Smoke for Brunch 2012

Smoke is a meat lover’s dream.  They make practically everything themselves.  Take the Bloody Mary…

They pickle the vegetables they use for garnish.  They make their own roasted tomato and chile mix.  The drink is super flavorful.  The waiter said spicy, but I didn’t think it was hot-spicy.  Just good.  Although it seems funny to pay $10 for a drink and $15 for a steak and egg breakfast, that’s exactly what we did.

Hanger steak, sliced and served over a fluffy biscuit topped with peppercorn gravy.  A huge pile of scrambled eggs, though you could have yours fried, if you want.  Frankly, I didn’t even eat more than a bite of my eggs.  They were good, but there was so much on the plate that was better and I knew I couldn’t eat it all.  Potato cakes made with goat cheese were a little overdone.  Still a nice starch to accompany the meat.  A broiled tomato and and a couple of spears of asparagus made it a really nice plate.  The steak was cooked perfectly.  But, we still couldn’t resist a couple of sides…

They call the bacon “thick cut pork belly bacon”.  Which seems a little funny because all bacon is pork belly.  Who cares what they call it.  It’s amazing.  Looks like it’s a little crunchy, doesn’t it?  It’s really not.  It’s firm enough, but nice and chewy and meaty.  The “artisanal style pork ham” has just a touch of sweetness and is pleasantly moist.  Love it.  Both these meats are cured and smoked in-house.  Out back, you can see the huge smoker on the patio and firewood is abundant.  These side dishes are a deal at only $3.50 each.  You can pay that much much for a side of crappy store bought bacon.

Yes, I took home a to-go box.  With tax and tip, $72.  Not bad for something you can’t get anywhere else in Dallas.  In fact, Hub and I have some pork belly curing in the fridge right now.  I’ll be shocked if it turns out to be even close to as good as the bacon we had today.  At least we know what to shoot for!

Lamb Stew Ciuba

I grabbed this recipe off Epicurious.com.  Love that site!  I had to change up the recipe a little.  But, it turned out to be super easy.

2 lbs lamb stew meat
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and flour.  Toss to combine.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven and brown the meat in two batches over medium-high heat.  Put in a bowl and set aside.

Add some more oil to the pot.  Turn it down to medium and saute:

1 large chopped onion
2 large chopped ribs of celery
6 cloves chopped garlic
4 medium carrots cut about 1/3 inch thick

Add:

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
(I also added a few shakes of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of Aleppo chili pepper)

Saute for a minute and add:

The browned lamb
1 and 1/2 cups red wine
3 cups of beef broth

Crank up the heat to get it simmering.  Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring now and then, partially covered, for 2 1/2 hours until the sauce is thick and the lamb is tender.

After the cooking time was done I thought the stew was too watery.  So, I added some Yukon gold potatoes and cooked it another hour.

This is good stuff.  But, I bet it’ll be even better tomorrow…

 

Stackhouse Burger

Thanksgiving was behind us.  We needed a burger house and decided to try the new place with the spectacular view of downtown, Stackhouse Burger.  It’s just up the street from Baylor Hospital.  Unfortunately, we were there on a super windy, kinda chilly afternoon.  No great view of downtown for us.  We ate inside.

The place is pretty small but very well appointed.  I really liked the look of it.  Lots of natural light.  You order at the register and then they bring the food to the table.  You decide if you want a single, double, etc…  then the toppings come at an additional cost.  I think lettuce and tomato comes with it.  There’s a list of additional toppings.  You can get wine and beer.  Our order consisted of a cheeseburger with grilled onion and bacon, an order of the housemade potato chips with homemade carmelized onion dip and a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato.  We also got a beer and a glass of Savignon Blanc.  It was about $35.  Not horrible.  But, not cheap either.

Hub ordered his burger pink.  The choices were pink and well done.  He thought that maybe his burger was a bit more on the red side when it arrived.  But, he did think it tasted great, though it was messy.  I didn’t confirm, but the rolls look like those fabulous Empire Bakery buns.  He said he would order it next time with less stuff.  My bite was delicious.

The grilled cheese was good.  Could have been a little more melted.  But, the bacon and tomato really made it a meal.  Yummy.  The star of the show was the house made potato chips.  Really good.  I like blue cheese, but we really didn’t need it.  The dipping sauce, a basic French onion dip, was perfect.  I could go for some right now.  They should make a bigger deal of the chips.  The only reason I knew about them was that someone mentioned them on a blog.

I’m ready to check it out again.  Then, maybe go across the street to The Elbow Room for a drink at the bar.  Or have some knives sharpened at Viega!

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Cream

What is in a name?  A lot, when it comes to this soup.  In fact, the name sounded better than the soup tasted.  But, what was I expecting?  It’s squash soup.  Squash isn’t just bursting with flavor to begin with, right?

I cracked open the squash.  Since I’d never cooked a butternut squash before, more less a six dollar organic butternut squash, I took a little nibble of it raw.  Nothing.  I tossed a piece to the floor to see if the dog would eat it.  No dice.  It tasted like nice, fresh, organic nothing.  Maybe the roasting would help.

