Appenzeller, but to my dismay, I learned that my cheese shop closed its doors permanently. Sumo being Sumo, I employed my superior improvisational skills and came up with a new plan.

Cold Day Comfort Food

It goes without saying that the new plan was entirely dependent on the types of cheeses I was able to find in the grocery store, but I was able to find some that I like, so it all worked out.

8 oz dried pasta (I used shells)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dry mustard
Couple pinches of freshly ground pepper
Couple dashes of sweet paprika
2 cups whole milk

grated cheddar cheese, about 2/3 cup
grated mozzarella, about 2/3 cup
grated Emmentaler, about 2/3 cup
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl.
Preheat the oven to 400° C.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt and whisk until mixture is bubbly. Stir in the dry mustard, ground pepper, and paprika. Add milk gradually, whisking constantly.
Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
Reserve ¼ cup of each of the cheeses. Add the rest to the saucepan with the milk and stir until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and mix until it’s evenly coated. Transfer the pasta to a 9×7 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Melt the remaining butter and combine with the bread crumbs and mix well. Sprinkle over the cheese topping. Bake until hot & bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch. 23 Feb

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch.

So there I was last week, sitting at the table, trying to figure out what to do with the leftover bacon from my bacon waffle experiment (I promise, I’ll come back to that one). I tossed about the idea of bacon wrapped shrimp (yum!), bacon wrapped scallops (double yum!!), then I had an epiphany – I’ve never tried wrapping bacon around PORK before! In my head, it sounded somewhat similar to filet mignon, which, let’s be honest, is friggin’ amazing. With that in mind, it was off to the grocery store to obtain some nice pork tenderloin.

But, just wrapping a strip of bacon around a piece of tenderloin sounded kind of bland. It needed some elan, some pizazz – it needed some Sumo-rizing!!!! In the spirit of Sumo-rizing, I decided to give it a bit of a teriyaki twist. Because you just can’t go wrong with teriyaki.

As delightful as this was starting to sound, I figured that I needed to serve something with it. All that thinking about filet mignon lead my convoluted little mind around to my favorite chain steakhouse, The Keg, and their awesome twice baked potatoes. Now, I do not do a lot with potatoes. Sure, put some in front of me and I’ll eat them, but cooking them isn’t really my thing. Why cook a potato when you could cook rice? In addition to the fact that it’s rice, you also get the option of having fried rice the next day.

But, I digress. A quick burst of Google-fu revealed a fairly simple (and tasty) looking recipe for a twice baked potato, so I figured “what the hell”.

It turned out fairly well, but I think the recipe will get a few tweaks the next time I make it. Just needs a little diversity in the flavor profile.

Anyway, this is what my dinner looked like last Tuesday:

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch.

Yes, yes, I know……the presentation needs work.

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin:

1 pork tenderloin, roughly 1 pound
Bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sake

Cut the tenderloin into chunks approx. the same width as the bacon. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and sake in a bowl or baking dish. Place the tenderloin in the bowl and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wrap a piece of bacon around each medallion, affixing each strip with a toothpick and trimming off the excess and saving for some other bacony goodness. Place the medallions on a foil lined baking sheet, and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy and the pork is fully cooked.

Twice baked potatoes:

2 medium to large baking potatoes
cooking spray (optional)
sea salt (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
3 to 4 slices of crisp fried bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
paprika to taste

Spray the potatoes with cooking oil, and then grind some sea salt on them. Place them in an oven-proof dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
While the potatoes are baking, combine 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a dash of black pepper. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while your potatoes cook.
When your potatoes are done, split each of them into two equal halves with a knife. Since they will be hot, hold them with a potholder while you scoop out the potato meat. Place the potato meat in a dish, and reserve the potato shells.
Mix the potato meat with the mixture that you have previously made. Now blend in the crisp, crumbled bacon. Spoon this mixture evenly into the four empty potato shells. Sprinkle the top of each potato half with Cheddar cheese, to taste. Finally, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, to taste. You may freeze the potato halves at this point, but be sure to thaw them before you bake them.
When ready to bake, if the potatoes are refrigerated or cool, let them come to room temperature. Then bake them in an oven-proof dish for 20 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees. If they are cool when you put them in the oven, it will take a little longer.

Christmas cheesecake 19 Feb

Christmas cheesecake

I love cheesecake. I love the flavor, I love the texture, I love the fact that you can put pretty much anything you want into it and it will taste fantastic.

A while back, I got it into my head that I should make mini cheesecakes. Just seemed like an easier way to share my experiments with more people. I probably could have made due with muffin pans, but I saw these nifty little mini-cheesecake pans online, and decided that I needed them.

I mean, come on – they have removable bottom plates to help get the cakes out. Who WOULDN’T want to have them?

In any case, I was having some difficulty finding the bloody things. Checked all the big name stores, and found squat. At this point, where my OCD was about to set off my anger control issues, a friend suggested that I check out a local specialty kitchen store before I broke something (or someone).

Found the pans (which were damned bloody expensive!) and churned out some cheesecake. The guinea pigs loved it, I loved it, and all the effort I put into finding the pans was worth it.

Christmas cheesecake

Flash forward to now: since the holidays are upon us, I decided to make some “Christmasy” cheesecakes to distribute to my fans. The most Christmasy ingredient I could think of was candy canes, and things just sort of snowballed from there. Enjoy!

2 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 blocks Baker’s white chocolate, melted
6 candy canes, crushed into pieces
2 1/2 cups grahm cracker or Oreo crumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.
In a medium bowl, combine the butter and crumbs. Lightly grease the pans, and press 2 tbsp of the mixture into each cup.
Add cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat together until light and fluffy.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler and fold into cream cheese mixture.
Fold in candy canes.
Spoon a couple of tbsp of filling into each cup, almost to the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before removing the cakes from the pans.

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes (if you have those pans)

You could also use muffin/cupcake tins (with paper liners), but I don’t know how many this recipe would make. You could also make a normal sized (9 inch spring form pan) cheesecake, but I would add another block of cream cheese, another egg, increase the candy canes to 1/2 cup, decrease the crumbs and butter by half, and probably throw in another block or two of the white chocolate. But hey, that’s just me.