Friday, September 25, 2015

Coffee-Rubbed Cowboy Steaks with Chocolate Stout Pan Sauce

Red meat, anyone? Yes, please! Salads and roasted or grilled vegetables are undeniably healthy and tasty, and appear daily on my plate, along with some chicken or fish for protein. But every now and again I really crave beef. Visions of juicy chile cheeseburgers and thick well-marbled steaks dance in my brain. Even a well-flavored meatloaf sounds good. Okay, not as tempting as a perfectly cooked steak, but meatloaf does occasionally call my name. 

This week Food52's spicy Coffee-Rubbed Cowboy Steaks with Chocolate Pan Sauce hit the plate. A really good steak doesn't need much beyond salt, pepper and a quick sear over high heat to provide a tasty entree. But, when you begin with a rub packed with intense, tongue-tingling flavors and then finish with a rich, velvety pan sauce... oh! my! it makes the taste buds sing "hallelujah" with each bite. Yes, it was that good.

Hil took over dinner prep, with RL shining as salad-maker and #1 assistant. Me? I parked my crutches and sat at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of tea, while that cheery duo dealt with dinner prep. The aroma of warming spices and coffee was the first indication that dinner would be flavorful. Initially the familiar aroma of coffee filled the kitchen, with cumin and smoked paprika barely noticeable, but the scent of spices became more pronounced when the meat was seared over high heat. A meat thermometer helped achieve the desired level of doneness, medium-rare for this crowd. Removed from the oven at 120-125 degrees f,  the steaks were a perfect medium-rare after resting while the pan sauce was prepared.   

Photo: Checking the steaks for "doneness"
The steaks would have been a hit straight from the oven, but the pan sauce with a chocolate stout reduction and a dollop of butter added an amazing finishing note. It will be fun in the future to play with different flavored beers, spirits and herbs to see how much that changes the taste. We are definitely going to enjoy this preparation again. Thank you Hil, RL and Food52.   

Photo: Ready to reduce the pan sauce liquid by 50%
Spicy roasted cauliflower florets and a Greek salad provided some welcome crunch and healthy vitamins to the dinner, proving almost as popular as the rubbed and sauced slices of steak... almost. This was definitely a dinner to remember, and to repeat.  

Coffee-Rubbed Cowboy Steaks with an optional Chocolate Stout Pan Sauce

recipe from the Food52 Cookbook and online blog

serves 2-3

2 New York steaks, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
1 tablespoon ground coffee (not powder or instant)
1 tablespoon sea salt (less if you use table salt)
1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 cup chocolate stout (taste test to find one you like)
1/2 cup beef stock
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon vegetable oil to oil the pan
  1. Mix together the coffee, salt, paprika, black pepper, pepper flakes and cumin. Toast lightly in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Empty immediately into a small bowl to stop the cooking. Mix the spices and brown sugar to make the rub.
  2. Spread the rub all over the steak and let sit for awhile, at least an hour but overnight is better. If you hold it in the fridge, be sure to bring the meat up to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Adjust an oven rack so the meat will be roughly 6 inches below the broiler element; preheat the broiler.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan until it's really really hot ("a drop of water flicked into the pan should sizzle and bounce"). Add vegetable oil, wait a few seconds to heat up the oil, then carefully place the steak in the pan. Leave it undisturbed for 3-4 minutes to brown the bottom. 
  5. Then move the pan to the oven and place it under the preheated broiler; broil to medium rare (about 125 degrees F) or desired doneness.  Transfer the steak to a warm plate or platter, tent with aluminum foil and let it rest while you prepare the sauce.
For the sauce:
  1. Pour the chocolate stout into the skillet and stir over medium-high heat, scraping up all of the brown bits as you deglaze the pan. 
  2. Add the thyme and the beef broth; whisk together and reduce by half over medium heat. Whisk in the butter. Taste and adjust seasonings.

  3. To serve:
    Slice the steak across the grain and drizzle a bit of sauce over top. Serve the extra sauce in pitcher or small bowl.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sourdough Crumpets

Crumpets anyone?
"Crumpets are the quintessential, afternoon tea treat, served warm with lots of butter. The soft, spongy crumpets we know today, reputedly, come from the Victorian era and are very different from early, flat griddle cakes. It is the extra yeast in the batter which creates the soft texture and the myriad of little holes on the top (so perfect for soaking up the butter)." link
Crumpets have never graced a plate in my kitchen. I've read references to English tea and crumpets, but have never held or tasted one. The commercial packages of crumpets at the local grocery look uninviting, more like wimpy, anemic cousins of the extra-crispy English muffins that I love. Now how's that for an unfair, blatantly uninformed opinion?! Sourdough Surprises chose Griddle Breads for the September 2015 challenge, prompting  me to give this griddled yeast bread a try. 

