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.