Tapenade


Tapenade is Provence in an easily portable form. Take all the great Provencal ingredients: olives, basil, lemon, capers, anchovies, and grind them into a paste. Voila! Tapenade! In Provence, it is a universal topping. It is at its best spread on slices of french bread. You could toast the bread (over an open fire) if you really wanted to gild the lily. Goat cheese is a natural accompaniment. Tapenade is also a great topping for pork, chicken, and especially lamb. Lamb and tapenade is a match made in heaven.

And now, my personal re-enactment of Field of Dreams... 
Is this heaven?
No, It's Provence.
Provence? When I saw the tapenade, I could have sworn this was heaven.

Now this is not fancy French cuisine. It is not served in four star white tablecloth restaurants by hovering waiters. This is a recipe from the home, best served as a bite before dinner. It will help fill the stomach while sipping on an ice cold, bone dry Rose, or a chewy Cote Du Rhone.

In other words, it is the Provencal equivalent of Salsa. Which is how I use it, and also how I make it. I can't imagine making this recipe without a food processor; with one, it is ready to go in ten minutes, and that's if I'm stopping to take a bunch of pictures for the blog while I'm making it.

Recipe: Tapenade

Things I love: Food Processor


I own my fair share of cooking gadgets - slow cookers, pressure cookers, garlic presses, Asian mandolines. There are only a handful of cooking tools that I keep out on the counter, so I can get at them right away:
  • Knife block and wooden cutting board
  • 12 inch stainless fry pan, 4.5 quart nonstick sauce pan, 2 quart sauce pan
  • Can opener
  • Utensil jar: tongs, spoons, spatulas, whisks
  • Salt cellar and pepper mill
and, today's topic, my food processor.

I believe knife skills are critical for cooking. I use my knife more than all my other cooking tools combined. But...there are some recipes that I can't imagine making without a food processor. In my kitchen, the food processor always does these three tasks:


1. Purees and finely chopped mixes: I use my food processor for anything involving a puree. Gazpacho, hummus, salsa, refried beans, marinades; they all come out of my food processor.
*Especially my quick red salsa.  I make that recipe twice a month, if not more often.

When the end goal is somewhere between a chunky salsa and a smooth hummus, the food processor shines. All the mincing work can be done in the processor. Recipes that require a lot of detailed knife work become drop dead simple. The trick is to mince with one second pulses; this gives an evenly chopped result

The exception? When I need a mince to be dry and evenly sized. Stir fries are the big one for me; every time I try to use my food processor to short cut my stir fry, I wind up with chopped, mushy mess. The results don't stir fry well, because there is too much water in the mix.
*Onions in particular; with the slightest bit of over-processing, they break down into onion juice. Which is good if I want onion juice, but not if I want to saute them.


2. Large amounts of thin-slicing or grating: If I need more than a cup of sliced or grated items, I pop my slicing disk into the food processor. Potato gratin is a great example; first the processor thin-slices the potatoes, then it grates the cheese.  Two minutes of processing instead of fifteen minutes of detailed knife work. My processor did the heavy work when I was canning this summer. I used it to thin-slice pounds of carrots, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini. I can't imagine canning without one.

3. Kneading dough: My wife, the family baker, kneads most of her doughs in the food processor. It does the work of a stand mixer in half the time. Our kids love it when mom does pizza night, and the food processor is a key piece of equipment. The only downside to kneading with a food processor is the size of the recipe; the dough ball can't be too large, or it will overwhelm the processor.


Which one? There are a lot of brands of food processor out there, but the two that consistently top the ratings from people I trust are Cuisinart and KitchenAid. I bought a KitchenAid years ago, and it has always worked well for me.
*Except for that one time I put way too much dough in it and burnt out the motor. I immediately went out and bought a new one.

I don't think there is enough of a difference between the two to recommend one over the other; either one is a good choice. I recommend getting at least a 12 cup processor; purees, especially wet ones like salsa and gazpacho, will leak if they are higher than the central post.

