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.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sunday Gravy in a Pressure Cooker

You will see at No Smoke No Pressure that I got a very cool pasta press for my Kitchenaid mixer.  When I first went to use it I was so excited about the pasta, that I forgot about the sauce, so when it came time to get the sauce ready I was short on time, but didn't want to compromise.  The pessure cooker came to the rescue.

Sunday Gravy is a traditional Italian term to describe a sauce that was usually made on Sundays.  It was primarily based with several meats and would simmer all day and fill the house with terrific aromas.  You can find all sorts of Italian-American recipes for this dish.  Don't worry about exactness, use what meats you might have on hand including bracciole and meatballs.  It's more about combining great ingredients and feasting with friends and family.

For my Sunday Gravy I went with on-hand ingredients.  I coarsely chopped some carrots, garlic and onions and sauteed them in the pressure cooker.  I then added my meats: hot Italian sausage, meatballs, cut-up pork spareribs.  I also added 1/2 cup water.  I sealed the pressure cooker, turned to med-high heat and let it come up to pressure - at that time I reduced the heat to med-low (high enough to sustain pressure) and let it cook for 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes I used the quick-release method to release the steam (where you open the vent - be sure its pointed away from you).  I then added tomatoes and my seasoning.  I re-sealed and brought to pressure againa and cooked an additional 10 minutes.

This sauce was a gorgeous meat based sauce.  Each meat provided its own texture and flavour.  The tomatos and seasoning weren't prevelant, but played a strong supporting role.  Topped on my homemade rigatoni it was a hearty, delicious, comforting meal. 

Sunday Gravy - Pressure Cooker
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, large dice
1 large carrot, large dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb meatballs
1/2 lb spareribs, chopped up
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, chopped
14 oz tin of tomatoes
14 oz tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
4 leaves fresh basil (if available) plus some for garnish
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Heat oil in the pressure cooker and saute the onions, carrots and garlic for about 2-3 minutes until softened.  Add all the meats at once along with water.  Secure the lid and turn heat to medium-high.  Once it meets pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook at pressue for 20 minutes.  When ready, use the quick release method (release steam away from you).

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot.  Resecure the lid and bring back to pressure and cook for 20 minutes.  Use the quick release method again and serve. 

Garnish with chopped fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Easy Smoked Salmon

I don't mind salmon.  In fact I quite like it.  But I have to say that when it's prepared on the smoker, it's a new beast (or fish I guess) that I absolutely adore. 

This round is an easy smoked salmon.  A real no fuss no muss recipe.   

Although the low and slow method of smoking can produce fabulously tender  results, depending on the meat, it can also leave it quite dry.  Spritzing during cooking helps this, but sometimes I don't want that level of commitment in my cooking adventure.  That's where this recipe comes in. 

You simply mix some mayonnaise and dijon mustard and rub it onto the salmon evenly.  This not only provides a nize glaze on the salmon, but also seems to help prevent it from drying out.   I'm using a skinless fillet of salmon, so I've placed it on a heavy duty piece of foil.  To be extra sure it doesn't dry out, I turned up the edges of foil and added a bit of white wine. 

I prepared the smoker in usual fashion using apple pellets - turn to high for 15 minutes then reduced to about 250F.  I put the salmon on foil right on the grill and let it smoke for 2 hours. 

The final product was a lovely browned piece of salmon that wasn't too dry, but had a delicate flaky texture.  The mayo/dijon spread provided a mild, creamy flavour.  The aplle smoke wasn't overpowering, but provided a subtle smoky flavour. 

Bonus:  the cold leftover salmon proved to be both an excellent addition to eggs benedict, as well as an appetizer with cream cheese and crackers. 

Easy Smoked Salmon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup white wine
Skinless salmon fillet

Prepare a large piece of heavy duty foil (or double a piece of regular foil) sized big enough to hold your salmon fillet.  Fold up the edges of the foil.  Mix the mayo and mustard and spread generously and evenly over the fillet.  Pour the wine around the salmon.

Prepare your smoker and smoke the salmon, on foil, for 2 - 2.5 hours at 250F. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Cherry-Smoked Chicken Thighs

The thing about smoker cooking, and I think I've said this before, is that it's not exactly a quick method of cookery.  So if you find yourself craving something smoked for dinner just an hour or two ahead of eating time, the smoker may not be able to deliver.

This was Sunday night's predicament.  I was craving something from the smoker, but only had about 1.5 hours - all in - to make it happen.  So I reckoned I'd give chicken thighs a try.  Why chicken thighs?  Well they are not overly large for short time cooking (short in smoker world being 1 hour) and they tend not to dry out as quickly as, say chicken breasts, which is a bonus on the smoker. 

