Sunday, 20 February 2011

Pressure Cooker Red Salsa

This morning I was looking through the fridge and found that I had a few things that were soon going to expire if I didn't use them up.  Handily, they were the perfect ingredients for making a red salsa - vine ripened tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and some leftover onion. Since I wasn't exactly prepared to have red salsa with anything specific, I thought I would opt for a cooked version which can be saved versus a fresh version which needs to be used up right away. 

I prefer to make cooked salsa like this in the pressure cooker.  This is mostly because it allows you to significantly reduce the amount of water required, which in my mind means you save on flavour that may go to waste in excess water.  It also makes for a super easy and fast method of cooking.

I popped the tomatoes, jalapenos, and some garlic into the pressure cooker, along with the requisite 1/2 cup water (pressure cooking wisdom advises, that no matter what you are cooking, 1/2 cup of liquid is required - the picture below is an attempt to show how much liquid comes out - about 3/4 cup).  I cooked as I outline below, then finished in a blender with onion, cilantro and salt. 

This sauce is so delicious and versatile.  Depending on the heat of your jalapenos (you really don't know how hot until it's done as jalapenos can vary), it may be a super spicy dish or just an even jalapeno flavour.  The onion and cilantro bring a fresh flavour.  

You can use this sauce straight up with nacho chips, use it to top eggs or other dishes, or as a sauce for enchiladas.  It also freezes well to pull out at some future date when a craving sets in. 

Pressure Cooker Red Salsa
This recipe isn't an exact science in terms of proportions and is completely scaleable - so feel free to mix it up ingredients and quantity require. 
*No matter what quantity, the 1/2 cup water remains the same - don't scale it up as there'll be too much liquid if you do.

6 small-medium sized vine ripened tomatoes
2 jalapeno peppers
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water*
1/2 medium onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt

Place the tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic and water into the pressure cooker.  Secure the lid, set to high pressure (15 psi), and bring to pressure over medium-high heat.  Once pressure is reached reduce the heat to medium-low, but not so low that you lose pressure.  Cook for 10 minutes.  You can let the pressure drop on it's own or use a quick method. 

One the pressure has dropped, use a large spoon (large so that the ingredients don't break apart on you) to scoop the ingredients into a blender.  It's good to take a bit of the water with your on this, but don't take it all otherwise your sauce will be too runny.

Once in the blender add your onion, cilantro and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Voila! 

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Triple Smoked Ham with Jam Glaze

Don't let the name fool you, this recipe is not a lot of work where you have to cook something three times over.  In fact, it's just the opposite, it's a super easy way to spruce up your usual ham roast. 

I started with a double smoked ham roast from the grocery.  Traditionally you just reaheat these in the oven, maybe with a brown sugar glaze and cloves.  This is fine, but lacks the depth that an extra round of smoking brings out. 

I didn't trim the ham as keeping the fat serves two fantastic purposes:  i) it prevents the ham from drying out; ii) it forms a delicious crackling crust upon extra smoking.  I mixed together some jam -a mango/peach blend - with some mustard powder and allspice.  A rubbed the jam glaze on the roast and voila it was ready for smoking.

I prepared the smoker with pecan pellets (you could use any light-medium smoked wood, but I wouldn't go for the stronger options on this one).  Heated it on high for 15 minutes then reduced it to 250F and plopped the ham on. 

Three hours later I returned to a gorgeous ham roast.  This likely could be done in 1-2 hours, but I like the extra bit of time to really form that crackling crust. 

When I make this roast I make sure I have lots left over, I've even done two at a time just for the extras.  I never buy the processed ham anymore.  The leftovers are great for sandwiches, pizza, quiche, you name it.  They also freeze nicely (I vacuum pack them into smaller portions for meals). 

Triple Smoked Ham with Jam Glaze
1 - 6 lb double smoked ham roast (I'm sure single smoked would work just fine)

For Glaze:
1 1/2 cups mango, peach, or apricot jam
1 tbsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp allspice

Pecan pellets (or apple, cherry, alder)

Place the ham on a large cutting board or baking sheet.  (This is just to catch juices and help carry it to the smoker.  Mix all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and slather all over the ham. 

