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Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup © Andor (1)

Soups have always been popular in the winter months. The trend may have started because people were trying to make use of the aging crops, harvested before the frigid weather arrived. Hardly anyone is a farmer anymore, yet the trend persists. Having grown a fair amount of carrots in the garden this year, I have been trying to use as much as possible before they go bad. I knew I wanted to make soup, but did not want it to be like the carrot soups I’ve had before. Half way through making dinner, it was still unclear what the finished bowl would be. Carrots? Yep. Bacon? No way can that be left out. Arugula? Well I bought it, better try to use it up. Noodles? Never have I made a soup with noodles and that’s not changing now… Let the carrots be the noodles? Yes, a good choice. The lima beans were an after thought. They were actually being prepared for another dish, which didn’t happen. But, they add a lot and I’m not sure this soup would be as good without that extra element. This can be made as a vegetarian soup pretty easily as well.

Serves 4 to 6.

Supplies Needed: An 8 quart soup pot, a strainer and a second pot(4+ quarts). Potato peeler. Knife and cutting board. Fry pan.

Ingredients:

For the Stock/Broth:

4-8 large carrots, ends removed and chopped in half.(Enough carrots to fill the soup pot a bit more than half way, after everything else is in it already.)
A chicken carcas(like the picked over remnants of a rotisserie chicken), or a large breast, or thigh without removing any meat.
1 large onion, halved
2-4 fresh garlic cloves
2 long sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves

For the Finished Soup:

6 medium sized carrots(figure one per person), shredded with a potato peeler, so as to make thin, noodle-like strips
half a pound of bacon
1 cups worth of arugula
1.5 cups of lima beans
half tsp of chili powder blend, or cajun spice blend
salt and pepper to taste
thyme leaves for garnish

To Cook:

Put the halved carrots, chicken, onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme sprigs into Your pot. Adding enough water to submerge everything, plus a bit more. If Your pot is half full of ingredients, You’ll want to fill it three quarters full of water. You don’t want anything sticking out above the water… Bring this to a simmer and let it gently bubble for 4 or 5 hours, stirring occasionally. You’re done with this step when You can make mashed carrots with nothing more than a gentle touch. Let it cool a bit and strain the solids from the liquid. A 4 quart pot should be about the perfect size for the amount of liquid You have. Now is a good time to start frying the bacon in another pan. As You do that, bring the soup to a light boil and begin reducing it. Add the spices, salt and pepper and continue to boil until a third of the liquid has boiled off. Then, add the lima beans and continue to boil until they are cooked. Place the arugula and shredded carrots into bowls. Ladle in the soup and lima beans, the hot soup should be just enough to soften the thinly shredded carrots. Add the bacon and garnish with some thyme leaves. Time to eat!

Notes:

This can easily be made as a vegetarian soup. Simply replace the chicken bones with another veggie, or add more carrots. Then, skip adding bacon at the end…

If You’re using baby lima beans, You’ll want to add them a bit later. Because they are more tender and cook in less than half the time.

When reducing soup stock, the general rule of thumb is that You want to end up with half the amount of liquid You had after straining.

Roasting the bones in the oven/broiler before starting Your soup will help bring out the oils and flavor. Making for a slightly more robust end product. If You make this with a chicken breast, or thigh, a quick searing, at high heat in a fry pan will help accomplish the same thing. You don’t want to cook the meat, the intent is to help mature the final flavor.

Those who don’t like a bit of fattiness to their soup will want to make the stock a day before serving. Place it in the fridge over night and the fat will all solidify on top. Simply remove the fat layer and then proceed to reduce and finish the soup…

If You don’t think You’ll use all of it right away, remove some to freeze for later, before adding the lima beans and spices. Obviously, if doing so, You won’t need as much of the ingredients for the ‘finished soup.’

I served this with Port Chicken(recipe can be found on this blog) and peppercorn rice, the recipe for which is on this blog under one of My ‘cooking in the twilight hours’ posts. The meal was quite lovely! Except that I neglected to salt the soup, which My guests didn’t appreciate. Adding salt to the soup made all the difference…

Carrot Soup © Andor (2)


Stir Fry: Harvest Special

I didn’t grow a ton of veggies in the garden this year. I did have a substantial carrot patch, a mix of Touchon and Purple Dragons. I also had a pair of Fairy Tale eggplants, some Pablano peppers and a good amount of Tatsoi bak choi. Needless to say, all of these things came to meet one another in My wok. With a few additions, a very nice meal was spawned. There is just nothing better than garden fresh food! Here is what I did for the first meal after harvest. Paired with rice, noodles, or bread, this recipe serves two ravenous teenagers, or four average appetites.

