Coffee BBQ Rub

Coffee BBQ RubCoffee Que-in’
When we “sprang forward” a week or so ago I celebrated by cleaning my grill because nothing says bring on the sunny weather like a nicely grilled steak. It is hard to nicely grill a steak though when your grill is full of gunk. So I got to scrubbing and I replaced a few burned out shields and I was ready to rock and roll.

Spring tends to be the busiest time of the year for my household so having the ability to throw something on the grill for a legit but wicked fast dinner is essential. So far I have thrown salmon, chicken and pork chops on the grill and life has been less stressful and more tasty. It has also been more tiring if only because we “lost an hour”. Seriously, I still feel like I haven’t caught up yet. I have been drinking more of my daily allotted coffee just to get through. So in a fit of genius one afternoon when I was trying to decide what to have for dinner, I remembered a dry rub with the very two things that are making my world work right now: grilled meat and coffee.

If I had to pick a cut of steak that was my go-to for grilling, especially mid-week, it would be a hanger steak. Relatively inexpensive, a hanger steak has a nice beefy flavor that is not too dry and it cooks quickly. The big beef flavor means it can stand up to some potent dry rubs including one of my favorites that uses coffee. (See what I did there?) Coffee is not a new ingredient in BBQ. Pitmasters have been using it in the rubs or mops for a long time but it’s still not something you see all that often.

This rub recipe is adapted from the Lee Brothers who authored one of my favorite southern cooking books I added some garlic powder to the mix ‘cause it’s how I roll but feel free to leave it out. You could also play with the chili powder a bit and add some cayenne for heat or chipotle for the smokey flavor. Rub it on your cut of choice and leave it for an hour or so before grilling or even overnight in the fridge. This rub also can be used as a condiment on the side after cooking.

Coffee BBQ Rub Recipe
Yields about 1 cup

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Turkey Chili

Turkey ChiliShut Off the Hose!
Ok. I’m done with the water. I wake up every morning and dread looking at the weather report. I fear I’m starting to grow webbed feet. On top of all that, it’s been rather cold. And, don’t get me started about the snow.

In all fairness, February is usually a rainy, gloomy month but this is unreal. I can honestly say that in all of my 45 years, while I have always heard them urge caution and carry chains, I have never heard of the Highway Patrol and other transit authorities asking people to not drive up to Tahoe because it’s just that bad. Squaw Valley reported this morning that their snowfall total on the upper mountain for February was 300 inches. That’s 25 feet people. It’s great if you’re a skier (or a ski resort) but that’s just nuts.

And if I hear the phrase, ”well, we need the water” again I’m going to lose it. It may be true and it’s always good to have more than we need but I think we’re good for now. The draught map of California shows most of the state with no drought conditions as of February 19. It’s time to shut off the hose…

Weather like what we have been experiencing always makes me think of soups, stews, and chilis. There is something about a rainy night and a hot bowl of goodness that just seems right. Over the weekend I made this turkey chili. It’s fast. It’s tasty. And it goes great with cornbread.

I made sure to stash the leftovers in the freezer for warmer days when the sun is shining—when watching a baseball game. And, a chili dog is the perfect accompaniment.

Turkey Chili
Yields 6 servings (at least!)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 large red bell pepper, cored, deveined and coarsely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, cored, deveined and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 cups canned diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans of red kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained

Optional garnishes
chopped avocado
chopped green onion
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
Sliced lime

Directions
Gather and prep all the ingredients.

Heat the oil over high heat in a large, heavy pot and add the turkey meat. Cook until lightly browned chopping down and stirring with the side of a heavy kitchen spoon to break up any lumps (about 5 minutes).

Add the onions, garlic, pepper, jalapeño pepper, oregano, bay leaves, chili powder, and cumin. Stir to blend well. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the drained beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer.

Serve in bowls with preferred toppings.

Gung Bo Chicken

Gung Bo ChickenChinese Legend
I like my Chinese food spicy, which is a good thing because most of the different regions of China come with their own brand of mouth-numbing heat. If I had to pick my favorite I’d probably go Sichuan over, say, Hunan or Cantonese. But, that’s mainly because it is what I have been exposed to the most. Plus you can never go wrong with a Sichuan Hot Pot.

I have written before about my personal challenges with Chinese cooking. It’s like I have a mental block when it comes to cooking with a wok. This is why, when I am craving Chinese food, I will generally leave it in the hands of the experts and order take-out. There have been a number of favorite establishments over the years that have helped me sooth my spicy cravings. And, there are a couple I frequent currently—but there is only one that remains head and shoulders above the rest.

Back in the dark ages, WAY before my husband and I started dating, our group of friends frequently dined at Emeryville’s Public Market. It was the perfect place for a large group to meet and eat because you could satisfy everyone’s appetite. You could get anything you wanted. Ginormous burritos? Yep. Afghani cuisine? Check. Noodle Bowls? Check. Hofbrau? Of course. Nine times out of ten, though, I found myself in the long line at The Crispy Fry for their Gung Bo Chicken, extra spicy. It was the perfect dish of spicy and saucy served over a huge mound of steamed rice. It was the ideal ending to a hard day of work or the best answer to a hard night of partying. And if the craving struck mid-week for lunch? You knew you had to get there early ‘cause the line started forming the minute the doors opened to the market.

When they remodeled the Public Market and the Crispy Fry ultimately closed, I was distraught. I have been searching for a replacement that is just as good ever since but have not had much luck. So, I have been forced to face my demons and try to do it myself. It’s been a process though I have had some success. This recipe for Gung Bo Chicken comes close but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that nothing could ever take the place of The Fry.

Gung Bo Chicken
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 3 to 4 servings
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Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Bacon Cheeseburger PastaSuper Sized
In case you haven’t quite figured it out yet, food is a big deal in my family. If there is any event going on the chances are real good that I am planning some sort of food celebration to go with it.

And, there are a few specific days that my family has determined to be caloric free-for-alls. New Years’ day is one. Super Bowl Sunday is another.

As a general rule, I tend to base my Super Bowl nosh around the two teams competing that year. Not gonna lie but I’m pretty sick of the Patriots and their clam chowder. So I am going to call an audible and go in a different direction.

A week or so ago I was flipping through one of my many magazines in search of something to feed a crowd and came across a recipe for a Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta. I have to admit I was intrigued. I mean, it sounds good in theory but has the potential to be kinda gross.

My son, who happened to be sitting on the couch with me at the time, had a very different reaction. Apparently, the idea of cheese, ground beef and bacon mixed together with pasta is a fourteen-year-old boy’s idea of food nirvana. (He’s all about the meat and carbs.) He’s so excited, in fact, that he has been conducting daily check-ins with me to make sure that I am still going to make this for Super Bowl Sunday. And, I have repeatedly assured him I will. You would think this is life or death…

I am skeptical. Granted, not everything has to be haute cuisine—and people have been eating cheeseburger mac for decades. I am probably more afraid of the fact that I will love it and crave it for the rest of my days…much like an actual cheeseburger.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…