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Friday, November 27, 2015

Cioppino My Way

Good morning everyone.  How are we feeling?  Like me, you are probably still digesting that gut bomb from last night.  Lets be honest.  Turkey is a very small part of your Thanksgiving meal.  I had two slices last night.  Two!  But, I went back multiple times for stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and all of those wonderful sides.  You will also be eating the leftovers until at some point in the weekend where you will say "Enough!".  Well, here is something nice and light that you might like to try when you reach that point.  Cioppino.

Cioppino is a dish made in San Francisco.  I was introduced to this dish on my first visit to the city by the bay.  It was love at first sight.  Cioppino is basically a seafood stew made primarily with a firm white fish, generally cod, as well as mussels and clams.  I have even seen Dungeness crab used.  We usually pick up what is on sale for our Cioppino.  This time it was cod, shrimp, and clams.

Cioppino, in my opinion is like chili.  There is a base recipe that you stick to, but it always changes.  This time around, here was my recipe:

Cioppino, Part Two

The Base

1 quart homemade canned tomato sauce with Italian spices added.  You could use the large can of plain from the store and add basil, oregano, thyme, and garlic to your taste.
2 cans of Chicken Broth
1 small can of tomato paste + 1 quart of water to make the paste mobile
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil for sauteing
1 tsp each oregano, thyme, and basil
1 bay leaf

The Rest

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, roasted
1 cup of dry white wine
1 lb of cod, cut into medium sized chunks
1/2 lb of medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, then cut into chunks
1 dozen clams and their juice.  We bought the frozen, precooked clams.  Don't judge.  They're going into stew, ok?
One cup of uncooked ditalini pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish

First, I brought my oven to 350 F, placed the cherry tomatoes into a 9 x 11 baking dish with one tablespoon of olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste, and roasted for one hour.  I stirred them thirty minutes into the roasting process.  What you would like to see after one hour is a tomato that has popped and started to caramelize a bit.  Makes great pizza topping as well.  But, I digress.

Next, I added two tablespoons of olive oil to my five quart dutch oven, turned the heat to medium, and added the onions, carrots, and celery with some kosher salt and ground black pepper.  I sauteed until the onion started to turn translucent.  Then, I added my spices and sauteed two minutes more.

Next, I deglazed the pan with the white wine, then cooked until the wine had reduced in volume by 1/2.

Next, I added my tomato sauce, tomato paste/water mixture, and chicken broth.  Then I brought to a boil, reduced the heat, and simmered for one hour with the lid cracked to slightly reduce the liquid while simmering.

After the hour of simmer time, I added the pasta and seafood, brought back to a simmer, and cooked for seven more minutes.  At the very end, I added my roasted cherry tomatoes and stirred to mix.    That's it, ready to serve.

I topped with grated Parmesan cheese and served with a salad and crusty bread.  A nice light meal during the heavy holiday meal season.

Like I said, my Cioppino is never the same twice.  You could adapt this dish and make it spicy.  You could add whatever seafood you like, just as long as it is of a firm variety.  Take this idea a run with it.

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grilled Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza

We been going to the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh for many years.  Since 1996 in fact.  It is an old, restored Catholic church in the Lawrenceville section of town.  Some might say that the opening of this brew pub was the catalyst for the revitalization of this section of town.  The beer is outstanding and so is the food.  While they have a diverse menu to choose from, I have two "go to" choices for dining: their French Onion Soup (made with the Pious Monk Dunkel) and their Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato pizza.  I have been meaning to recreate this pizza at home.  Finally, after almost 20 years, I got around to giving it a whirl at home.  So, here is my shot at recreating this masterpiece at home.

The base is a classic white sauce.  So, while the dough was rising, I took about 1/4 cup of olive oil and added thyme, minced garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to steep for awhile.  Al of the ingredients were added to personal taste.

Then, coated a chicken breast with olive oil and seasoned with thyme, granulated garlic, basil, and oregano.  The breast was grilled to an internal temperature of 160 F, brought inside to rest for about 10 minutes, then diced into bite sized pieces.  Now time to build the pie.

Hope stretched out the dough, then I spread the white sauce all over the skin, including the crust.  Next up was a layer of shredded mozzarella, followed by the chicken, sun dried tomatoes that had been packed in oil, sliced almonds, thinly sliced red onion, and a light sprinkling of dried parsley.

The pizza was slid into my hot pizza oven, lets say about 700 F, to cook for about eight minutes with a 180 degree flip halfway into the bake time.

Next, bring the pie inside and devour.