Garden Fresh Stir Fry © Andor

Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
3-4 large carrots, chopped into pieces no more than a quarter inch thick
4 small eggplants, sliced about a quarter inch thick(Kamo eggplants are best for frying)
1 large onion, chopped to Your liking
2 pablano peppers, diced
1 head of bak choi, stems removed(about 30, 3-4 inch leaves)
a quarter cup of dry sherry
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bacon grease(I love bacon grease!), or Your choice of cooking oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, lemon juice, hoisin and pablano peppers in a large bowl, or zip-lock bag. Add the pork and let marinate for at least 30 minutes(over night is best). Over medium-high heat, stir fry the carrots until they reach Your desired texture and remove from pan. Then stir fry the eggplants with black pepper and a pinch of salt and set aside as well. Now start cooking the onions, when they start to turn translucent, turn the heat to high and add the pork and liquid mixture. Stir fry on high until the meat is done cooking, then reduce heat to medium and stir in the bak choi. Then, turn off the burner and mix everything together. Plate and serve!

Notes:

Obviously, nearly any meat will work with this recipe.

Pablano peppers are really mild, this is not a spicy dish…

If using mock duck, marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Add the liquid marinade to the onions and let it thicken a little, before adding the mock duck to the fry pan.

Running short on time? Skip the marinating part, simply put the liquids and peppers in the pan when You go to cook the meat. It will still taste great, but the meat won’t be quite as flavorful.

Most varieties of eggplant will cook VERY fast and fall apart, becoming mush. Which is why I suggest Kamo eggplants, which hold their texture very well compared to every other variety. If using another kind of eggplant, You must pay close attention to the texture, once You can dent it with Your finger, remove from the pan immediately. Some eggplants are very moist inside, laying them on a dry towel or napkin after slicing(before cooking) can dry them a bit and thus help keep them from disintegrating as You cook.

You can use the bak choi stems if You like. Chop them up like onions and fry until tender after You cook the eggplant.

Cooking each ingredient separately helps mix up the flavors that hit Your tongue. You can indeed cook the carrots and onions together, then add the eggplant and meat. Stir frying till everything is done, but You end up with a more uniform flavor, which is good, but lacks the depth of each ingredient. You also have more control over the texture of each thing when cooking them solo…

I admit to using too much bacon fat in making this one. You may have noticed by the glossy nature in the photo… It was delicious though!


Pulled Pork Sandwich, Assemble!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Assemble! © Andor

This was just My second attempt to make pulled pork. As You can see, I went in to geek mode with My camera. Just a little bit anyways. The lighting in My kitchen is pretty poor, even by the windows, so I will likely try this animation again sometime with a better lighting arrangment. Using whole wheat hot dog buns, bak choi picked fresh from the garden, diced onions and barbeque sauce, these sandwiches came together quite well.

The hours I work have My schedule a bit off from most peoples. I go to bed around five in the morning and wake up around noon. So I started the pork in My Instapot when I went to bed and it was done when I woke up the next day. The first time, I started it before I went to work and it was ready and waiting for Me when I got home. I do love the set it and forget it style of cooking involved with making this tasty, meaty, dish.

Pulled Pork © Andor

To make the pulled pork, You will need a slow cooker, such as a crock pot, adjustable rice cooker, or sommething of that nature. A three to four pound pork shoulder, or butt. Sprinkle 2+ tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt, 4 tbsp cajun spice blend and a third of a cup of tightly packed brown suger all over the out sides of the meat. Put an onion or two, peeled and halved into the bottom of You crock pot, along with a third of a cup of dry sherry, 2 long sprigs of thyme and two large cloves of garlic. Then place the pork on top, cover and slow cook for 6 to 8 hours. Once the meat is super tender and falling apart, remove it from the cooker and use a pair of forks to pull, or shred the pork, removing and fatty chunks and bones as You go. Serve it with Your favorite side dishes, or make sandwiches, wraps, or even eat it all by it’s self. There should be plenty of juices in the bottom of the pot, add some to the pulled meat to keep it moist and flavorful, especially if You are refridgerating some of it for later.


A New Place to Taste

I guess this place opened about 3 months ago. Located in east Saint Paul, ‘Cook’ looks to be a place that I shall be going to again soon. I opted to get a Monte Cristo sandwich, which was very yummy. Next time I shall get the Short Ribs Eggs Benedict, which one of My friends ordered. The bite of it that I got was quite delicious. Also pictured is their Brunch Burger and homemade Apple Pie.


Gallery

Meat on the Grill, Meat in a Cloud


Cooking in the Twilight Hours

Cooking in the Twilight Hours © Andor

I often find Myself cooking between two and four in the morning. Not sure why, but this is when the proliferation of stir-fried creations tends to happen. In this case, a very simple set of ingredients lead to yet another delicious meal. Chicken in a salty caramel sauce, lightly fried veggies, caramelized onions and peppercorn rice. The chicken is a bit of a rip on a Vietnamese style Ga Kho, or as most of us call it, hot and spicy chicken. I simply omitted the fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger instead using seasoned salt. The rice was quite nice. It’s subtle, like sushi rice, until You bite on a peppercorn. If You use white pepper, it will be quite spicy. Other varieties emit a mild peppery flavor, but most of the bite dissipates while cooking. The onions took Me three hours to get to that amazingly sweet, gooey texture. If You skip that part however, this meal can be prepared and cooked in thirty to fourty-five minutes. Even faster if You make the chicken in one pan and the veggies in another.