Food processor minced garlic

My favorite food processor trick? Using it to mince garlic. Peel the cloves of garlic, and trim off the stem end. Then drop the garlic into a running processor. Wait about thirty seconds, or until the garlic stops dancing around, and your processor will be full of minced garlic. That is always my first step in making salsa. (Next is adding the cilantro, and pulsing until chopped.)

What do you think? Questions? Food processor tricks or recipes you want to share? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Quick Red Salsa
Quick Gazpacho
Hummus
Pickled Chile Peppers



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Giving Thanks

I'd like to thank:

My loving wife, Diane, who puts up with the time I spend on this blog.

My wonderful kids, Ben, Natalie and Tim, who put up with the all the recipes I make.

My family and friends, who don't run screaming from the room when I start talking about food.

My loyal readers; your interest, questions, comments, and suggestions are what make this blog fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

And, if you are particularly thankful this year, consider making a donation to a worthy cause:



Heifer International

The Countdown Has Begun!

T minus 48 hours and counting...
The turkeys are dry brining in the refrigerator (with a beverage chilling for the chef)



T minus 24 hours and counting...
The stuffing and gravy are ready for tomorrow.


I'm so far ahead of the game that I have time to write a blog post. How did this happen?

Turkey Soup with Chickpeas and Vegetables



The second best part of Thanksgiving is making soup from the leftovers.
*The best part? Sitting at the table, surrounded by friends and family, while gnawing on a turkey leg from a grill-smoked turkey.

Every year, I make a big pot or two of turkey stock with the carcasses from my birds. I use that stock to make one old fashioned batch of turkey noodle soup, then I use my stock to go on a world tour.
*You are making turkey stock from your carcass this year, aren't you?

This year, I was aiming for an Italian style soup, with pancetta and greens. I wound up farther south on the Italian boot that I thought.  I was aiming for Tuscany.  I probably wound up in Sicily, because my freezer was missing some key ingredients! Prosciutto replaced the pancetta, chickpeas replaced the white beans, and baby spinach became the green.

Even though I wound up improvising, the results were worth it. The smoky turkey stock, made from grilled birds, was the perfect broth for the shredded turkey meat, vegetables and chickpeas. Looking for a way to use up your thanksgiving leftovers? Try this soup!

Recipe: Turkey Soup with Chickpeas and Vegetables

Dad Cooks Thanksgiving Dinner 2010


I spent last week showing you what I'm doing with my Turkey on the big day:
Grill your Thanksgiving Turkey!
Video: How to Truss and Spit a Turkey for the Rotisserie
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices

To warm everyone up for the high holy day of American food, I want to share some Thanksgiving posts that have inspired me.

Kenji Alt - Deep Fried Whole Buffalo Turkey [SeriousEats.com]
*I have a deeply held belief. Grilled turkey is far superior to deep fried turkey.  But...oh, my.  Deep Fried Whole Buffalo Turkey is madness.  Or genius.  Or is doing backflips on the line between madness and genius.
**Kenji's entire Food Lab Thanksgiving Special series has been great.  If you are looking for basic recipes, this is a good place to start.

Harold McGee - Ten Thanksgiving Tips [SeriousEats.com]
*The Original Food Scientist gives advice for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. He used to use an ace bandage to strap ice packs on the breast of his turkey, to make sure it didn't overcook.  Too bad this grossed his family out...

Sharon Anderson - Stuffed! [ThreeManyCooks.com]
*Obsessed about stuffing?  Sharon sure is.  And I trust her judgement - this is the stuffing I'll be making this year.

Jules Clancy - Do you make the most common thanksgiving mistake? + how to avoid it [thestonesoup.com via CasualKitchen]
*I always make this mistake.  Read on to find out what it is...

Lisa Abraham - Carve up tasks wisely this holiday [ohio.com]
*How to organize dinner, including an answer to the question "how many pounds of meat per person?" from Jim DiFeo of Difeos Poultry.

