Cocktail Friday! Moscow mule

Cocktail Friday … because Friday!

I have seen this recipe made with ginger ale, but since I have extremely limited access to my favorite Vernor’s brand I will stick with the more traditional ginger beer

Moscow mule

Quantities here make one Moscow mule

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces 100 proof Stolichnaya vodka
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (see Note)
4 ounces ginger beer, Cock & Bull brand recommended or Vernor’s ginger ale

Method
Fill a cocktail glass with ice

Pour the vodka over and add the lime juice

Slowly add the ginger beer

Stir with a cocktail stirrer or bar spoon

Serve immediately

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Hey, Tom!

“Hey, Tom!” is the forum where you can get your questions answered. I love to share my culinary knowledge and help with entertaining ideas, menu planning, solve kitchen conundrums … you name it! Just give me a shout!

Hey Tom!

Congrats on the new blog! I LOVE it!

Here’s my question: You answered a previous Hey Tom about cooking pork that included instructions to discard the brine and pat the brined meat dry with a paper towel. Why wouldn’t you rinse the brined pork chop and then pat it dry?
Pat

Hi Pat!

Thank you for your question, I sincerely appreciate it!

I found it easier to apply my rule for chicken across all animal proteins. The reason I said you should pat the meat dry instead of rinsing it and then patting it dry has to do with cross contamination, that is, spreading salmonella from chicken across the different surfaces of your kitchen. That is done by doing things like taking it to the sink, turning on the faucet … do you see where the cross contamination is happening? You have the chicken breast in your hand, you get the salmonella on your hand then turn on the faucet, now the faucet handles is contaminated … you set the chicken down on a counter to turn off the water … and then go to the paper towel dispenser … your kitchen is now contaminated

My rule-across-the-board is to handle animal protein as little as possible and being mindful of cleaning up properly (with a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water). There is no need to rinse chicken in the first place; you’re not removing anything by rinsing it, but you are increasing, quite significantly, the risk of contaminating your kitchen and quite possible the health and well-being of the people for who you are cooking

By assuming every piece of chicken you ever touch has salmonella, you decrease your contact with it, the things and space it touches, and the chance for cross contamination

Thank you for your question! I truly hope this information helps!

Do you have a question that I can answer for you? Please let me know by commenting below or contacting me on the web

Pork tenderloins with Chimichurri sauce

I became smitten with Chimichurri sauce, an Argentinean herb sauce, at my favorite 5411 Empanada food truck a couple of years ago. I love dunking my baked spinach empanadas into herbaceous garlic-oil and savoring it. Sometimes I need 2 orders of their delicious sauce, but I haven’t quite figured out why or when that is

After a couple of years of eating someone else’s Chimichurri sauce, I decided to start working on my own version. The key elements are parsley, garlic, cilantro, oil and vinegar. Getting that balance of ingredients correct makes for a delicious Chimichurri

This pork tenderloin dish is a great weeknight main course, but it would also be a great salad using leftovers tossed with your favorite fresh lettuce leaves or a delicious hors d’oeuvres arranged on crostini

Ingredients

For the Chimichurri
1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 teaspoon grey sea salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch red pepper flakes, then to taste

For the pork tenderloin
2 16 ounce pork tenderloins, silver skin and sinew trimmed, skinny end tucked under, entire tenderloin tied in 2 inch intervals with cotton kitchen string, extra string trimmed
2 teaspoons grey sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Special equipment: 13 x 9 x 3 disposable aluminum roasting pan

Method
Set oven rack in upper third of oven, 5 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

For the Chimichurri
Grind the ingredients for the Chimichurri into a sauce in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade or in mortar and pestle. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Make ahead: Chimichurri can be made up to 4 hours ahead kept at room temperature

For the pork tenderloin
Mix the salt, pepper, canola oil and baking soda together in a small bowl. Rub the tenderloin all over with the salt mixture. Set the rubbed tenderloin inside the center of the 13 x 9 x 3 aluminum roasting pan with an even amount of space between and all around them