Good stuff and a fair recreation of one of my favorite pizza pies in town.  Now, if I get a craving for this pie, no need to drive 40 miles to get a fix.  Now, I just have to work on that French Onion Soup...

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Smoked Goose Breast with a Citrus Glaze

BBQ Silly Season is upon us.  These are the cooks where we leave behind traditional meats, rubs, and sauces and try new recipes that are different and exciting.  Our first cook did not disappoint.  The Oldest had an outstanding first day of goose season and we were lucky enough to procure some beautiful looking breasts.  I brined the breasts, seasoned, then glazed with a recipe I found on line.  Let us head out to the smoker and see how this goose was cooked.

After some Google searches, I found a recipe for a glaze that looked pretty good.  You can find it here at  I didn't any honey on hand, so I substituted hot pepper jelly in place of the honey.  I changed up the method by brining the goose and using the marinade as a glaze.  After trimming up the breasts, removing as much silver skin as possible, and inspecting for any tooth cracking buckshot, I whipped up a batch of my poultry brine and let the breasts go for a six hour swim.  The brining process will remove most of the blood from the meat, infuse some flavor, and generally remove that gamy taste that you can experience when eating goose.  After removing the breasts from the brine, I rinsed them with cold water, patted dry, and applied a thin coat of olive oil.  Then, I seasoned two of the breasts with Oakridge BBQ Game Bird and Chicken rub.  The other two breasts were simply seasoned with pink salt and fresh cracked pepper.

I sit the breasts on the counter to come to room temperature, then I lit my smoker and brought to a temperature of 300 F. Then, I placed some pecan splits in the ash pan for smoke flavor.  Pecan is a nice mild smoking wood that pairs nicely with any kind of poultry or game bird.  The breasts were placed on hotter side of cooking racks.  After allowing to brown up for about 15 minutes, I applied my first application of glaze to all sides of the breast.

After allowing the first application of glaze to set for 30 minutes, I glazed the breasts a second time and allowed the goose to cook for 15 more minutes.  Total cook time was 60 minutes.

After removing the breasts from the smoker, I allowed them to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Twenty-four hours from field to table.  You can't get much fresher than that.  We were very happy with how this goose turned out on the smoker.  No gamy flavor and tender, juicy meat.  The glaze would even work well for standard chicken on the grill.

Hunting season is young.  Stay tuned as hopefully we will have a few more opportunities to fire up the smoker with some local game.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stuffed Pterodactyl Breasts

A couple of weeks ago, Hope stopped by the local Restaurant Depot to purchase some chicken to replenish the ice cave.  When she came home and we started trimming up the beasts in preparation for the vacuum sealer, I was amazed at their size.

These specimens could not have come from some standard barnyard, corn fed bird.  They were huge, almost prehistoric in stature.  These birds had to have escaped from some government run genetic engineering lab.  My mind started contemplating the possibilities of grilled stuffed chicken breast.  With the last plum tomatoes of the season staring at me from their counter top bowl, a plan came together.  The weather is still warm and our grilling days are few.  Grilled chicken breasts stuffed with tomato, mozzarella, and Italian spices were in order.

First, I grabbed a sharp knife and split the breast almost in half right down the long axis to create a pouch.

Next, I thinly sliced the plum tomatoes and some fresh mozzarella as well.  I set this aside, then rubbed the chicken with some olive oil, then seasoned inside and out with a blend of oregano, basil, thyme, granulated garlic, dried parsley, salt, and pepper.  After seasoning I stuffed the pocket with the tomato and mozzarella.

While I brought the sides of the breast together, Hope inserted toothpicks into place to close up the pocket and hold the breast together.

Yes, we did go a bit overboard with the toothpicks, but I didn't want the cheese to ooze out during the grilling process.

Next, I touched up the Italian seasoning on the outside and headed out to the hot grill to cook these behemoths.

To grill these breasts, I seared them for about five minutes a side, the moved them to indirect heat.  While on indirect heat, I placed them with the cut side up to minimize the amount of cheese that might escape.

I closed the grill lid and came back 20 minutes later and poked them with a thermometer.  Overall the cook time, including the 10 minutes of direct heat, was 40 minutes total to bring the meat to 165 F internal temperature.

One of these was big enough for me and Hope to split for dinner.  The Youngest dusted a whole one.

I was very happy with how these turned out.  To my surprise, the cheese ooze was minimal and probably would have been zero with some butchers twine.  In hindsight, these could be a great base for some sort of healthy grilled chicken parmesan.   I do know that since the Ice Cave is filled with these pterodactyl sized breasts, you might be seeing a few variations on this theme in the coming months.

Thanks for stopping by,