What do you think? Other links you've loved this Thanksgiving? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices

This Thanksgiving, I'm using all the finesse techniques I've learned to cook my Turkey. Here's what I'm going to do.

My first trick is to dry brine the turkey. For years, my gold standard for turkey brines was the apple cider brine from Weber's Art of the Grill by Jamie Purviance. I am a complete convert to dry brines now, and I wanted to come up with a dry brine that uses the same flavor profile. I have most of the major ingredients from the Weber brine in my dry rub - salt, a little brown sugar, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and cloves. When combined with a chunk of smoking wood in the grill, you get layers of flavor in the bird - sweet, smoky and salty, with an interesting mix of fruit and spices. This is a turkey that doesn't need gravy to be edible.
*You'll see some bay leaves in the pictures of the dry brine. Ignore them. They're not really there. These are not the bay leaves you're looking for. (Waves hand in dismissive manner.)
**OK, OK, you caught me. I tried to crumble them by hand, and I couldn't break them up small enough to use in my dry brine. I should have used my spice grinder, but I didn't want to get it dirty just for the bay leaves, so I left them out. It tasted great without them.

The next step is cooking the turkey to the appropriate level of doneness. This is tricky. The white meat in the breast should just cook to 160*F so it doesn't dry out. The dark meat in the legs should be cooked above 170*F; it needs extra heat to break down the connective tissue. The problem is - they're both on the same bird, and cooking for the same length of time. I used two techniques to help solve this.

Following the suggestion in Weber's Barbecued Turkey pamphlet I set up the charcoal in a U shape on one half of the grill. This focuses the heat on the turkey's legs, and lessens the heat on the breast.

I also used a trick from Harold McGee. Mr. McGee recommended strapping a couple of ice packs over the breast of the bird after removing it from the refrigerator, so the breasts start out colder than the thighs. His family told him this was "too unappetizing", so he switched to zip-top bags full of ice.  Since McGee's On Food and Cooking is the bible of food science, I thought it would be foolish not to take his advice.

The turkey is cooked on my rotisserie, of course. Nothing comes close to the crisp, crackling skin from the constant convection caused by the circling bird.*
*Sorry, got stuck in a "C" rut there.

The result of all these steps is the best turkey I've ever made. Can you skip all this detail? Sure. Dry brine the turkey with salt, cook it on the rotisserie, and you'll get a great bird. But if you want to take the bird from great to sublime, have I got the recipe for you...

Recipe: Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices

Winter Market in Cuyahoga Valley 2010-2011


The Countryside Farmers Market in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has switched to their winter schedule, starting this weekend.  Time to stock up on local produce for Thanksgiving!

The market will be held at Old Trail School this year, right next to their usual Howe Meadow site.  The market will be open on Saturday mornings, from 9AM to Noon.
*If you don't live in Northeastern Ohio, make sure to find your own local farmers market.  Yes, they usually run through the winter!

The schedule is:

  • November 20
  • December 11
  • December 18
  • January 22
  • February 5
  • February 19
  • March 12
  • March 26
  • April 9
  • April 23



Here's the address:
Countryside Farmers' Market at Old Trail School
2315 Ira Road
Akron, OH 44333
(330) 666-1118

More information is available at their website:
Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy


View Larger Map

Related posts:
My list of Ethnic and Gourmet stores near Akron, Ohio.

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How to Truss and Spit a Turkey for the Rotisserie

It hit me when I was reading my old Rotisserie Poultry Basic Technique post. I link to two different methods for trussing poultry in that post, but I don't use either of them.  With Thanksgiving coming up, I decided to share my trussing technique. Besides, how can you do the rotisserie turkey recipe I'll be posting tomorrow if you don't know how to truss your turkey?

Now, this is how I truss all different types of poultry.  I use this technique on turkey, chicken, duck, and cornish game hens.  They all have the same layout - wings, drumsticks, breast and backbone - but it is easier to show with a turkey because of the large scale.



What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Rotisserie Poultry Basic Technique
Simple Rotisserie Turkey
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices (Coming Thursday)
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.


Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.

Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

It's a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!


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Grill your Thanksgiving Turkey!


Every year, I grill my Thanksgiving turkey. This year I'll be grilling two of them.*
*Rotisserie grilling, of course - the picture is from the recipe coming later this week.

Family and friends watch me out in the cold, wrestling with a 12 pound bird, while they sit inside watching the football game. Someone always asks - why do you do this? Why grill your turkey? Why not cook it in the oven?*
*With an implied "like normal people do."

Well, I'm here to tell ya...

Top Five Reasons to grill the Thanksgiving turkey:
1. Taste: Why grill anything at all? Because it just tastes better. And, I hate to say it, but Turkey needs the help, particularly turkey breast. Turkey is very lean, which means...bland. Needs gravy. And stuffing.

That is, unless the turkey is grilled. Grilling gives the turkey browned, extra crisp skin from the dry heat of the grill, and adds a hint of smoky flavor to the bird. The turkey, especially the white meat, will have the flavor to stand on its own, instead of just being a slab of protein to cover with gravy.
*Now, if you brine the bird first, and add a little smoking wood, that can only help the flavor. Oh, and go for the dark meat - I make sure I get a drumstick every Thanksgiving.

2. Space:Trying to fit the bird, stuffing, squash, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls in the oven? Ever wish you had a second oven, just for Thanksgiving? Guess what - you do, right outside on the patio. I'm serving about twenty people this Thanksgiving, and I'll be cooking two turkeys - one on my Weber kettle, the other on my Weber gas grill. I'll have plenty of room in the oven for my stuffing and side dishes.

3. Cleanup: No huge roasting pan to scrub out after dinner - crumble up the foil pan in the grill, once it has cooled down, and toss it in to the trash. Done!

4. Gets you out of the kitchen: This has two parts, the practical, and the psychological. The practical part: you don't have to elbow through all the people in the kitchen to get to the bird - it's out in the back yard, where there is plenty of space. The psychological part: you get to go outside! If you're lucky, it's a beautiful fall day, and you can take a few minutes while checking on the bird to get away from the crush of people, the heat of the kitchen. Take a deep breath of crisp fall air, sip a lovely beverage, and watch the grill for a few minutes.
*I live in Northeastern Ohio, so sometimes my "beautiful fall day" is 37*F with a rain/sleet mixture. I still like to get out for a few minutes. Yes, I'm an introvert- does it show?

5. Impresses the guests: I always want the Norman Rockwell picture. In my head, I'll be standing there with a beautiful turkey on a platter, surrounded by a table full of appreciative guests. Grilling the turkey adds to that "wow factor." Bringing a beautifully grilled bird in from the back yard stops everything. Conversation pauses for a second, someone lets out a low whistle, then everyone tells you how gorgeous the bird is.
*Hey, I've been working on dinner all afternoon - of course I want my ego stroked a little.

Looking for a recipe?

Grilled Turkey, Dry Brined (Grilling Basics) - My basic grilled turkey recipe
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices - My favorite recipe, the one I use every year


What do you think? Have I talked you into grilling the Turkey? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Inspired by:
Weber.com - Weber has been promoting grilled Thanksgiving turkey for years. Check out their Barbecued Turkey [pdf at bottom of page].
[Update 11/2011 - Weber.com moves their links often, which breaks my link to the PDF. If that link doesn't work, go to Weber.com and search for "Barbecued Turkey"]

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Grilled Fajitas


Fajitas. The recipe that put a Mexican restaurant in every strip mall in America.* Really, Fajitas are Tex-mex, a blend of styles born from the Norteno border of Mexico and the Southwestern border of the US, where the cooking doesn't let a little thing like a line on a map stop it.
*The holy trinity of Tex-mex cooking: Fajitas, Margaritas, and tortilla chips with salsa. I'm getting hungry just typing this.