Turn heated oven to broil; transfer roasting pan to the oven and set a timer for 5 minutes. Turn the tenderloins over and roast another 9 to 12 minutes or until the tenderloins registers 130 degrees Fahrenheit

Remove the pan from the oven, tent with foil and let the tenderloins rest for 10 minutes (carryover cooking time will allow the pork to reach 140 degrees, the proper temperature for pork tenderloin … so letting the pork rest is key)

Cut the strings off the tenderloins and slice on the bias into 3/4 inch slices

Arrange 3 slices on each dinner plate and dress lightly with Chimichurri; pass additional sauce at the table

As an hors d’oeuvres for your cocktail party
Slice a sourdough baguette into 1/4 inch slices, place on a half sheet pan and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper; bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden; remove from oven

Once the pork has rested, slice into 3/8 inch (between 1/4 and 1/2) slices. Schmear a scant 1/2 teaspoon Chimichurri across each crostini (baked sourdough slices) and center a slice of pork atop the sauce; top the pork with a drop of extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground rainbow, pink and/or black pepper

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Miso soup with linguine

I had been looking for white miso paste for a very long time, mainly following the advice of friends who told me to look in the refrigerated section at the supermarket. Pretty sure I looked in ALL of the refrigerated sections at the market but was still coming up empty

One friend who knew I loved miso soup so much gave me a gallon Ziploc bag full of packets of instant miso. Before too long I was buying the instant packets, but they lacked the depth of flavor that miso paste and fresh vegetables could offer. I suppose I could have started adding fresh veggies and some MSG or salt, but then it would be more like cooking so why not go ahead and cook up a real batch of soup?

I abandoned the idea that the miso paste was kept under refrigeration and I started perusing the aisles with the thought that many things are to be kept under refrigeration … once they have been opened. BINGO! There it was, near the soy sauce in a nice tub. Sure enough it was recommended that miso be kept under refrigeration once it was opened. I also learned that the expiration date was meant to be a guide so to ‘Open by’ and that once it was opened it could be kept well past that date as long as it was kept covered and under refrigeration

The first thing I made with my new miso paste was this Miso soup with linguine. The idea was to come up with recipe that was totally approachable, a delicious dish made with familiar ingredients married together in the heady broth of miso

Miso soup with linguine

You can bring the water for the pasta AND the soup stock to the boil at the same time in separate pots if you want to save time

Lastly, I wanted to offer Asian chili oil for my diners, but I couldn’t find it. On to another quest!

Ingredients
4 ounces dried linguine
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
6 cups fresh cold water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup sliced gingerroot (no need to remove the peel)
1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 scallion greens very thinly sliced on the bias, divided
5 tablespoons white miso paste in a medium bowl
1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame oil, then to taste

Method
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil; add the linguine and give it a big stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender. Drain linguine into a colander then transfer to a ceramic bowl, drizzle with oil before covering with foil

Bring the 6 cups water, soy sauce. Worcestershire, gingerroot and garlic to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes

After 10 minutes, remove the gingerroot and the garlic and discard. Add the mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half of the scallions and simmer for 30 seconds

Pour 1/2 cup of soup into the miso paste in the bowl and whisk until fully integrated. Pull the soup off the burner then stir in the miso and then the sesame oil. Return the soup to a medium-low burner and keep very warm but do not let roll to the boil

Divide linguine among bowls and fill with soup

Garnish Miso soup with linguine with remaining scallions and serve very hot with chopsticks and soup spoons

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Greens

I typically serve greens during the winter holidays (as opposed to simply making them for myself) which means many of my friends have had them. Word got back to me after one such holiday where a friend lauded my greens and came back to say his friends wondered how a ‘white boy from Michigan’ knew anything about making greens

Research, son. I’ve been doing this most of my life and make no mistake that I have learned a thing or two

The first step in making flavorful greens is to make a ‘tea’