For starters, chop up 2 medium to large onions and cook over low heat until caramalized and set aside. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot when You start, they will be dramatically reduced as You cook. This can take hours, but it is so worth it.

In Your rice cooker, or pot, add 1 cup of rice and 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, mix until the pepper is evenly dispersed. Then add 1.5 cups of water and 1 tsp of rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and cook until the rice has reached Your desired texture.

While the rice is cooking, thinly slice a medium sized carrot and fry over medium heat to Your liking and remove from the pan. Then, stir fry 1 cup of brocolli with 1 cloves worth of minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce. Once finished, remove from the pan and wipe it clean.

Now, over high heat, stir fry 2 chopped up chicken thighs with 1 tsp rice vinegar, half a tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt and 2 tbsp(or more!) of brown sugar. Cook until You have a thick brown caramel glaze and You are done. Enjoy!

 


Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (1)

I am in love with this soup! Layers of porky flavor make it a delight to devour. I originally intended to make a bacon and bak choi soup, but instead I used what was in My freezer. Thus stumbling upon this lovely combination. Baby lima beans add a great texture and are perfect for reducing the spicy impact on Your taste buds. Obviously, bacon adds to almost any meal, but by cooking it in different ways, bacon can take things to the next level. I have been playing with different methods of cooking it for quite some time. Treating a pack of standard, sliced bacon as a single piece of meat is the key to this dish.

Soup takes time to make. It is very easy, since You can ignore it most of the time, but it’s a long process. 3 hours of simmering on the stove seems to be the minimum for getting all of the flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients. Simmering for 4 to 6 hours before reducing has yielded the best soup stock for Me. Be sure not to reduce too far, the general rule is that You want to cook it down by half. You don’t want to end up with soup concentrate. Making this soup is a two part recipe. First, one must make the stock that provides the base flavors. Then, You fry Your bacon and finish the soup with spices. I tend to make stock half, to three quarters of a gallon at a time, since the largest pot in My kitchen is 8 quarts. Storing any that is not being used right away in the freezer for later. It will last about a month in the freezer, so You can save time and make the stock well before the day You intend actually to serve the soup.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (2)

Supplies Needed: TWO 8 quart stock pots(the second is for straining), a decent sized strainer and a skillet for frying.

~For the Stock~

Ingredients:

2lbs Ham Shanks, or the bone of a mostly eaten ham

3 large Carrots, cut in half, or thirds

2 large Onions, halved

half a bushel of Celery

half a bulb of Garlic

2 Bay Leaves

1.5 to 2 gallons of Water(as much as can be fit into the pot with the other ingredients)

Andor's Porky Soup Stock © Andor

To Cook:

Put all the above ingredients in a stock pot, adding as much water as possible(1.5 to 2 inches from the top of the pot). You don’t want to boil it, set the burner to whatever setting You need to keep it simmering. Continue simmering for 4 or more hours. Then, strain the ingredients from the liquid, pressing as much of the broth out of them as possible. Discard the solids(eat the meat, if there is any) and return the liquid to the stove. Now You want to bring it to a boil and continue until the soup has been reduced to about half of the post-straining quantity. You don’t want a full rolling boil, with a foamy top. A ‘low boiling’ is ideal, constant large bubbling is what You want to see. Once reduced, let cool and place in the fridge over night. When it’s nice and cold, remove the fat that has solidified on the top. Now proceed to the next part of the recipe, or put it in containers and freeze.

~Finishing the Soup~

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Cajun Spice blend

A 1.5 to 2 inch wide slice of the Bacon slab and half a cup or more of Baby Lima Beans per person

1 tsp freshly ground Peppercorns(multi-color medley is best for this)

Salt to taste

Slow Cooking Sliced Bacon © Andor

To Cook:

Over medium-low, or even low heat, start frying the bacon, spreading the pepper evenly on the top and bottom. It is best to slow cook, flipping every 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the temperature low, so You don’t burn the outsides before the center has been cooked. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. You may also have a hard time keeping the bacon from splitting apart, I suggest using a tongs for flipping, so You can hold each piece together as You maneuver them around. Once the bacon is ALMOST cooked through, heat Your soup stock on high. Once the soup starts to boil, add the baby lima beans, cajun spice and salt and reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally. At the same time, turn the burner for the bacon to medium-high and fry until the outer edges are nice and crispy(burnt is ok too), then remove from the pan, placing on a towel to pull out the excess grease. Make sure the beans are cooked to Your liking and turn off the burner. Ladle the soup and beans into bowls and place a chunk of bacon on top. Serve hot!

Notes:

I have only served this when also making other dishes. I’ve never tried it as a stand alone meal, it’s a great fit for multi-course dinners.

Cooking sliced bacon in this manor provides a unique texture, similar to tender un-sliced meat. Half pound slabs cook up quite well, but are hard to slice afterwords without breaking it all apart. I prefer Corn King brand bacon. You may laugh, or turn Your nose to the sky, but the brine and smoking process they use produces a superior tasting grease. I use bacon grease instead of cooking oil in most of My cooking, so such things matter to Me. Yes, I am telling You that a mass produced product of Iowan factory-made bacon is better than bacon from a quality butcher shop!

