I like my steaks seared on the outside and medium rare (closer to rare) on the inside. I cook a good steak, but they just do not have the quality of a steak cooked at a top rated steak house. The biggest difference is the amount of heat produced by a restaurant’s equipment versus home equipment. I have heard chefs mention their ovens and grills reach temperatures of 1500 or more degrees. No typical home system comes close to that temperature. I can come close in my kitchen by searing a butter coated steak in a smoking white hot black iron skillet for about a minute on each side, then finishing it off in my oven preheated to 500 degrees. The problem with this method is that it produced more smoke than my kitchen vent could handle (I have an above average vent system). Outdoors I can do so by overloading my grill with charcoal and rigging the grill to raise the charcoal tray closer to the cooking surface.
Last week I found this photo taken earlier from my barbecue pit when I working on another article.
I thought to myself, that is some heat! Heck! It looks like Tom Cruise’s Jet Fighter in “Top Gun” with the afterburners on. What if I put a grill on top of my charcoal starter and grilled a steak on it? I am sure someone has tried this before, but not me. Not wanting to sink a lot of money into a ribeye that might turn out like a marshmellow that fell into the campfire, I rushed down to Walmart and purchased two of their “low cost” ribeyes.
Here’s what happened.
I seasoned the steak, minus pepper. (I feared burned pepper might turn bitter) Placed the steak on the grill for about a minute before turning. It was necessary to shift the steak every few seconds to keep the now glowing hot grills from severly branding the meat.
I cut my test steak to see if I achieved my desired results and was quite pleased.
Looks perfect to me. So I tried a second steak, added seasoning after it was cooked and here is my finished steak.
Pastalaya is a relatively new dish appearing at social gatherings. It’s a very close cousin of jambalaya because you use the same ingredients, but substitute some type of pasta for the rice. If you struggle with the rice in your jambalaya being too crunchy or mushy, give pastalaya a try. The pasta is much more forgiving when it comes to the water ratio than rice. Most cooks use spaghetti, but any kind of pasta will do. Thicker types of pasta may need more water.
This recipe is the one I used to place second in a local cook-off this past Spring. I multiplied all the ingredients by five and used my five gallon pot since the rules required the recipe to feed 50. I am not crazy about competition cooking, but it was part of a professional conference and my office hoped to “make a statement” to our colleagues from other offices. This was my first time to make a pastalaya in my large pot and only my second time to use this recipe, so I was pleased with the results. Next time, I think I will use bow tie pasta because I beleave it will make a better presentation.
1 pound of pork, (I like to use boneless country-style ribs cut into 1” pieces)
1 pound of pork sausage (sliced) mild.
1 pound of boneless chicken thighs (cut into pieces)
1/2 pound of mild ground sausage
2 large onions (diced)
2 cups bell pepper (diced)
6 slices of bacon
Enough veg oil to cover bottom of pot
Creole seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 quart of beef broth or water (add one more cup for a “juicier” pastalaya) see NOTE 1:
1 pound of number 4 spaghetti (break spaghetti into three pieces)
NOTE 1: I heat my water and add beef broth granules, or bullion cubes to save money.
This should serve 12 to 15.
I used a #12 Black Iron Pot For smaller pots, cut back on meat and spaghetti but not seasonings
- Heat oil in pot – just enough to brown and keep sausage from sticking – brown and remove sausage.
- Salt and pepper pork, brown and remove
- Cook bacon – when crisp remove bacon, wrap in sliced bread and eat. You can skip this and sub veg oil if you prefer a good heart to good flavor.
- In bacon grease – add onion and cook until it starts to caramelize. I have learned you really need to get onion caramelized to bring out its best flavor. Adding peppers or other veggies in this stage will prevent onions from caramelizing due to too much steam from water.
- Add ground sausage and brown.
- Add bell peppers and garlic
- Add the cream of mushroom soup
- Add the broth, meat from steps 1 and 2, and bring to a boil.
- Salt and pepper the chicken and add to the pot. Stir till chicken almost done.
- Taste and add creole season, salt and pepper to taste. Should be a little salty because spaghetti will take some salt.
- Now add the spaghetti. Don’t forget to break it. You can reduce heat to medium after adding the spaghetti. Now, stir the spaghetti well. NOTE 2: This is an important step because you do not want the spaghetti to clump together. Once you are satisfied that each strand is loose, turn off the burner,stir in the parsley and green onions and place a lid on the pot. Allow your pastalaya to stand for about 20 minutes. NOTE 3: It is okay to stir the pasta every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent the pasta on top from drying out or sticking to pot.
One of my favorite parts of our crawfish boils is the anticipation of having leftover crawfish. If you are lucky, there will be enough leftovers for a second meal. They make a great morning after breakfast. A tradition at our house are crawfish omelets. If you have been to a crawfish boil, the ingredients, such as crawfish, potatoes, corn and sausage, soak up the wonderful Cajun spices. The leftovers give you a second taste of the feast.