Prepare your smoker with pecan pellets.  Preheat your smoker on high for 15 minutes then reduce to 250F.  Place the ham on the smoker and let cook for 3 hours. 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Smoked Turkey

Although we had turkey on Christmas day, we opted to make turkey again. But we didn't want a repeat of the same meal, but rather something different, and what better way than to smoke it. This  a no frills, straight up smoked turkey.  We didn't try spicing it or anything different so that we could compare it to roast turkey.  In the end I would have to say that if you are ever juggling items in an oven when roasting a turkey, this makes a perfect substitute for cooking the turkey without tying up your oven.

We've made smoked poultry before (chicken, duck), but never a turkey.  When I researched recipes there weren't a heck of a lot.  So I figured I'd wing it (pun intended) using my knowledge of birds of Christmas past.  For this round I have a 16 pound turkey. 

Step1 - thaw the bird (if not fresh).  I mention this step only because it's not your usual procedure when dealing with a large bird.  It's one of those times when the auto-microwave feature falls short.  The main trick with thawing a large bird is keeping it cool enough so that no bacteria forms.  The optimal way is to thaw it in the fridge, but that not only requires lots of pre-planning, but lots of fridge room (which particulary at Chrismtas, tends to be a premium entity).  Instead I went with the cold water method where you keep the bird in cold water.  My preferred way for this is to use a cooler.  I have a perfect coleman sized one for this task.  Note, you should be using a proper cooler and not a foam cooler as it will not keep the bird cold enough.  You put the bird in the cooler and fill with cold water, then cover with the cooler lid. Check the bird every few hours to make sure the water is very cold.  You can add ice to keep cold, however, if you have a good quality cooler you'll be surprised how cold it keeps the bird especially because the bird is frozen.  I didn't have to add any ice for this step.  Either way, keeping it very cold is imperative to ensuring no bacteria forms.

Step 2 - Brine the bird.  I only started brining turkies about a year ago and I am converted.  It really makes a difference in terms of flavour and a juicer texture. Again, I use a cooler for this step.  Again, you should be using a proper cooler and not a foam cooler as it will not keep the bird cold enough.    Place 2 cups of salt and 2 cups of brown sugar into a cooler.  Remove any wrapping and inside packets from the bird.  Add the bird to the cooler and fill with ice cold water (you can also add some ice cubes to ensure very cold) and cover with the lid.  Let the turkey soak in the brine for at least 12 hours.  Check the bird occasionally to make sure the water is very cold. You can add ice to keep cold, however, if you have a good quality cooler you'll be surprised how cold it keeps the bird. I added ice at the start with ice cold water and didn't have to add more ice for 12 hours.  Keeping it cold is imperative to ensuring no bacteria forms.  Note: if you have just thawed your turkey using the cold water method, do not use the same water for brining - start fresh.

Step 3 - Smoke the bird.   I decided to do a heat combination for smoking the bird - first some higher heat, followed by the traditional low and slow.  Here is my process:
  • Prepare the smoker with apple pellets.  I find anything heavier can overwhelm poultry and make it taste more like ham than turkey.  Then heat the smoker on high to 400F.  
  • Place the whole bird, breast side up, on the smoker.  Let smoke on high for 45 minutes.
  • Becaues we all know that poultry can easily dry out while smoking, employ extra resources in the form of a cheesecloth. Prepare a four-layer piece of cheesecloth, large enough to cover the breasts of the bird, by soaking it in 1/2 cup melted butter. 
  • After 45 minutes on high heat, cover the bird with the cheesecloth then turn to low or 250F (see picture below - it's not pretty, but it is efficient).  Finish the bird on this temperature.  3-4 hours. 
  • About an hour before the bird is ready remove the cheese cloth so that the top can brown.  The meat will be cooked, it just won't be the lovely brown.  If needed, turn the heat up higher, or even do a quick hit under the oven broiler - no one like an un-golden bird.
  • The turkey is ready when an thermometer stuck in the thickest part of thigh between the leg and body registers 170F.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Stinchetti di Maiale Arrosto - Italian Pork Shanks adapted for the Pressure Cooker

The air has the cool bite to it.  Although I'm not thrilled with the prospect of several winter months ahead, it does inspire comfort food.  What better than slow cooked pork shanks.  Or, if you don't have time for the slow cooking, the perfect alternative is to do them in the pressure cooker.