Baby lima beans are really tender inside. If You are substituting regular lima beans, You will want to boil/steam them with water and add to the soup when plating. Otherwise they will be tough and meaty in texture.

This soup is very barbecue friendly. I saved 15 bones from pork spare ribs that I had smoked, added them, burnt edges, sauce and all, instead of the ham. It was delicious! I was unsure about how the charred ends and the messy, sweet remnants of bbq sauce would affect the flavor, but it came out really good. The only burnt parts were maybe half an inch at the tip of each bone.  The soup lacked the hammy flavor and aroma, but was instead smelling like a barbequed bowl of goodness. I admit to also using one head of bak choi in place of the carrots that time too. The spice blend really helps this soup fit in to a barbecue menu as well. The spiciness just invites one to eat more sweet, savory, saucy ribs.

I have also found the broth, which is the soup after straining, but before reducing, is very good for sauces. 1 cup of broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger, some garlic and a splash of chili powder made for a delicious thick sauced stir-fry.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (3)


Fancy Feast

Fancy Feast © Andor

Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.

First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.

February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.

I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.


Back for More? Indeed.

Tonkatsu Ramen has suddenly become a bit of a saturday ritual. So filling, so delicious. This time one of us ordered it without chili oil, exposing the hearty white stock. I always tell Myself, ‘next time I will order something else from the expanding menu,’ but it has yet to happen..


Double Pork Fried Rice

Andor's Double Pork Fried Rice © Andor   One of humanity’s most varied edibles. After a decade or more of experimenting and constantly trying different things, I have settled on a flavor arrangement closer to americanized asian restaurant versions of this classic home-style favorite. The sweet soy sauce, or alternately kecap manis, combined with rice vinegar and soy sauce is the winning formula at a great many asian restaurants here in North America. For Me, Simply add eggs, sweet peas and bacon, everything else is optional. The following recipe is my dressed up version which is very much a stand alone meal. Adding chili powder for increased depth to the rice it’s self, while also including carrots and onions, along with savory marinated pork. By cooking these things separately and mixing them together only at the end, You get a wonderful burst of the different ingredient’s flavors in every bite. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6+ as a side dish.

Supplies Needed: Large Wok or Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board

Ingredients:

2 cups of White Rice, steamed or boiled(slightly undercooked, or day old rice is best)
1 pound or so of Pork, Your choice of cut, chopped into half inch pieces(or smaller)
4 Eggs
One third of a pound of Bacon, sliced into pieces a quarter inch wide
3 medium sized Carrots, sliced thinly
1 large Onion, chopped as well..
Half of a bag of Frozen Sweet Peas
4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
4 tbsp of Sweet Soy Sauce or Honey, or 1+ tbsp of Sugar)
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
1 or 2 fresh Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of Chili Powder Blend
1 packet of Chinese Barbeque(Char Siu, Red Pork) Seasoning
Cooking Oil as needed

Prep and Cooking:

You will need to marinate the pork in the chinese seasoning for 30 minutes or more before cooking, over night in the fridge is best. Once it has soaked in the flavors, remove from the marinade and stir fry on high heat until fully cooked. I preffer a bit of charring on My red pork. Remove from the pan and set it aside for now. Rinse out the pan before continuing.

Over medium heat, scramble the eggs. Once cooked, remove, wipe any extra residue from the pan, then stir fry the bacon to Your liking and remove from the pan. There should be plenty of bacon grease now. You can poor off the excess, or just leave it all in. Stir fry the carrots until they start to soften, then add the onion and cook until the desired texture is reached. Remove from pan. Next, put the cooked rice into the pan, adding all of the remaining seasonings. Stir until everything is evenly mixed in, add the frozen peas and stir until they have thawed. Turn off the burner mix everything You have cooked together in the pan and serve.

Notes:

Things go much faster using a skillet and a wok at the same time. Cooking the bacon, then veggies, followed by the rice in the wok and the eggs and then meat in another pan. Mixing it all into the wok at the end.


Ramen, Lovely Ramen

United Noodles is a bit of a back alley grocery store. Specializing in foods from nearly all corners of asia, they are one of the oldest asian grocers in the Twin Cities. Within this store is another store, a small deli. Called Uni Deli, this place has an extremely short menu, but that is okay, because one of the eight things listed for You to have served hot and delicious is Tonkatsu Ramen. Oh My, I had not been there in about a year and My taste buds have been blown away again. How do I forget to keep going back for more? If You go there and do not order tonkatsu, You are missing out. Order it spicy, simply the best.Tonkatsu Ramen from Uni Deli, Minneapolis © Andor (1)Tonkatsu Ramen from Uni Deli, Minneapolis © Andor (2)


A Treasured Heirloom

A Treasured Heirloom © Andor (1)