I learned a fascinating fajita marinade from Robb Walsh in The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook. There are two surprise ingredients in the marinade, that don't sound very Mexican - Pineapple and Soy Sauce. Soy sauce is full of umami, which I've talked about before; it adds extra beefiness to the steak.

Pineapple juice is the really interesting part - it contains an enzyme, bromelain, which is proteolytic (that is, it breaks down protein).*
* I had to double check that sentence with my wife, the chemist.

Pineapple juice tenderizes the tough cuts of meat that are used in fajitas; skirt steak (fajita, in Spanish)*, flank steak, chuck steak, or whatever cut of beef your local Mexican joint can get cheap from their supplier.
*That's right - real fajitas are skirt steak. If I make skirt steak fajitas, I'm being redundant. If I make chicken fajitas, I'm making "chicken beef skirt steaks." But, c'mon...fajitas have taken on a whole new meaning north of the border.

Unlike most marinades, which don't penetrate the meat, this one will really do the job...to the point of turning the meat to mush if marinated for too long. I wouldn't marinate this for more than a couple of hours. This is a marinade that really works. It results in tender beef, sweetened by the pineapple, salted by the soy sauce, with a hit of lime. Combine it with grilled peppers and onions, wrap it in a tortilla, and top with some salsa. Oh...I need to go buy some more pineapple juice.

Recipe: Grilled Fajitas
Adapted From: Robb Walsh The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook


Equipment:
Ingredients:

Marinade (brinerade, really):
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime (zest it with a microplane; that's the easiest way)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Everything Else:
  • 1 Flank Steak (roughly 1.5 lbs, and 1" thick, or substitute skirt steaks or chuck shoulder steaks)
  • 3 bell peppers (red, green, or a mix of both)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers
  • 20 to 24 flour tortillas (fajita size, of course)
Directions:
1. Marinate the beef: Combine the marinade ingredients, then put 1/2 cup aside for later. Pour the rest of the marinade into a gallon zip-top bag, add the flank steak, squeeze out all the air, and let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes to 2 hours. (Don't go past 2 hours, or the pineapple will make the meat too soft.)
2. Prep the vegetables: Cut the peppers into planks; I do this by buying peppers with four distinct sides, and cutting down the sides to separate them from the core. Cut the onion into 1/2" thick slices. Sprinkle the peppers and onions with the 1 tsp salt.
3. Prepare the grill: Set the grill up for cooking at direct medium heat. For my Weber Summit, this means turning all the burners to high, and letting the grill preheat for ten to fifteen minutes. Once the grill is preheated, I brush the grates clean with my grill brush, then turn the burners down to medium. (For a charcoal grill, light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal, and wait for it to be covered with ash, then spread it evenly over half the grill grate.)

4.Grill it: Take the flank steak out of the marinade, and let any excess marinade drip off. Put the flank steak, pepper planks, onions, and hot peppers on the grill. Cook (with the lid closed if using a gas grill) for 3 minutes, then flip all the vegetables and rotate the flank steak 90 degrees. Cook for another three minutes, then flip all the vegetables, and flip the flank steak. Cook for another 3 minutes, then flip all the vegetables one last time, and rotate the flank steak 90 degrees. (That is, 12 minutes total cooking time, 6 minutes a side.) Remove the flank steak to a baking dish, and the vegetables to a bowl. Pour half the reserved marinade over the flank steak, and half over vegetables.

5. Toast the tortillas: Brush the grate clean with a grill brush, then lay the tortillas out in a single layer on the grill. Toast for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until slight grill marks appear on the bottom of the tortillas, then flip and toast for another minute, or until the tortillas start to puff up. Wrap the toasted tortillas in a cloth towel, and let rest until ready to serve. (This will probably need to be done in two to three batches to fit all the tortillas on the grill.)
6. Slice the ingredients: Let the ingredients rest for 10 minutes (while toasting the tortillas), tossing the vegetables and turning the steak a few times to coat them with the marinade. Remove the hot peppers from the bowl, peel off their blackened skin, slice thin, and move to a small serving dish. Remove the bell peppers and onions, slice 1/2 inch thick, then put back in the bowl and toss with the marinade. Remove the flank steak from the dish, cut in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise as thin as possible. Move the sliced flank steak a serving platter, pour any juices from the cutting board over the steak.