A tea for greens consists of water (sometimes stock) and a variety of herbs and seasonings. Once the tea has steeped, the greens are added and cooked until tender

The other key is to make sure that the greens are properly cleaned. Most stems won’t cook to tender before the leaves are done so make sure the toughest stems are removed, even in processed and bagged (ready to cook) greens. Prep is key

The best greens do not need to be dressed with vinegar and/or hot sauce but you can offer them at the table if you choose

Your ingredients may vary depending on the type of greens you are cooking and what your personal tastes are. You definitely want water or stock, something sweet, something savory, something salty, something bitter, something sour and something herbaceous. Here is a list of ingredients I have used over time

A 12 quart kettle of tea will steep 6 quarts of greens

Ingredients
Water
Soy sauce
Maple syrup
Black or rainbow peppercorns
Dried chilies
Smoked ham hock or shank
Quartered onion
Ginger root cut sharply on the bias
Smashed and peeled garlic
Carrot tops
Celery hearts
Fresh thyme branches
Fresh parsley sprigs
Star anise
Bay leaves
Cloves

Method
You can wrap and tie the thyme, parsley, star anise, bay leaves and cloves into a bouquet garni if you wish but it is not necessary

Add everything to a large stockpot and bring it to the boil. Simmer 20 minutes then start adding the greens

Add the greens by the handful (and in batches if necessary) and sink into the tea

When using a ham hock it is your choice whether or not you are going to serve the meat with the greens. Steeping the tea won’t render the meat fall-off-the-bone but will extract the smoky-meaty flavor

For greens with the meat, steep the tea with the ham hock over medium high heat for 40 to 60 minutes. Remove the hock/shank and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Cook the greens until tender, strain with a spider or strainer into a serving bowl. Pull the meat and add to the greens

Serve Greens piping hot

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Project Recipe

Project Recipe is all about wanting to spend some time in the kitchen carefully and lovingly pulling a meal together. These aren’t really week-night meals (though to contradict myself I’m starting you off with one that can be made during the week that will produce a dinner that will look like it took all day). You are committed to following the recipe and the rules, having all of the ingredients on hand and ready to take on the task! Bravo! Let’s get started

Slow cooker fennel pork chops with onion-mushroom sauce

I said I wouldn’t start off with anything too scary, and what’s a better time saver than your slow cooker? It took me some time to warm up to mine which I bought specifically to keep my chili for a chili recipe nice and warm. Well, since then, I have found it a real time-saver and especially good for cooking tougher cuts of proteins … Having said that …

This is a foolproof go-to dish … if you can find the ‘correct’ type of pork chops. I am not sure why they are so difficult to find, but when I DO find them, I stock up!

What you are looking for is bone-in blade or shoulder chops about 1/2 pound each. Not to discourage you too much, but good luck! They are definitely worth looking out for the next time you are at the market … and I would say that is the way to go with this dish. If you find them when you are at the store pick them up, then head back to the produce section and grab the vegetables and plan on making this another day for dinner that same night

Most of this dish is hands-off: you brine the chops for 4 hours and slow cook them for 6 hours. The onion-mushroom sauce comes together in a skillet just in time to serve with the chops

Ingredients

For the brine
1 gallon room temperature water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 bay leaf
1 star anise

For the pork chops
4 bone-in blade or shoulder pork chops, about 1 inch thick and 1/2 lb in weight each (sirloin chops will work too)
House salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, bulbs cut into quarters, freshly picked fronds saved for plating
1 Honeycrisp apple, cut into sixths
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 teaspoon MSG or 2 teaspoons House salt
1/2 cup liquid (white wine, chicken stock, hard cider …)

For the mushroom-onion sauce
16 ounce sliced button mushrooms
1 large white onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices 1 x 1 1/2 inches
House salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
3 tablespoons butter
1 branch fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Pinch of dry mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream

Method
Combine the ingredients for the brine in a large bowl or 5 gallon Ziploc baggie set inside a bowl and stir until the salt and the brown sugar have dissolved. Add the pork chops and ensure they are fully submerged. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate 4 hours