Last year, I tried growing a variety of tomato called Cherokee Purple. Sadly, last year, spring was quite late and I had a pathetic harvest of one tomato, as noted in the post on this site called ‘Love at First Spite.’ This year I tried them again. Much like the previous year, spring was late, but I got them planted about 2 weeks earlier than before. Thankfully, I have a lot more to eat this time around. Varying in size from 3 to 6 and a half inches across, they have grown in such thick clusters that I’ve had to do a large amount of thinning to prevent rot, due to over crowding. The key to these tomatoes is the taste. They are simply better than most, if not all of the other varieties available. Even the under-ripe 6 inch 1.7 pounder pictured below is tastier than any other tomato I’ve ever grown, or gotten from a grocery store. I never thought I would actually like tomatoes, but I do now… Thank goodness some plants will still give us seeds that will grow into more food.A Treasured Heirloom © Andor (2)


Andor’s Traditional Ribs!

Andor's Traditional Ribs (2)

Yes! This is it! The ribs I served for several years at gatherings of many varieties. This is a time consuming recipe, but it’s actually quite simple and pretty easy to accomplish.  The seasoning is a pairing of sauce, dried herbs and spice blends that are available at most big box grocery stores. If You have eaten My ribs in the past, You were very likely devouring the following recipe..

Andor's Traditional Ribs (1)

With that said, this is slow cooking! It’s very simple, but since You are cooking at low temperatures, it takes a while. Barbecue is different from grilling in that You tend to use indirect heat. Many hours will pass by once the actual cooking commences and every 20 or 30 minutes, You’ll be adding wood to the coals, flipping racks and spreading thin layers of sauce! One must have the dedication to give 4 to 8 hours of loving to Your ribs for them to acheive that highly desirable, fall off the bone texture. As such, I have divided this up into two recipes that have the same seasoning arrangement. ‘The Way of the Food Junky’ delivers the afore stated texture, as well as that lovely smokey flavor. Taking 5 to 8 hours depending on the temperature in Your smoker/grill and the thickness of the meat being used. ‘The Slacker’s Attempt’ is done at higher temperature in the oven, which means it cooks through in 3 or 4 hours, but brings forth tougher meat. Both do taste quite good of course!!

Ingredients(listed per 1 rack of pork spare ribs with the cartilage tips not trimmed):

1.5 tbsp – Garlic Granules
3 tbsp – Chili Powder Blend(the kind for making chili!)
3 tbsp – Ms. Dash Lemon Pepper Blend(or 2 tbsp of regular lemon pepper)
2 tbsp – Dried Thyme Leaves
2 or 3 tbsp – Dried Terragon Leaves
2 tbsp – Freshly Ground Peppercorns(the multi colored peppercorn blends will add a lot more depth than just black pepper)
Salt to taste, although, I’ve rarely ever salted this recipe…
3/4 of a cup or so of BBQ Sauce, We all have our favorites, or hate the stuff. This recipe is based on the thick midwestern, tomato based sauces. I use Ken davis, which is from Minnesota and Sweet Baby Ray’s, which I beleive is from Illinois.

The Way of the Food Junky: The First Method

Supplies Needed:

Baking sheet with raised edges that is large enough to hold Your rack of ribs. A Very sharp knife for slicing. A brush, fork or spoon for spreading sauce. Smoker or large grill(You don’t want your ribs near the coals). with enough of a tasty hardwood(cherry and hickory are My main choices) or charcoal(1 to 1.5 standard bags), to keep a decent temperature for 6+ hours. If You are using charcoal, You shall also require chips/chunks of one of the afore stated woods, along with a large bowl or 1 gallon bucket, with water high enough to cover the wood chips.

Prep:

Get Your smoker or grill started. I tend to start large in My modest smoking pit. If using a regular grill however, You’ll be needing a very small pile of coals. The desired temperature is about 260F, starting a little hotter than that won’t hurt at all. I would avoid going over 300F for any period of time when Your cooking. While the fire burns out and becomes coals to cook with, You’ll be seasoning Your meat.

On Your baking sheet, lay the ribs in-side up(the bones should be curved like a shallow bowl). Evenly spread half of everything EXCEPT the sauce across the ribs, press or pat them in a bit, so the herbs don’t just fall off and flip the rack over. Spread the remaining herbs and spices over the top side of the ribs and press them in a bit as well.

Once You’ve got coals instead of flames, it’s time to get smokin’

Cooking:

If using a smoking pit, simply place Your ribs on the rack and close the lid. For charcoal users, You’ll need to soak the wood chips in water for an hour or so before use. Add wood/charcoal to the coals as needed to maintain the desired temperature of 260F or so. When adding to the coals, it’s best to spread them out a bit and put the fresh stuff centered on top. This will get the new stuff burning and formed into coals the fastest, as well as add a perch for the wet wood chips, thus protecting the coals. Some put the chips in foil, I just lay it on the top in a fist sized lump. Every 20-30 minutes, You’ll need to add another fist-full of wet wood chips to the top of the coals, so as to keep the smoke billowing out.