I will say that it smelled considerably better after the roasting.  I had rubbed the cut side of each half with olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted it for 45 mintues at 400.  Still didn’t taste like a whole lot.

I medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped

Saute in a soup pot with olive oil and a little salt until tender.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for a minute or two more.  Scoop the squash flesh into the pot.  Add four cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or so.

From here you take it off the heat.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, thinning it with up to 2 cups more chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Taste.  That’s kind of the problem here.  The most potent flavor in almost six cups of soup was 2 cloves of garlic.  That’s not a lot of flavor.

All of this is supposed to be pumped up by two teaspoons of chipotle chopped.  I used chipotle puree and put a lot more than two teaspoons.  It didn’t taste like much.  I added a Mexican spice blend that’s heavy on the cumin.  A little more garlic.  Salt.

It was OK.   The addition of the blob of sour cream with chipotle mixed in was nice.  It was still and exercise in blandness.  If you like bland or if you feel that you can jazz this up sufficiently to make it really good, then do make this soup.  It’s got to be pretty good for you, right?  It’s basically nothing but vegetables.  But, frankly, V8 has more flavor.

Thankful Pizza

How do you go from this…

To this…?

Thankgiving.  We brined and smoked our turkey.  And last night it was delicious on a turkey pizza.  Started with an olive oil and garlic base with a little crushed red pepper.  Topped it with hunks of smoked turkey, little blobs of stuffing, spoonfuls of truffled mashed potatoes and some green been casserole scattered around.  (Yes, with the crunchy fried onions from a can!)  When it came out of the oven we drizzled it with giblet gravy and added a little bit of cranberry sauce here and there.

Thanksgiving by the slice.  Not too bad!

Gumbo

One of the first “big deal” recipes I ever tried was gumbo.  Having been successful at gumbomaking over the years, I’ve made the dish quite a lot.  I’m a big fan of success.  I’ve made it so many times that the whisk I had designated as my “roux whisk” finally died this year.  I have a special spoon for skimming off the oil and weirdness from the top of the soup as it simmers.

Now that I’ve stopped worrying about following the recipe I find that I make something that is really what gumbo is all about.  A huge pot of too much soup grown out of everything you have on hand.  It’s a great way to use up those ingredients that you are worried about going south because you can just throw them all in the same pot and simmer the hell out of them.

Today’s gumbo has about 3 cups of a beef broth that I made last weekend.  You know, the gelatinous kind of stuff when it gets cold?  It’ll give the overall broth more body and silkiness.   I’m adding a chicken and clam broth mixture to the beef broth to make enough liquid for the soup.  (Is it soup or stew?)

A while back I bought a bag of flounder filets from Whole Foods.  They were all individually packaged inside the bag.  For some reason I never got inspired and they’ve been in the freezer a while.  They’re going into the gumbo.  I’m adding them in big pieces, in hopes that they’ll hold together for a minute or two.  Ultimately, they’ll flake up into the soup.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s gumbo.

Same thing with a few smoked linguesa sausages.  Been in the freezer a while.  They’ll be good in the gumbo, too.  Oh, and the leftover pork sausages we had for dinner the day before yesterday.  Going in.  Portabella mushrooms.  I don’t even remember why I bought them.  Diced green onions with wilted tops removed.  All of that is in the pot.

What did I buy?  Red and green bell peppers and some shrimp.  I bought some skinless, bonesless chicken thighs that I thought I would use, as well. But, I’m not so sure it’s needed.  I might hold on to those for dinner tomorrow.  Wonder what I could do with those…

Damn.  I forgot about that hunk of salmon I have thawed in the fridge.  What do you think?  Broil it and serve it as a pure flavor along side the gumbo?  Somehow… that doesn’t sound too bad to me.  With light salad?

Green Bean Casserole

Topping:
4 slices sandwich bread, quartered
2 Tablespoons softened butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 cups canned fried onions

Plus everythiing but the onions in a food processor until crumbly. Toss mixture with the onions in a bowl and set aside.

Beans and Sauce:
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and halved
3 Tablespoons butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and broken into 1/2 inch pieces
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 1 Tablespoon)
black pepper
3 Tablespooons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 435. Cook beans in salted water (2 T salt) until bright green and crisp tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans and put them into a bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking. Drain beans and spread them on paper towels to dry off a little.

Put butter in the empty bean pot over med-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook mushrooms until they release their moisture and the liquid evaporates, about 6 mins. Stir in flour and cook for a minute stirring constantly. Add broth and bring to a simmer, still stirring. Stir in cream and reduce heat to medium. Simmer about 6 minutes until sauce has thickened and reduced to about 3 1/2 cups Season with salt and pepper.

Add grean beans to sauce and stir to coat evenly. Put in a 3 quart casserole or 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Top with onion bread mixture. Bake until bubbly around the edges, about 15 minutes.