Remove the chops from the brine and discard the brine. Pat dry and season all over with House salt and freshly milled black pepper, set aside

Tumble the garlic, fennel quarters, sliced apple and quartered onion into an even layer in the bottom of a slow cooker. Arrange the chops atop the vegetables without stacking (slightly overlapping is fine) Add the bay leaf, star anise and MSG. Pour the chosen liquid over the ingredients. Cover the slow cooker, set to low and cook for 6 hours (see Note)

40 minutes before the chops are done, prepare the mushroom-onion sauce

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan as the butter melts. When the foam from the butter has subsided, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir to gloss the mushrooms with the butter; cook, stirring occasionally 5 minutes. Scatter in the onion and another pinch of salt. Stir to gloss with the butter-mushrooms. Add the thyme, bay leave and dry mustard and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, 30 seconds. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown around the edges. Pull the pan off heat and swirl in the cream, stir to incorporate. Taste for salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep sauce warm, covered, over low heat

For final platting and presentation
Remove the pork chops and fennel bulb from the slow cooker to a large clean plate and cover with foil

Pour the liquid and vegetables that remain in the slow cooker through a strainer set over a fat separator. Press on the solids to extract flavor and juices. Discard solids. Let the cooking juices settle until the fat rises to the top

Whisk 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of the de-fatted cooking juices into the mushroom-onion sauce (Save any leftover de-fatted juices up to 2 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer if desired)

Plate the pork chops among dinner plates with a few pieces of fennel bulb

Dress Fennel chops with mushroom-onion sauce and garnish with fennel fronds

Note: The ‘correct’ chops will be tender and falling off the bone after 6 hours. If you use another type of chop, check for doneness at 2 hours and continue to slow-cook, checking every hour thereafter for tenderness

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Cocktail Friday

Cocktail … because Friday!

The Salty Dog is an easy variation of The Greyhound, one of my all-time favorite cocktails. The simple difference lies between an unadorned rim and a rim encrusted in salt … just like a Margarita … salt or no salt?

The Salty Dog is just as at home at a winter brunch as it is on a summer deck

Method
Pour an ounce of grapefruit juice on a medium plate with a rim. On another medium plate with a rim sprinkle a layer of kosher or fine sea salt

Turn a highball glass over and press the rim into the grapefruit juice, then press into the salt. Invert the glass and fill with ice

Pour over 2 ounces of vodka followed by 5 ounces premium bottled grapefruit juice and stir with a swizzle stick for 10 seconds

Repeat as desired

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Queso fundido

Yesterday was National Cheese Day … but if you’re anything like me I celebrate cheese every day. If you’re waiting for the national celebration drop everything and go make my favorite cheese fondue

 Queso Fundido

Ingredients
3 ounces crumbled chorizo
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 serrano chili, seeded and/or deveined as much as desired, finely diced
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 pound Oaxaca, Chihuahua, or Monterey cheese or combination of any or all
1 tablespoon minced Mexican oregano or cilantro

For final plating and service
Warm flour tortillas
Favorite hot sauce, optional

Method
Tumble the chorizo into a flame proof gratin or medium skillet and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until the fat is rendered. Remove the chorizo from the pan with a slotted spoon to a small plate

Turn the heat down to medium high then swirl in the olive oil and sprinkle in the chili and salt. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute to gloss the chili and infuse the fat and oil with additional flavor

Scatter the cheese in and drop the temperature to medium low. Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese is completely melted, 2 to 3 minutes

Garnish with chorizo and oregano

Serve Queso Fundido in the gratin (or pan) on a trivet at the table with the warm tortillas for scooping up the deliciousness

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Recipe of the week

Spicy chicken tortilla soup

My version of Spicy chicken tortilla soup is easy to make and completely achievable using pantry staples from any American kitchen (or those that can be procured at a typical grocery store)