I'm not familiar with the Italian name in the title, but had found this recipe and thought it would adapt well to the pressue cooker.  It reminds me a lot of my pork osso buco in the pressure cooker recipe but without the tomatos.  What I really like about this one is that you can use your bounty of fresh herbs from the garden (as long as you still have them).  In this case, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage. 

It's quite simple, you use pork shanks, trimmed of the thick skin and seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown them along with the rosemary.  Add veggies, wine, more herbs, bouillion.  Bring your pressure cooker to pressure and 25 minutes later you have a delicious comfort food dinner. 

Italian Pork Shanks - in the Pressure Cooker

4 meaty pork shanks, trimmed of fat
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 sprigs rosemary

1/2 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio)
1/2 cup chicken boullion
2 large carrots, 1/4" slice
1 stalk celery sliced
1 onion, diced
2-3 sage leaves
2 sprigs thyme, stem removed
1 small bunch parlsey, chopped

Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker.  Season the meat with salt and pepper then sear on all sides alongside the rosemary.  Remove the rosemary and add the remaining ingredients to the pot.  Secure the lid and bring to pressure, reduce heat enough to keep pressure.  Cook for 20 minutes and then let the pressure drop on its own. 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Hearty Sausage and Beans in the Pressure Cooker

I love reading food magazines. In fact, I don't recycle each issue (unless its truly boring) but rather save them for re-reading in the same season each year (not in a hoarder sort of way, I do have limits).  So with fall upon us with all of its brilliant, leafy splendor, I pulled out my small stack of issues from seasons gone by.  In the Bon Appetit, October 2009 issue, I re-found several recipes that I immediately was compelled to dive into, but the one that took off was the White Beans with Sausage recipe.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly stated as it was one that requried several hours of time.  Instead I modified it and employed the pressure cooker to expedite the process. 

First I prepared the dried white beans suing a quick soak method by adding them to a lot of water and bringing them to pressure for two minutes followed by an hour of sitting to absorb.  Finally you drain them.

Meanwhile I prepared the sausage by browning it with garlic. 

I put the drained beans; sausage, garlic and drippings; along with red wine, canned tomatoes, more garlic, sage leaves, salt and pepper.  Brought it all back to pressure for 20 minutes, then let it drop pressure on its own. 

When I took off the  lid it smelled fantastic - spicy, homey, delectable.  The sausage didn't look as attractive as when it is when fully sauteed or roasted, but the taste was brilliant.  It's best meaty flabours came through along with the sage and garlic.  The beans and tomato sauce were also amazing and flavourful.  The beans I think would have been better (softer vs. al dente) if soaked overnight in traditional fashion, but still tasted great. 

Final  verdict:  comforting, tasty, great smell.

Hearty Sausage and Beans in the Pressure Cooker
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2009

1/2 pound dried white beans
5 cups water

1 tbsp olive oil
3 links sweet Italian sausage
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup water

3 sage leaves
1/2 cup red wine (California merlot)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
14 oz canned diced tomatoes with their juice
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Prepare the beans using the fast method in the pressure cooker as described above or soak overnight.  Drain.

Prepare the sausage by sauteeing with the oil and garlic until browned, but not cooked.

Put the beans, sausage along with garlic and any browned bits, and remaining ingredients in the pressure cooker.  Bring to high pressure and let cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let reduce pressure on its own.

Serve with a crusty break for mopping up sauce.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Smoked Stuffed Turkey Breast

I stumbled upon this recipe in the Barbecue Queens "Big Book of Barbecue" cookbook.  It's an interesting one as it's basically a modified Saltimbocca recipe.  Italian meets turkey meets smoker.  It screamed try me (or perhaps it gobbled try me)!

It's an embarrasingly easy recipe for a terrifc product - right up my alley. You take a whole turkey breast and cut a slit lengthwise through the middle.  This is nice and easy to do with a turkey breast compared to a chicken breast and also makes for much better stuffing potential. 