This is a basic omelet, but the types of ingredients are limited only by your taste buds and imagination.
10 to 15 crawfish tails peeled and deveined
spray canola oil
1 tbsp water
1 strip of bacon fried and chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup shredded cheese (your favorite) I like sharp cheddar
dash of creole seasoning
Put two eggs in a mixing cup, add a tablespoon of water and a dash of seasoning. Coat a 6 inch non-stick frying pan with the canola oil spray. Heat the pan to med-high. While the pan is heating stir the egg mixture well with a fork. You can use an electric mixture also, but I find that to be one extra thing to clean. Mixing well creates bubbles and water creates steam bubbles, both help fluff up the omelet during the cooking process. When the pan is hot, pour in the egg mixture. When the bottom half starts to firm up add the bacon and cut the heat back to medium-low. Add the crawfish and cheese to a half side of the omelet when the mixture begins firming up around the bacon.
With only a small amount of liquid remaining on top gently fold the side without the crawfish over the crawfish. It is important to have a small amount of liquid egg when you make the fold so the omelet will seal itself up – a trick I learned from a omelet chef at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. Once liquid egg is no longer seeping out (about a minute or two) gently remove a place on a plate. Let it rest 3 to 5 minutes then enjoy.
Note – Don’t pile on too many crawfish until you get the hang of making the fold. If the omelet tears b don’t panic, Plan B offers great crawfish, bacon, and cheese scrambled eggs.
What extra ingredients would you add to your omelet?
This is another simplified recipe for an easy summer meal. The egg noodles took longer to prepare than the stroganoff. We are going for easy here, so there are shortcuts that may sacrifice some flavor. Just remember, I’d rather be doing something outside instead of spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Egg Noodles – enough for 4 servings
1 pound of beef stew meat (ground meat would work)
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper the stew meat while the canola oil is heating in a skillet. Brown the stew meat, then stir in the flour well. Deglaze the skillet with the wine. Add the garlic and onion powder. Stir in the sour cream. Continue to stir while letting it simmer for several minutes to allow flour and sour cream to interact and thicken. Serve over the egg noodles.
I am pretty much an outdoors type person which means I spend less time in my kitchen during the summer. I still have to eat, so if I am not grilling I tend to prepare dishes that take less to prepare. Also, during the summer I tend to use a lighter or thinner gravy or sauce. I plan to do a series of dishes that take less preparation time or allow you to spend cooking time outside.
I saw a segment on the Food Network for a similar recipe several months ago. Typically, some type of Louisiana shellfish (crawfish, shrimp or crab) is used to make etouffee. Guy Fieri was visiting a restaurant somewhere in the heartlands that featured some type of chicken etouffee. I suspect the dish was created due to the lack of fresh seafood. I created this version recently and thought it was good enough to share with y’all. The base ingredients for etouffee are usually onion, bell pepper, roux and broth. I have more complex bases for etouffee, but remember it’s summer so I am keeping this one simple. There are a thousands of base recipes, so if you have a favorite use it.
I happen to be a fan of smoke flavor, so I added a few chicken thighs and andouille sausage to the smoker this weekend. I usually load up the smoker with meat when I fire it up. I figure why not use all the space, it takes the same amount of heat and smoke.
1 pound of smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs (I would have preferred bone and skin on for a little more flavor, but the store was out)
1 pound of smoked andouille sausage chopped (regular link smoked sausage will do if andouille is not available)
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of water
1-2 tbsp Creole seasoning
1 stick butter
½ cup of powdered roux
4 bay leaves
1 cup rice uncooked
Season the chicken with creole seasoning. Smoke or grill the chicken thighs until done. (This can be cooked ahead of time or as I mentioned, use leftovers). Leave 6 thighs whole and chop up the rest into bite size pieces.
For the rice, bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of the chicken stock, two bay leaves and few dashes of creole seasoning to a boil. Add the rice, when it comes back to a boil stir, cover and set burner to lowest setting. Remove from heat when the water is gone.
Melt half the butter in a saucepan or high sided skillet. I like a black iron pot. Add the onions and bell pepper and sauté until clear, add the andouille. When the andouille is heated up and begins to brown, mix the powdered roux into the pot. Once all is mixed well, add the remaining butter. When the butter has melted add the remaining 3 cups of broth one cup at a time. Stir well as you add the broth. Add the two bay leaves. Let this slow simmer at least 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the 6 whole thighs to the etouffee. Let the chicken and etouffee swap flavors for 5 to 10 minutes.
Spoon a serving of rice into a bowl. Place a whole chicken thigh on top of the rice, then spoon the etouffee over the thigh and rice.
I am spending this rainy Saturday morning in my hotel room at the Isle Casino in Biloxi, MS. From my window I can see a shrimp boat selling shrimp to customers dockside. That’s about as fresh as you can get. I hope one is there tomorrow when I check out. The sight made me think of one my favorite shrimp recipes.
- I package of pasta – angle hair, bowtie or thin spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound of tasso diced
- 1 pound Andouille sliced.