The ingredient lists and directions I found in various online recipes were simple enough. Crumpets sounded more like fat pancakes or thin English muffins - easy peasy, right? Well, not quite. As with so many seemingly simple things, the devil is in the details. Batter consistency, the amount of batter per crumpet ring, griddle temperature and the decision to flip or not to flip can drastically alter the appearance and texture of these round, crater-speckled little disks. Success is apparently to be measured by the quantity of holes on the upper surface. 

I chose an old 1991 recipe I found online at the King Arthur Flour site (link). In my experience, King Arthur recipes rarely fail. Old Faithful, my sourdough starter, was refreshed, rested and ready for action, hanging out at room temperature on the counter near the stovetop. A heavy, well-seasoned cast iron, smallish mixing bowl, a silicone whisk and six metal muffin rings rounded out the equipment list. Ready, set go!

The simple batter called for four ingredients: 1 cup of sourdough starter, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Poof! a gazillion carbon dioxide bubbles form to fluff up the batter. My starter is fairly stiff, so I added 3 tablespoons of milk to loosen up the batter to a more pancake batter-like consistency. Why milk? I had read somewhere online that crumpets typically include milk whereas English muffins call for water. 

Lightly grease the griddle or heavy skillet and the inside of each metal ring to minimize sticking (use well-washed tuna cans if you don't have crumpet rings). Preheat the pan and the rings for several minutes over low to low-medium heat on the stovetop. (I used a setting of 2.5 out of 8 on my electric range)   

Ladle or pour some batter into the greased rings, filling no more than half way up (a scant 1/3 cup in each). This allows some space for the batter to rise. Cook over low to low-medium heat until the tops are set and bubbles stop forming (4-5 minutes on my range). Remove the rings and flip; briefly cook the second side for a minute or two to set up and add color. 

Set the cooked crumpets aside, regrease the metal rings and repeat the above cooking steps with the rest of the batter. I added a few more tablespoons of milk to to the remaining mix to see if a smaller quantity of a looser batter would produce more holes. This time I ladled only 1/4 cup of batter into each ring.

This second batch produced thinner crumpets with fewer holes. What? The looser-batter test results were inconclusive, since the baking soda may have lost its lifting power oomph over time. No problem with taste however, these thinner disks still rated two thumbs up with RL as he ate one straight from the skillet.  

Thin crumpets are tasty enough hot off the griddle, but are even better when toasted, rendering them fairly toothsome and crispy throughout. Fatter crumpets emerge from the toaster with crisp exteriors and soft, almost fluffy interiors. Blame it on my existing love affair with English muffins, but I like to split the fat muffins in half before toasting to crisp up the insides a bit more and minimize the soft texture. Add butter and honey and you might discover that crumpets are so good you can't eat just one. Go ahead, see for yourself. Then click over to Sourdough Surprises and check out this month's griddle cakes from other kitchens.

Sourdough Crumpets

recipe from King Arthur Flour
yields 6 crumpets

1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water or milk

  1. Lightly grease the heavy griddle or skillet and the inside of crumpet rings (or well-washed tuna cans). Preheat on stovetop over low to low-medium heat.
  2. Place the cup of starter in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the starter and stir in.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in 2 tablespoons of warm water and add to the starter. Whisk or stir into the starter. When the batter lightens and fluffs, you are ready to cook.
  4. Ladle batter into each ring, filling no more than half full. Cook over low heat until the top sets up and bubbles quit forming, usually 4 to 5 minutes or more. 
  5. Remove the rings and flip to cook an additional minute or two on the second side.
  6. Set aside on a baking rack while you cook up the rest of the batter. 
  7. Toast and spread with butter and/or honey. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich

Hilary and Ron worked together to prepare dinner last night, while I sat at the other end of the kitchen and played guest. What a treat! Ron built a healthy and delicious Greek salad and Hilary prepared an amazing roasted cauliflower sandwich. 

Usually I rave about toasted meat and cheese sandwich combinations, not roasted veggies, but this sandwich deserves enthusiastic praise. It comes long distance from one Washington to another; via Hilary from Ann Marie's recreated version of a favorite at Taylor Gourmet in Washington DC - with a few suggested tweaks of my own.

Sandwich love happens when the first bite brings a satisfied smile and happy taste buds without the brain fretting over what's on the inside of the fresh, crusty roll. Yum! Sweet, spicy, tangy, smooth and crunchy registered immediately and called for a second bite. Mmmmmm, this was SO tasty and satisfying that I didn't want to set the sandwich back down on my plate between bites. 

Hilary had raved about the sandwich when she enjoyed Ann Marie's original, but I blew off the notion that a vegan sandwich could be all that good. Wrong! The filling combination hit all the right flavor and texture notes and I'm already plotting some other presentations: tortilla wraps, savory crepes, pizzas or open-faced tartines...  

No, I'm not going to forgo my favorite green chile cheeseburgers or grilled cheese combinations, but this Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich has joined my list of favorites. Try it, you're going to love it and won't miss the meat. I promise. 