You then put into the slit a good slice of brie (you could substitute another cheese such as fontina) and a couple of sage leaves.  Then wrap the whole thing with thinly sliced prosciutto. Easy pleasy.

Preheat your smoker on high for 15 minutes, then reduce to smoke or 275F.  Put the prepared turkey breasts directly on for 1.5 - 2 hours. 

This looks like a gourmet dinner.  Each bit has a smoky taste which seems to mostly to come from the prosciutto vs. the turkey.  Also, unlike other smoked poultry, the poultry meat doesn't turn pink from smoking.  The brie doesn't melt in a messy way (due to the proscitto wrapping) and stays nicely contained.  The only thing I would change is to chop up the sage so that it's better distributed. 
I served this dish to a girlfriend who had joined me for dinner and she loved it so much we were concocting how to replicate this without  smoker.  You certainly wouldn't duplicate it, but it would be worth the try as it was so delicious.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Smoked Duck

I've only made a whole duck once before.  It wasn't a particularly good experience.  This was a few years ago, before we had access to some quality duck, so I had bought a frozen imported one that was exceedingly small.  I roasted it, trying an a l'orange recipe, but I think that duck was not destined for success from the get go.

Fortunatley, this time, was a much better experience.  I had an absolutely gorgeous, proper sized duck from Mariposa Farms about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa.  As an aside, Mariposa Farms is a lovely farm that raises a variety of animals.  They provide their meats to many of the best restaurants in the area.  They raise their animals in a wonderful environment.   When we went there, I had the pleausre of meeting one of the owners (originally from Saskatchewan) who showed us around.  You could tell that the animals are a priority and extremely well treated. This, to me, should be a consideration for all carnivores. 

As you know, duck is a fatty bird.  This can be beneficial for getting a crispy skin, but only if done right.  One method that I found that I thought would be perfect for the smoker, was to pour a good amount of boiling water over the bird, before putting it on the smoker.  First you cut several tiny slits in the skin, then pour at least 1.5 - 2 litres over the bird.  This starts to melt and reduce the fat. 

I opted to go for a more Asian style duck for the smoker.  I prepared a standard teriyaki sauce, spiked with five-spice powder.  This would be used for basting the bird while it cooked. 

To cook the bird I employed the "beer can" method.  I didn't actually use beer as my liquid, just some watered down orange juice (keeping with the teriyaki recipe).  I like this method on the smoker as it seems to cook the bird quite evenly and the liquid helps to keep it moist.  In addition to the baste, I also sprinkled a bit of five-spice powder on the skin of the bird.

I smoked the duck with cherry pellets for 5 hours.  I think it didn't need this long, but other obligations prevented me from taking it off sooner.  Fortunately my husband was available to assist as the official baster.  He basted the bird every hour. 

When done, the  whole bird isn't the prettiest sight.  I think the beer-can format has something to do with it.  Fortunately, this isn't an indicator of taste.

The duck had crispy skin as it should.  I actually don't think it would have achieved this as well without the boiling water part of the recipe.  The flavour was well balanced.  The teriyaki glaze came through but was not overpowering.  The meat was tender - not too juicy, not too dry. 

Bonus:  Although I had to freeze my leftovers, my plan is to use the extra meat to make Mesa Grill's duck quesadillas.

Smoked Teriyaki Duck
4-5 pound duck
1.5 litres boiling water

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup soya sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sherry
juice of one orange
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 knob of ginger, minced
1 tsp five-spice powder, plus extra to shake on the bird

Extra orange juice for beer can cooker

Make several small slits in the duck with a sharp knife.  Place the duck breast side up in a clean, disinfected sink and pour the boiling water over it slowly.  Let drain.  (be sure to clean and disinefect the sink again once you remove the duck)

Prepare the sauce by mixing the oil, soya sauce, honey, sherry, orange juice, garlic and ginger in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and let reduce 2-3 minutes.  Let cool.

Place the duck on a beer can cooker filled half-way with orange juice.  Baste with sauce, then sprinkle with five spice powder. 

Prepare the smoker with cherry pellets on a high heat for 15 minutes, then reduce to 250F.  Put the duck on its beer can cooker onto the smoker.  Baste every hour and cook for 3-5 hours until the internal temperature (measure at the thigh) is 160F - 170F.