Continue this cycle: flipping the ribs before adding more charcoal and wood chips, every half hour or so until the meat seems fully cooked, but not yet tender. On a hot summer day, this can be done in about 4 hours, however, on a cool spring or fall morning, it will likely take 6 or more hours to get it cooked through. Then, You want to start brushing on the sauce in thin layers, while continuing the flipping and adding to the coals cycle, adding sauce every time You flip the ribs. Keep it up until You can wiggle the bones away from the meat. Remove from the grill and let the rack rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The Slacker’s Attempt: The Second, Shorter Method

Supplies Needed:

A baking sheet with raised edges and a sharp knife for slicing. An oven safe bowl with 1 or 2 cups of red wine or sherry and an equal amount of water. A brush, fork or spoon for spreading sauce.

Prep: Preheat Your oven to 400F. Season the ribs as described in the prep section above.

Cooking:

Put the bowl containing the watered down wine on to the bottom rack of the oven. Place the pan laden with ribs middle rack of the oven and immediately lower the tempurature from 400 to 300. Bake for an hour and start flipping them every 30-45 minutes for an additional 2.5 hours. The meat should be just about cooked to the bone at this point. If it doesn’t feel cooked, then let it bake a while longer. Sauce the bottom of the ribs first, then flip and sauce the top side. Place the ribs back in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes:

All cooking times will vary depending on the tempurature, thickness of meat and bones, etc…

On a regular grill, such as a Weber, You’ll want to shove the coals off to one side and place the meat on the rack as far away from the heat as possible. If You can’t manage to cook without burning the edges, You may want to consider starting the ribs on the grill. Using very little charcoal, but a lot of wood in a short period of time, say 45 minutes to an hour. Then place the ribs in the oven at 260F to actually cook them. This will give You a nice smokey essense and reasonable control over the texture of the meat. This is also the best method for those who live in the north. Trying to smoke food in temperatures under 20F tends to give a more jerky-like texture. As well as force You to use 3 or 4 times the amount of charcoal.

I use to peel the membrane off of the under-side of the ribs, but in the last couple years, I have swayed away from this. Leaving it in place does reduce the thickness of the smoke line(the red’ish color in the outer sections) in the meat and thus decreases the smokey flavor slightly, but it makes it a little easier to control the texture by holding in more moisture. It’s a preference thing that I don’t think makes much of a difference.

Using the ‘Slacker’s Method’ You can also achieve that succulent, fall off the bone texture. Instead of cooking at 300, lower the temperature to 260 and add an hour or two to the cooking time.

This recipe is actually pretty tasty without the sauce, so long as You don’t burn the spices and herbs during cooking. This will make it a bit bitter. It’s better to use fresh herbs if You’re going this route though.

The Charcoal quantities listed are for use with My pit smoker which has a 15×18 inch burning chamber and a 15×30 inch cooking area. You’ll use less with a normal grill.Andor's Smoker in Action © Andor Blogs


Minnesota Midget Melons

Minnesota Midget Melons © Andor (1)

I bought these seeds a couple of years ago, but didn’t plant them until June 15th of this year. Sewn into raised beds, the seeds sprouted and swiftly grew a couple of 4 to 5 foot branches. After about a month they started sprouting flowers and then, some lovely little fruits. This is the first to ripen and the largest of the bunch thus far. These little 5 inch musk melons are very fragrant, super juicy and just delicious. Grown in My yard a mere 2 miles from the UofM campus that spawned this strand of melon, it has made Me a very happy gardener.

Minnesota Midget Melons © Andor (2)Minnesota Midget Melons © Andor (3)


Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli

Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli © Andor

My cooking style has always been to throw a bunch of things I like together, then hope it’s delicious… That’s how I made this one 5 or 6 years ago. I’m not sure how I lost this recipe, which was the most popular on My old site. I recently found it on an antiquated external hard drive that I haven’t been using, so here We go. One of the great many flavor combinations I’ve stumbled upon over the years. A good blend of savory, sour and sweet, followed by a round of  heat! As with all Stir Fries, this is straight forward, fast and quite easy to make! Matched with a side of bread, noodles, or rice, this serves about 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or High Sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board. As well as a Large Bowl, Pot, or Pan to shuffle the cooked veggies onto while the meat cooks.

Ingredients:

2 or so lbs of Boneless Chicken, chopped
1 Bag of frozen Broccoli, thawed
6 to 8 large Garlic cloves, minced
1 Habanero Pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
2 or 3  tbsp Soy Sauce
1 and a half  tbsp of Lemon Juice
3-4 tbsp of Hoisin Sauce
1 tbsp Mild Chili Powder
1 tsp of Terragon flakes
half a tsp of Turmeric
2 tbsp of freshly crushed Black Pepper
1 tbsp of Sugar(optional)
and 1 or 2 tbsp of veggie/canola/peanut oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Using med-high heat, put half the oil in the pan and start frying the Carrots, once they’ve started to cook a bit, add the Onions, Turmeric, half the Pepper and a third of the Garlic, stir fry til the Carrots and Onions are about half way done, add the thawed bag of Broccoli. Stir fry until all 3 ingredients are done, then remove from the pan. You don’t need to clean the pan either.