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich with Hummus and Greens
variation of a recipe from Ann Marie at CiaoMama


1 head cauliflower
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
smoked salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 large crunchy rolls or buns, warmed or toasted
hummus (homemade or purchased)
sweet Thai chili sauce
arugula, spinach and/or baby kale


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil for easier clean up. 
  2. While the oven is heating, cut cauliflower into bite-size pieces and wash thoroughly. Thoroughly pat dry on paper towels.
  3. Spread cauliflower on baking sheet. Pour olive oil over the cauliflower florets; then sprinkle with cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, smoked salt and pepper. Use a clean hand or wide rubber spatula and toss the cauliflower to evenly coat each piece with oil and spices. Then spread out evenly in a single layer across the foil-lined pan.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and toast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes, giving the pan a little shake half way through. When roasted to your liking (lightly colored OR with little crunchy, burnt bits), remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Slice the rolls horizontally and spread both top and bottom halves with hummus. Top each bottom half with cauliflower, a drizzle of sweet Thai chili sauce and a handful of arugula. Add the top part of the roll, compress slightly and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tex-Mex Beer Biscuits

It's nearly Fall, with just one more week until the official autumnal equinox. Leaves are turning colors locally, brightening up our gray days with great sweeps of neon reds and oranges on nearby hillsides. NFL season is in finally in full swing with team rosters set. (Go Hawks!)

You know it must be time for chili and cornbread and red plastic cups at tailgate parties... But this week I'd rather indulge in beer biscuits and pass on the bottled brews. Yes, I'm back on crutches this month and mindful of careful footwork and balance. So I will pass on the usual cornbread too, and reach for some more of these flavor-packed biscuits instead. They make tidier finger food with fewer crumbs but are still loaded with some of my favorite southwest flavors. Pepper jack cheese, bacon, green onions, chile powder...yum! Now I wonder how a waffled version would work???  

Tex-Mex Beer Biscuits
based on a recipe from the Beeroness

3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chile powder (a blend or ancho or chipotle)
1 stick (that's 4 oz or 8 tbs) cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup lite sour cream
2/3 cup beer
½ cup shredded jalapeño jack cheese
3 Tbs finely chopped green onions
3 Tbs cooked bacon, crumbled
2 Tbs melted butter
¼ tsp coarse sea salt (smokey bacon salt preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Oil a baking pan or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. 
  4. Add the cold butter; process until combined.
  5. Add the sour cream, cheese, green onions, bacon and beer; Pulse until just combined.
  6. Turn out onto a well-floured mat or board; knead lightly and pat into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick.
  7. Fold the dough into thirds; roll lightly, once in each direction to about 1 inch thick. 
  8. Fold in thirds again; roll lightly to about 1 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Scoop with a cookie scoop, cut with a knife or use a floured biscuit cutter to form 12 biscuits. Place in the prepared baking pan.
  10. Brush biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle the tops with salt.
  11. Bake at 400 for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden brown.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fruit and Nut Chocolate Squares


Chocolate as a health food? now that's an intriguing claim. I haven't read the research on the efficacy of chocolate as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure reduction agent or any of the other claims, just skimmed a few brief summaries, but I'm willing to embrace the health food notion. Chocolate works for me as a soothing mood enhancer. Just thinking about it, I'm ready to sign up for a daily dose of chocolate therapy... as long as it's good dark chocolate. None of the disappointing, fat-filled, paraffinlike, pseudo-chocolate for me, thank you very much. Good chocolate isn't cheap but spend a little extra for a flavor you love. You don't need to get label crazy, but it's worth the extra pennies to purchase a better quality. Chocolate is the star of this treat. 

Gnawing on a block or a bar of bittersweet chocolate might provide a quick, semi-guilty bite of bliss, but here's an easy-to-prepare option that looks suitable to share with company... if you can bring yourself to share. Add a few dried fruits and nuts to some barely melted chocolate, spread in a pan, chill and voila! you have a pan of decadent, supremely satisfying, chocolate temptation. Now how easy is that? Healthy? well, maybe. Tasty? oh yes, definitely YES

Fruit and Nut Chocolate Squares

Recipe based on several others found online at Gourmet/Epicurious, Orangette, FoodNetwork, and a host of others.

1 ¼ lb bittersweet chocolate, 60-70%, chopped
Vegetable oil to grease the pan
2/3 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
2/3 cup golden raisins (or other dried fruit)
2/3 cup roasted, shelled pistachios, salted or unsalted
2/3 cup roasted peanuts, salted or unsalted (or other nut)
  1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang all around for easy removal. Lightly brush the foil with vegetable oil or spray with a cooking spray.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and add the fruit and nuts, stirring to incorporate. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. 
  4. Place the pan in the refrigerator, and chill for about an hour, or until the chocolate is firm and cold.
  5. Use the foil overhang to lift the chilled chocolate mixture from the pan, and transfer to a cutting board. Peel back the foil, and cut the chocolate into whatever size you desire, dainty 1-inch cubes or something larger.
Note: These candies keep in the refrigerator, wrapped in foil or in an airtight container with foil between the layers, for up to two weeks.

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