Mike

Shish Kabobs with Blue Cheese and Raspberry Vinaigrette Sauce

One night last week I woke up at 3am and could not fall back asleep.  So I thought about some possible new dishes. This is what I came up with and I tried it out for the Fourth of July.  Maybe you could say I dreamed it up.  It involves shish kabobs, a marinade, blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette sauce.  I tried it with pork and beef. It came out well enough for me to pass it on. Chicken would work also, but I would not add meat tenderizer to the marinade.

Ingredients:

1 pound beef top sirloin cut into 1 inch chunks  (I wanted boneless country-style beef ribs, but they were sold out)
1 pound of boneless country-style pork ribs
1 cup blue cheese crumbled
1 cup of raspberry vinaigrette
bamboo skewers (I used 6 for the meat, but always soak more than I need. Let the ones not used dry save for next time.)

Marinade:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp creole seasoning
1 tsp meat tenderizer

Method:
Combine all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Place the meat in two separate gallon size ziplock bags. Pour equal parts of the marinade in each bag. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Over-nite would be better.

Two hours before cooking soak the skewers in water to keep them from burning.

30 minutes before cooking time (or while the charcoal is heating up) pour one cup of the raspberry vinaigrette in a small sauce pan. Bring to a slow boil to reduce it and allow to thicken up. Take the meat out of refrigerator and skewer. I kept the meat together and put veggies on other skewers. I didn’t want the blue cheese and sauce on the veggies. You might like it that way. I see no reason you could not mix it all up.

When the grill is ready, place the kabobs on the grill over the heat and start cooking. (I don’t like to crowd my grill. I like to see the glowing coals or gas flames. This allows sufficient heat to pass upwards between the meat.) When the meat is done to your liking push the skewers close together. Now sprinkle the blue cheese over the meat and allow it to slightly melt. Carefully remove the meat and drizzle with the raspberry vinaigrette.

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Dipping Sauce

There is a great fast food chain that started in Baton Rouge called Raising Cane’s. Their specialty and only item is fried chicken strips.  Their best kept secret is their dipping sauce. Although I have not been able to duplicate their recipe, here is my version. I find it goes really well with chicken strips, fried green tomatoes and fried alligator. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 ketchup
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Creole seasoning
  • ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper

Method

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk it well it to make sure everything is blended together. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. This sauce develops it’s best taste when the ingredients have had some time swap flavors with each other in the refrigerator.


Remoulade Sauce

Remoulade is probably most well known for being used as a dressing for shrimp salads or covering peeled boiled shrimp in a small bowl. I like to use it as dipping sauce for boiled shrimp and crawfish and fried fish and shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup Hellmann’s Dijonnaise (or ¼ cup mayonnaise and 1 tbsp dijon or creole mustard)
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish (a little more if you like a little kick to it)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • Dash of thyme
  • Salt and cracked pepper to taste

Method

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whisk it well it ensure everything is blended together.  Whisk a little more to make sure.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours.  For some reason this sauce develops it’s best taste when the ingredients have had some time swap flavors with each other in the refrigerator.


The Mother of all Steak Grills

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

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.

Pastalaya – This batch was made in my five gallon black iron pot and placed 2nd in a local cookoff.

Ingredients:
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)
Parsley
green onions

NOTE 1: I heat my water and add beef broth granules, or bullion cubes to save money. 

This should serve 12 to 15.

Directions:

I used a #12 Black Iron Pot  For smaller pots, cut back on meat and spaghetti but not seasonings

  1. Heat oil in pot – just enough to brown and keep sausage from sticking – brown and remove sausage.
  2. Salt and pepper pork, brown and remove
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. Add ground sausage and brown. 
  6. Add bell peppers and garlic
  7. Add the cream of mushroom soup
  8. Add the broth, meat from steps 1 and 2, and bring to a boil.
  9. Salt and pepper the chicken and add to the pot.  Stir till chicken almost done.
  10. Taste and add creole season, salt and pepper to taste.  Should be a little salty because spaghetti will take some salt.
  11. 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. 

Crawfish Boil Seconds – Crawfish Omelet

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.

Crawfish Omelet

10 to 15 crawfish tails peeled and deveined
two eggs
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

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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.

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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.

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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?


Beef Stroganoff – Easy Summer Series

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.

Serves 4