I went for the easy option of doing a simple sweet rub and letting them stand for 15 minutes while the smoker preheated on high.  After sitting, I turned the smoker to 275F and put the thighs on.  I'd like to say that I did some wacky and tricky in-between cooking stuff here.  But I didn't.  I came back an hour later, checked the internal temperatture of the chicken and dinner was served.  Easy pleasy. 

Cherry-Smoked Chicken Thighs
2-3 chicken thighs per person, boneless and skinless
Rub of your choice

Coat the the thighs with your choice of rub.  Let stand 15 minutes while the smoker preheats on high using a mild wood such as cherry or apple.  Reduce the heat to low or 275F and let the thighs cook for 1-1.5 hours.  When the internal temperature reaches at leaszt 165F they are ready to serve. 

These taste just as good, if not better, the next day. 

Monday, 8 March 2010

Smoking in Cuba

No, I'm not talking about Cuban cigars.  And, it's not exactly smoker cooking, but awfully close. Close enough to be worthy for a post.

We recently embarked on a family trip to Cuba. For me, when travelling , no matter where, I'm always intrigued with the cuisine. Unfortunately, Cuba isn't a culinary powerhouse . I had read this on many websites prior to our trip, so didn't have high expectations. This actually surprised me because of their location. They have a climate that would support lots of tasty plants year round. They are also very close to other regions with amazing food (Mexico to name one). I find it fascinating how food really does take on characteristics in rather narrow geographic settings.

Anyhoo. One highlight on our trip was a backcountry excursion where we got to dine along the shores of a tropical river. At this place there was a large hut for cooking meat (typically pork, chicken, lobster). I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of the operation as it seemed to capture the best of Cuban cooking. I also reveled in the notion that although food cultures are geographically narrow, some techniques are primal and similar everywhere. The basics.

Here are a few snaps of the operation. The lobster is definitely being grilled, but the other meats are being done more in a low and slow barbecue style. The fuel in both instances is a lovely hard charcoal. Indeed a delicious form of cooking.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Grown-up Lasagna

The thing that I love about lasagna is that there are no hard rules on its composition. I'm sure in some family/household traditions there are hard and fast rules, but what I'm referring to is the fact that you won't find a repertoire of common methods on how to make lasagna. The possibilities are endless.

Tonight's lasagna is comprised of a form of a Bolognese sauce (another recipe with countless variations), spinach, cottage cheese (in lieu of ricotta), and of course cheese to top it with. Why on this blog vs. my other one? Because I used the pressure cooker for the sauce.

You see, a good Bolognese sauce, needs at least 45 minutes of simmering for the flavours to meld. Although this is a comforting process, when you want to get on with the rest of the meal it can be daunting. So a speedy approach brings a new form of comfort.

For the sauce, I sautéed a smoky alder bacon in the pressure cooker. This is the grown-up part. The smoky bacon imparts a flavour that is quite distinct from traditional meat sauces. It's obvious and subtle at the same time. After just cooking the bacon (not crisp though) I finished the sauce in the pressure cooker via the instructions below.  

Note, I used an unneccesary amount of mushrooms, only becaue I had to use them up.  The end result was still yummy so I wouldn't deter from using a large amount.

Pre-Pressure Cooking Picture:

10 Minutes Later - a finished sauce!

I assembled the lasagna in usual fashion (again, have a gander at the instructions) and baked for 35 minutes.

This was delicious. A grown-up meal as the smokiness lent a stronger flavour.  

It was kitty-licking good (note we generally don't allow our cat to eat any human food, let alone lick our plates, but this was so funny, we took time out to take a picture).

Grown-up Lasagna
Bolognese Sauce in the Pressure Cooker

6 strips alder smoked bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
8 large mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large carrot grated
1.5 lbs ground beef
2 cans tomato paste
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 cup water

Cottage Cheese Filling - mix all together:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups spinach, steamed and seasoned
Lasagna noodles prepared according to package directions.
Grated cheese (mozzarella, marble, jack or mixture).

Bolognese Sauce:
Heat the pressure cooker over med-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until cooked but not browned. Add the onion and mushroom and cook until softened. Add the grated carrot and mix through. Add the ground beef and stir to mix. Cook until there is no more pink in the beef, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and bouillon powder and stir to mixed. Add the water. The water is important to ensure enough liquid in the pressuer cooker for cooking under pressure.

Secure the pressure cooker and keep on medium-high heat until it reaches pressure. Once at pressure reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce on its own.

Assemble the Lasagna, adding layers as follows:
Line the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the bolognese sauce.
Lasagna noodles.
Bolognese sauce.
Lasagna noodles.
Cottage cheese filling.
Lasagna noodles.
Meat Sauce.
Cheese to top.
Sage leaves to garnish.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and browned.