7. Serve: Serve, passing the tortillas, steak, hot peppers, and pepper/onion mix for people to assemble into fajitas.

Variations:
*Chicken Fajitas: Replace the flank steak with 1.5lbs to 2lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

*Real fajitas: To be authentic, use skirt steak instead of flank steak, and only cook for 2 minutes before rotating and flipping (4 minutes a side, 8 minutes total) because skirt steak is thinner than flank steak.

Notes:
*You probably have your own favorite toppings for fajitas, but mine are: salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, and a squeeze of fresh lime. My kids love generic "shredded Mexican cheese" from the grocery store, but I prefer crumbled Mexican queso.

*For this much cooking, It helps to have a grill with a lot of surface area like my Weber Summit. Otherwise, grill this recipe in batches. Start with the beef, then move on to the peppers and onions, and finally soften the tortillas. This also helps if you are cooking on a charcoal grill, because the heat will gradually decrease as you cook. It helps to cook the beef hotter than the vegetables, and the vegetables hotter than the tortillas.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Grilled teriyaki flank steak
Quick Red Salsa
Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri


Adapted from:
Robb Walsh The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook

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Pork Chop Saute with Apple Butter Sauce


This is an improvised weeknight recipe.  I made it for dinner last week, and it turned out so well I had to share it.

The idea came while I was staring into my refrigerator, trying to figure out how to use up a bunch of ingredients I had lying around. First were the pork chops cut from the shoulder end of the loin I used in last week's rotisserie stuffed pork loin. That got me thinking about a pork chop saute. I also had some apple cider left from the brine, and apple butter from my trip to the orchard. These became the base for my pan sauce. Fifteen minutes later, dinner was ready!

This recipe is a grown up version of a childhood favorite, pork chops with applesauce.* The pan sauce is full of apples and cinnamon, with a hint of heat from the grainy mustard. It's hard to go wrong with pork and apples, a classic flavor combination.
*Even though it is a grown up version, it went over well with the kids.

Recipe: Pork Chop Saute with Apple Butter Sauce

Ruhlman: Cooking Is What Made Us Human

Once a year, it seems, Michael Ruhlman gets to the heart of the matter.  He takes all the scattered thoughts I have about cooking, random things that I can feel the edges of, and distills them down into their essence. He puts the reason I cook for my family every day into words.

 Like...this:


Had Something to Say - Cooking from michael ruhlman on Vimeo.

I loved Catching Fire, and found it just as moving as Ruhlman did, but...man. I wish I could be that eloquent. Michael, thank you, and keep fighting the good fight.  We're with you.

PS: He has another great video on what makes Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz who they are Michael Ruhlman...had something to say at Ruhlman.com.

For further reading:
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking


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Dianne Jacob and Laura Taxel at the Fabulous Food Show


[Update 11/10/2010: Never mind.  I got a call last night saying the writing workshops were cancelled.  Darn!]

Next weekend is the Fabulous Food Show at the IX Center in Cleveland. Two of my favorite authors will be giving a workshop on food writing: Food Writing for Food Lovers.

Dianne is the author of Will Write for Food, the best handbook I've found for food writers (like me and this little blog).

Laura is the author of Cleveland Ethnic Eats, and knows more about local, ethnic places all around Northeastern Ohio than anyone else I know.

Their class is at 10:30AM on Saturday, November 13th, and lasts for two hours.  The class is $50, and includes entry to the Fabulous Food Show. I'm not a big Food Network guy, so normally I wouldn't get excited about going to the show.  But...on top of the chance to take a class with Dianne and Laura, my hero Alton Brown is going to be there.  I can't wait!

Information about the Food Writing for Food Lovers workshop, including a link to buy tickets, is here: Fabulous Food Writing.