Set burner to high heat. Pour the rest of the oil into the pan, adding the Chicken, Habanero and remaining Garlic. Stir it up a bit and add the Sugar and liquid ingredients. Stir it again and add the remaining seasonings. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through, turn off the burner. Put the veggies back into the pan with the meat and mix everything thoroughly. Enjoy!

Notes:

If You’re using fresh Broccoli, simply steam it and mix into the pan at the end…

Some stove tops will have high enough heat to make the liquids sauce down, which is good. Others will have liquid in the bottom when the chicken is done cooking, that’s fine too! It still tastes great! Just use bread, noodles or rice to soak it up!

Obviously, this works just fine without the Habanero Pepper, for those who can’t handle the burn.


Port Chicken

Andor's Grilled Port Chicken © Andor

It doesn’t get much easier than this. The first time I made this, I roasted it in the oven. I made it again last weekend and opted to grill instead. Both times, it was quite delicious. Port wine and garlic provide the core of the flavor, with salt and honey accentuating the experience. Making for a solid base to add other ingredients to, which I shall venture in to soon. So long as You have time to let it marinate and take the time to baste as it is cooking, the meat should be very tasty!

Supplies Needed: Large zip-lock style bag, or a large bowl and a roasting pan, or baking sheet, with a raised edge to hold a bit of liquid.

Ingredients:

6 Chicken Thighs, with bone
3-5 large Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 Cup Tawny Port Wine
1/2 Cup of Water
2 or so tablespoons of Sea Salt
As much Honey as it takes to thinly coat the top of Your chicken, roughly 1.5 tbsp per piece of meat.

Prep and Cooking:

In Your bag or bowl, disolve the salt in the water. Warm water makes this go faster. Then pour in the garlic and port wine. Mix or shake it up to Your liking and put the chicken in. Let it sit in the marinade for 4+ hours for the best results, but You can rush it by going no less than an hour. Once You have let the meat soak in the flavors and are ready to cook, You will want to keep all the liquids in Your marinating bowl, or bag and lay the chicken out on a baking sheet. Pre-heat Your oven to 400(f), but when You put the chicken in, turn the tempurature down to 325 degrees. Let the meat cook for 25-30 minutes and then start basting. Spreading the marinade evenly over the top of the meat every 5-10 minutes, layer by layer making a nice glaze. While cooking, any time You open the oven You should be spooning a layer of marinade over the top of things. Even if You just want to peak, always baste as well, it will help to add more power to the impact of the flavor. Once the chicken is just about fully cooked, You will be adding the honey. Try to evenly coat the top side of the chicken and place back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the honey has thickened to a nice dark hue over the red-ish color of the marinade. Remove from the oven, let it rest/sit for a minute or 3 and serve.

Notes:

Just about any port should work with this recipe.

This would go very well with various herbs, citrus, or chilis. Thyme stands out to Me as a natural fit. I can think of plenty of other things too.

It doesn’t hurt to use a larger amount of salt, 4-8 tbsp, to create more of a brine. You will need to have an additional cup of port wine and 2 large garlic cloves, minced, for basting. Once You’ve removed the meat from the salty marinade, You would want to toss it out and baste with the extra wine and garlic. In this case, You may also want to baste fewer times, so it doesn’t just taste like wine.

For grilling, I would push the coals over to one side and place the chicken on the opposite side, using indirect heat, You can layer on the marinade and later the honey, without it burning so easily. Adding a chunk of hickory or Your favorite hard wood to the coals will only make things better.


Winter Harvest

Winter Harvest © Andor (3)

This Year was My second mandarin orange harvest. Eleven times more fruit than last year’s haul, which was one orange.  The tree that gave Me that orange, gave three this year, in an escalating size range of two, to nearly four inches in diameter. They were VERY sweet and not particularly acidic. The largest one however was quite bland in flavor, I think I picked it too late? My other satsuma tree gave Me eight little oranges. I picked them in varying lengths of time after turning bright orange. Today, I picked the last five, about a month later than I think I should have. Quite a day, plucking fresh oranges from a tree when it is 7 degrees(F) outside..

Owari Satsuma Mandarins © Andor

The fruits from this tree were far more acidic and powerful in flavor, but not as sweet as the ones from it’s sister. They are the same age and from the same source, but I planted them in very different soil mixtures, to see what would work better. I can only assume that this, is what caused such dramatic variation in the experience delivered to My taste buds.

Having also plucked the last meyer lemon, there is just one fruit left growing in My tropical Minnesotan attic jungle. It is the first grapefruit from My nearly six year old ruby red tree.

Ruby Red Grapefruit © Andor

There is nothing like freshly harvested food. It has been great to experience the cycle of these trees and of course, reap the rewards! I can’t wait to see what I get next year.


Bacon, Spinach and Shrimp

I’ve been told, several times, that this is the best thing I have ever cooked.. . A couple of weeks ago, I had some friends over for some bbq chicken and fried rice. One of which hit Me up the next day, thanking Me for serving some “yummy stuff,” which inspired Her to want to make “some bomb @$# food, like that bacon, shrimp, spinach thing You use to do.” So here We are, one of an endless stream of recipes that I had completely forgotten. Having made something like it twice in the time since this conversation, I find Myself wondering how such a recipe could have fallen out of the regular rotation. Why am I not eating this all the time!?