The spiciness of this great cold-weather soup can be adjusted by adding more or using less serrano and chile in adobo and the adobo sauce, but do not skimp too much

The toppings are as an integral part of tortilla soup as are the toppings at a taco bar so be sure to add a wide variety and plenty of them, especially if you are serving a crowd

Ingredients
14 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound Vidalia onion, root end trimmed, onion peeled and quartered
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
10 sprigs fresh cilantro
House salt
1 sprig fresh marjoram
14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 serrano pepper, de-veined and de-seeded as much as desired
1 chipotle chile en adobo, plus up to 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil

Garnishes
Lime zest
Lime wedges
Freshly picked cilantro leaves
Freshly picked marjoram leaves
Freshly picked Mexican oregano leaves
Finely shredded pepper jack cheese
Minced serrano pepper
Pepitas
Corn tortilla strips or favorite corn tortilla chip
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Method
Bring stock, 2 onion quarters, 2 cloves garlic, cilantro and a big pinch of salt to boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Add the chicken and let steep for 10 minutes (Note: As long as 2 to 3 breasts are used, none weighing more than 7 ounces they should cook in 10 minutes. Check the temperature to make sure cooked white meat registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit) Remove the chicken and set aside; pour stock through fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl (discard solids in strainer). Pull chicken into bite size pieces when cool to the touch

Puree tomatoes, 2 remaining onion quarters, 2 remaining cloves garlic, serrano, chipotle chile, and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce in food processor until smooth

Heat a large saucepan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and heat until shimmering; add tomato/onion puree and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has darkened in color, 10 minutes. Stir strained stock into tomato mixture, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes

Taste for spice, adding additional adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired spice is reached

Ladle Spicy chicken tortilla soup into bowls and let guests garnish as desire

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Culinary confession

Culinary confessions are true confessions from the kitchen. Some might surprise, some may make you question my authority and some may entertain. In the end I hope they help and educate

Culinary confession: I am through buying frozen cooked shrimp

It is true; I have been buying and using frozen cooked shrimp for years now. It has been a crutch of sorts: easy to prepare and always a hit. I arrange (or pile) the thawed shrimp on a platter, garnish with sprigs of parsley and wedges of lemon (I’m not out to reinvent the wheel) and serve with my homemade cocktail sauce

But truth be told, I am done! I bought my ‘favorite’ frozen cooked shrimp for New Year’s Day and was nonplussed by them. It finally occurred to me: These shrimp have no flavor! None! No amount of sauce or lemon could help them. I was at a loss. I finished the Champagne and went to work on a Spicy Chicken Tortilla soup to make sure my taste buds were OK (despite enjoying the Champagne). I even thought I would just stop buying shrimp and find new recipes to make with my favorite shellfish, blue crab

Then I thought it was silly to eliminate shrimp from my repertoire, I just had to figure out a way to give them the flavor they so richly deserve

Resolved

I will forever now buy raw shrimp and cook them in a flavorful court bouillon myself. If food should have flavor then it is up to me to bring it forward and not rely on sauces and presentation. I may have stumbled with frozen cooked shrimp, but I am up-right again and back on track. I’m excited for my friends and family who will surely notice and feel the love and care that may have been missing all these years

Heck, maybe raw shrimp is even a better value

Court bouillon
Court bouillon is a great poaching liquid for fish, shellfish, poultry and vegetables

Ingredients
1 gallon water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 ribs celery heart (include fresh leaves)
1 medium carrot, ends trimmed, peeled, cut into thirds
1 lemon, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
8 steams fresh parsley
12 black peppercorns

Method
Combine all of the ingredients in a large kettle or heavy bottomed stock pot. Place over high heat and bring to the boil then lower to simmer and cook 30 minutes

Strain through several layers of cheesecloth and return to low heat if poaching small fish; or cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate 1 week or freeze in a zero degrees Fahrenheit freezer indefinitely

When poaching larger fish, add to the cold Court bouillon and bring to temperature
over medium heat

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