Information about the Fabulous Food Show is here: Fabulous Food Show.

[Update: And I just noticed that Tom from ExploringFoodMyWay will be at the class too. See you there, Tom!]

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Rotisserie Stuffed Pork Loin with Pepperoni, Provolone and Capicola


I complain a lot about bland pork loin. By breeding out the fat in pork, the Other White Meat has become a slab of protein without any real flavor, and one that turns dry if it is slightly overcooked. Here is my solution to those problems - use pork loin as a carrier for other ingredients that have a big hit of flavor.

The problems I listed above are an advantage when pork loin is used as a delivery system for stuffing. The solid slab of protein makes it easy to cut into a wide, thin, flat surface. The bland meat takes on whatever flavors it is stuffed with. I still have to watch out for overcooking, but I brine the pork loin to give an extra cushion, and to pump the loin up with flavor.

The next step was to pick out the type of stuffing I wanted to use. I chose an Italian cured meat theme. Sandwich pepperoni and capicola were on sale at my local grocery store, and I added provolone for a layer of melted cheese. Finally, I picked up a package of mixed poultry herbs to add the flavors of thyme, sage and rosemary. The result is layers of flavor. It starts with the brined pork loin, with that incredible browned crust from rotisserie. That gives way to a layer of herbs, followed by the spicy pepperoni and the smoky capicola, and a finishing hit of oozing provolone. Pork loin is not boring if it is filled with this much good stuff.

Recipe: Rotisserie Pork Loin Stuffed with Pepperoni, Provolone and Capicola

Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Tex-Mex Style


The first issue of Cooks Country magazine suggested making a slow cooker pot roast with a Tex-Mex flavor profile, and this is now my favorite way to make pot roast. It combines the best part of a pot roast, the tender beef chuck covered with a thick sauce, and adds the punchy flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine - chili powder, tortillas, oregano and jalapenos.

The result is a meal I can use a couple of times during the week. The first night I serve it as a straight-up pot roast. Then, a couple of days later, I shred the leftovers, reheat them, and serve them as shredded beef tacos. If that doesn't finish off the meat, it freezes well, so I can save some for a weeknight whey I'm rushed to get dinner on the table. I can thaw some shredded beef in the microwave, add some store bought tortillas and dinner's ready in no time at all.

And...don't ask me why*, but I always make pot roast in the slow cooker. Stews, chilis, other braises that take a long time? Sometimes I make them in the slow cooker, sometimes in the pressure cooker, sometimes in a regular pot. But for years I have only made my pot roast in the slow cooker.
*Really, don't ask me. I don't know why.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Tex-Mex Style

Road Trip: BayLobsters Fish Market


For my Four Fish Week posts, I needed to find a good fish market.  I can find decent seafood at my local megamart, but when I want the best, I go to a fish market. I've been meaning to check out BayLobsters Fish Market in Twinsburg, and reading about sustainable seafood in Four Fish gave me the push I needed to make the trip.

I knew I was in the right place as soon as I opened the door. The briny, slightly sweet smell of high quality fish greeted me as I entered the store. That is my first test for a fish market - does it smell right? BayLobster sure does. The display case of fish is a work of art - whole fish and sides of fish, carefully arranged to show how beautiful they are. And, the place was hopping - it is clambake season and they were doing a brisk business. There was a steady stream of customers during the Friday lunch that I visited.

The customer service was excellent. I went in looking for Barramundi for last week's recipe. They didn't have any in stock, but ordered it for me and had it within the week. They are happy to cut fish to your specifications, explain what they have in stock, and answer all the questions I asked.

Looking for excellent fish? BayLobsters Fish Market has them for you.

*And...BayLobsters has sponsored Jane Snow's weekly newsletter for as long as I can remember. Anyone who supports Jane deserves our support as well!

BayLobsters Fish Market
9224 Darrow Rd
Twinsburg, Ohio 44087
Phone: 330-486-0713
Website: BayLobsters.com

My top five list of favorite things they sell are, in no particular order: