Thursday, December 31, 2015

Black-Eyed Peas

It's a long-standing tradition in the South for New Year's Eve to make black-eyed peas.  They symbolize good luck in the new year.

Similar to most bean recipes, start by soaking your beans

Start with your favorite pork product.  Ours is uncured bacon.  Chop it up and render the fat.

Toss in 2 cups of your favorite broth (we used turkey broth from making tamales)

Drain the soaking beans, and put them in the pot.  Add enough water to cover the beans (1 cup in our case).

The spice mixture is simple.  Salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder.  The beans and broth will provide most of the flavor, these are only accents.

Cook until beans are tender (1-1.5 hours).

Revisited Tomatillo Salsa Verde

One of our original recipes on this blog was a tomatillo salsa (see LINK).  While supremely tasty, it was lacking in pictures... so I decided to revisit the recipe.

- 1-2 lbs tomatillos
- 1/2 onion
- 1 jalapeno (seeds removed unless you like a lot of heat)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- a pinch of cumin, paprika, salt and pepper

1) Begin with the tomatillos. Peel the skin off and rinse the tomatillos under some water.

2)  Cut each tomatillo in half and place the cut-side down on a pan. Fold the aluminum foil, to contain the juice that will be released.

3)  Place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes until there is a nice char on the outside of the tomatillos.

4)  Dump the broiled tomatillos into a food processor with onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  Pulse until desired chunkiness.  I prefer mine to be fairly smooth.

Enjoy on top of some huevos rancheros, pulled pork tacosfish tacos or chips.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Natchidoches Meat Pies

Meat pies are a staple of many cultures.  Eastern countries have meat contained in rice balls and buns.  The UK's interpretation is a traditional pie (in crust and shape).  The Spanish/Portuguese variant is a crescent-shaped pie called an empanada.  This style of pie is the basis for Louisiana-style (nearly identical to Nigerian-style) meat pies.


You begin with your base ingredients for a biscuit dough.

 Mix thoroughly and roll out into a sheet.

Using a circular cutter (plastic top from Crisco or icing container), cut dough into rounds.

Now, we cook the filling.  Pick your favorite spices, meats, and vegetables.  There are no rules with this part.  Brown the meat in a pan (we used ~1 lb of breakfast sausage and ~1 lb of ground beef).  Remove the meat and cook down the veggies in the remaining fat (we used an onion).

 Stir the meat and veggies back together and start loading the pies with a heaping spoonful.

Don't forget to cut vent holes in the tops.

Also, brush on an egg wash (1 egg + splash of milk).

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and delicious.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Herb-Brined Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast

Guest post from Chris Baldelli

Thanksgiving is a food-focused holiday, and there's nothing more iconic than the turkey.

This year, we made a smaller-portioned meal with big flavors.  This included brining the turkey.

The science of brine is simple.  Given enough time and proximity, higher concentrations will diffuse into lower concentration solutions.  The brine is high-salt, high-sugar, sometimes acidic, and packed with flavors.  The turkey benefits from the brine's bountiful boundary layer gradient.

Brine Guidelines:

  • For each gallon of brine, use ~1 cup salt and ~1 cup sugar.
  • Peppercorns, cloves, allspice, and herbs are your flavor-adders.
  • Acidity can be used, in moderation.  As with marinades, acid breaks down the proteins and facilitates flavor assimilation.  Turkey is already a tender bird, so too much acid will make it mushy.


Quarter the lemon and orange, then dump everything into a pot.  Heat the mixture just enough to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Allow it to cool and drop in the bird.  We used a bone-in turkey breast (basically a whole turkey without wings or legs).

While diffusion is temperature-dependent... so is the growth of bacteria colonies.  Enterococcus and E. coli are commonly found on poultry, but rarely result in food poisoning  (Link to study).  Your oven will be the site of a bacterial xenocide tomorrow, so wash your hands and rest easy.

Good morning culinary nerds, your bird awaits.  Pull it out of the brine and pat dry. 

Next, we need stuff the bird with things that will help regulate moisture and flavor from the inside.  Onions take up space and are mostly water, so their great candidates here.

Then, we build the rub.  In this case, we wanted an oil-based paste to act as a barrier for temperature regulation (and keeping the juices inside).  As before, choose your flavor profiles for the audience.
Garlic and mustard are the primary flavors, but some herbs and lemon are there to compliment the brine's flavor profile.

2/3 of the rub goes under the bird's skin, so lift it up in the following areas:

 The final 1/3 goes on the outside.

Add some liquid to the bottom of the roasting pan.  This helps to regulate temperature and increases the relative humidity inside the oven (preventing some moisture from leaving the bird).  Our pan mixture was 20% water + 20% white wine + 30% leftover brine.

Get in there, little guy!  275 degC oven temperature.

Every 30 mins - 1 hour, check the internal temperature.  At the center of the breast, your goal is 165 degC.

Before slipping it back in the oven, spray with a little oil on the outside to refresh the barrier.

When the temperature gets to ~140 degC, you can crank up the temperature to 350-400 degC to fry the skin a nice brown color.

Allow the bird to cool and remove the internal veggies (yes, the onions are edible and tasty).

Using a sharp knife, cut across the grain (normal to the striations of the muscle).

You can make a gravy/sauce from the pan drippings.  Let them cool and separate into layers of fat and juice.  Use 1/8 cup of the fat and some flour to build a roux.  Then incorporate some of the juice until it becomes a thin sauce.  The flour will thicken into a gravy with some heat and time.

Happy Thanksgiving from Chris & Stephanie!