This is in fact, pretty much the same flavor arrangement as ‘Manated Pork with Peas,’ which can be found by scrolling down through this blog. Less the pork and onion, adding bacon, spinach and shrimp! I told You it’s versatile! Although, many ingredient changes, also require a change in cooking method.. I must also point out, that I never measure when seasoning things. To Me, cooking something slightly different, every time You cook it, is a huge part of the joy and fun in that which We call food. Thus, all quantities listed in My recipes are guesstimations, but should provide a solid starting point..  Please do leave some commentary should You give this one a try.

Supplies Needed: A wok or large fry pan, cutting board and knife/you can get by with just a mincer, also a small sauce pan, like You would boil a single pack of ramen in…

Ingredients:

1 pound of shrimps, steamed or boiled lightly
one third of a pound of bacon, sliced or chopped however You like
a bag of spinach, at least enough to make salad for 4 people
Half a bag of frozen sugar snap peas, thawed
4 tbsp of fresh ginger root, minced
2 tbsp of garlic, minced
6 inches or so of fresh lemongrass, at least half an inch thick, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
1/4 cup of cooking sherry
1-2 tbsp of soy sauce
2-3 tbsp of ketcup(optional, but it adds a lot)
1 or so tbsp of sugar, just enough to take the edge off the sour/bitter ingrdients
1 tsp mild chili pepper powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Prep and Cooking:

Over low to medium heat, mix all but the peas, bacon, spinach and shrimp in the small sauce pot, stirring as often as possible, until it has thickened into a nice sauce. Remove from heat, toss the chunks of lemongrass and keep stirring until You are ready to add it to the rest of the ingredients. At the same time You begin cooking the sauce, fry the bacon on medium heat in a wok or sizable skillet, remove from the pan once cooked to Your liking. Then, toss the sugar snap peas and a fist-full of spinach into the bacon grease, stirring constantly, adding the spinach one fist-full at a time. Keep it up until You’ve used about three quarters of the spinach and remove from the pan. This should only take 30 seconds to a minute. Turn the burner to high heat and toss the shrimps into the remaining bacon grease, fry for 20 to 30 seconds, depending on size. Remove from the pan and turn off the burner, add the bacon and cooked veggies back into the pan, mixing vigorously. Now You can also add the sauce and remaining spinach, or plate the food and distribute them between each serving. Time to eat!

Notes:

The key to this dish is to privide spinach, in three textures, fully cooked, partially cooked and raw. Hence the process of adding it a bit at a time. Hoisin sauce was not part of the origianl recipe, srirachi works quite well as a replacement. I almost always make this with a nice spicy kick!

You can also mince the lemongrass, but it MUST be broken down very finely. You can also buy lemongrass in frozen, pre-minced form as well as puree’d in a tube. I would use 2 or so tablespons of such options instead of a fresh stalk.

To cook this all in one pan, start by frying the bacon and shrimp, as described above. Remove them and start making the sauce. Once it’s almost thickened up, add the peas and commense the spinach application process. Mix everything back into the pan and You are done.. You’ll have to have thawed the peas for this method, or the sauce will be runny, which is fine by Me. This is the lazy method, the flavors become more of a blur, but it’s still damn good.

July 9, 2013     ***UPDATE ***

Last night I made a variation of this recipe with bak choi instead of peas and spinach. It was delicious. I made the sauce in one pan and stir fried everything else in another, while the sauce thickened. The bak choi stems were a really nice texture and the light flavor helped temper the powerful chunky sauce. I simply fried them in the bacon grease and added the green, leafy parts and some green onions once the stems were just starting to soften. A truely great dinner.


Mom’s Fried Green Beans

Based on the deep-fried green beans found in many Chinese restaurants, My Mom devised Her own version that’s easier to make at home. Which, since it’s not deep-fried, is a much healthier proposition as well. These beans are simply delicious! I can eat an entire batch of them as a meal!

Supplies Needed: A Large, high sided, nonstick(or well seasoned) Fry Pan that has a close fitting cover.

Ingredients:

2 lbs of fresh Green Beans – ends trimmed and washed
1/4 cup of thick Teriyaki Sauce OR Hoisin Sauce
4 large Cloves of Garlic – minced
1 tblsp of Lemon Pepper
2 tblsp Peanut/Canola/Veggie Oil
half a cup or so of Water
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Prep and Cooking:

On high heat, put the clean Beans, a bit of the Oil, and the Water in a Pan(You may need to add more Water depending on the size of the Beans). Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-high heat until the beans are ‘al dente.’ Uncover, pour off any extra water and turn to high heat. Add the Garlic and Teriyaki Sauce, with Salt and Pepper to Your liking. Stir Fry it to mix the Sauce around. Continue cooking, tossing frequently, until the Sauce caramelizes and the Beans begin to brown. Serve immediately.