- 2 tablespoons Cajun Seasoning (Tony’s) or my creole seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or half n half)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup diced roasted tomatoes
- 1 roasted red pepper julienned and chopped 1 – 2 “ long
- 1 1/2 cup shrimp stock (sub clam juice)
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup white wine
Set a large pot of water including one cup of shrimp stock to a boil and add the salt. Place the pasta in the pot and stir (to keep from sticking together) until the water returns to a boil. Cook until tender, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
While the pasta cooks, heat a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once the butter has melted, season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the shrimp just enough to brown on both sides, about 2 minutes, you want them almost done. Remove from the pan and set aside. I do this with most of my shrimp dishes. The shrimp flavor remains in the glaze from the sear, but you avoid overcooking the shrimp.
Add the tasso and andouille cook until browned.
Add the onions to the pan and sauté until the onions become clear and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic to the pan Slowly add the wine to deglaze the pot. Add the cream, remaining seasoning, salt and pepper to the pan and bring to a slight boil. Add the tomatoes and red pepper. Cook the sauce until the cream is reduced by half.
Return the shrimp to the pan, and add pasta and the reserved cooking water to the pan and cook, tossing to incorporate for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and add cheese, parsley and basil and toss to blend. Serve immediately.
Last week we had our annual work crawfish boil. Don’t freakout! It was after work and no tax dollars were spent, as far as I know. At least I hope not, I shelled out $40 for two tickets. When it was over, there were plenty of leftover crawfish, corn and potatoes. Some of us began filling “doggy bags” and talking about what we were going to do with the leftovers. I thought it would be fun to share some ideas.
The simplest thing to do would be to eat the leftovers, as is, the next day for lunch, either cold or reheated. It would be good, but a boring repeat. The leftovers have soaked up some wonderful spices and can really make some more delicious meals.
Peeled Tails – étouffée, omelet, crawfish (crab) cakes, over a green salad, spread (chicken) salad, dip
Potatoes – potato salad, hash browns or simply reheated
Corn on the Cob – simply reheated, maque choux (Google it), corn fritters
Here is what I made with the leftovers from our work crawfish boil. Étouffée and potato salad
Cooks add a lot of different food items into their crawfish boils in addition to crawfish, potatoes, and corn, such as mushrooms, garlic, sausage and hotdogs. What’s the most unique food item you have seen?
This sauce has a good output of 3 flavors – Sweet, Sour, & Spice in that order – hence the name. The flavors just kind of swish around your palate. It makes a pretty glaze on chicken and ribs cooked on indirect heat when applied in several coats during final 30 minutes. For direct heat barbecuing apply during the final turns of the meat.
1 cup ketchup
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tbs yellow mustard
1/3 cup bourbon
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup lemon juice
1 tbs garlic powder
½ tsp Zateran’s Liquid Crab Boil – be careful with this as it will overpower so maybe do less and add to taste
Combine first two ingredients over low to medium heat until sugar liquefies. Then add remaining ingredients in order stirring as you add. Simmer over low heat until thick almost like syrup.
I first made this recipe as a stuffing for grilled pork chops and chicken thighs. (These recipes will be added later) I was starving while I was cooking. I started dipping some Triscuit crackers in this to sample as I waited for it to cool. I discovered I had also created a good dip.
1 pack of lite cream cheese
2 packs of blue cheese
1 pack of frozen spinach chopped and drained
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 slices of bacon cooked and chopped (save grease)
½ cup sun dried tomatoes chopped
½ cup roasted red peppers
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 teaspoons creole seasoning
In a saucepan add just enough bacon grease to cover bottom. Add garlic, crushed red pepper, bacon, sundried tomatoes, peppers. Once it heats to a simmer, add the spinach. Add ½ the creole seasoning. Once this has simmered add the cream cheese. Once that blends well with the spinach add the blue cheese. Taste and add rest of creole seasoning according to your taste. Can be spiced up by adding cayenne pepper. Of course you can always play with the seasoning by adding types to your taste.
I like to use my own blends of seasoning when cooking. I feel it gives me more control over the flavor. I have used commercial brands of seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Slap Your Mama, but I prefer homemade. To me, Tony’s has too much salt and well, I just don’t like the name of the other one. Both are good, so use them if you like.
This recipe is what I use as a base seasoning for most dishes, including meats, salads and vegetables. I like it because the flavors of the different spices seem to change with each bite. I can adjust it to the type of dish I am cooking. If I am cooking Italian, I will add traditional Italian spices such as garlic, oregano, and basil. For Mexican dishes, I’ll add spices such as chili powder, cummin, and spanish oregano.
Here’s my recipe:
1/2 cup Kosher Salt
1/3 cup Paprika (Smoked Paprika if you can find it)
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup onion powder
1/3 cup black pepper
3 tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp celery salt
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp MSG (optional)
1/2 tbsp allspice
Combine all ingredients. Makes about 14 ounces