Saturday, April 02, 2005

Parmesan Pepper Breath Wreath 

from Vince

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 - 115 F)
2 packages dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons medium grind black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 - 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (Asiago works very nicely)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Additional black pepper (optional)

Place 1/2 cup warm water in a large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast: stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, sugar, pepper, salt, and 1 cup flour; blend well. Stir in whole egg, parmesan cheese, and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Punch down dough. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 28 inch rope; braid ropes. Place on greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. Cover, let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 20 to 40 minutes.

Brush loaf with egg white. Sprinkle with additional pepper, if desired. Bake at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Remove from sheet; let cool on wire rack.

When I make bread, I use the dough hook on my Professional series Kitchen Aid mixer and it works wonderfully. What? You don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer? Well if you don't I highly recommend getting one. Best investment I ever made for the kitchen.


Friday, April 01, 2005

best marinade ever! 

The secret to cooking and grilling meats is a good marinade. If you've never grilled a day in your life, your friends will think your the grill master, as long as you marinated the meat in something yummy.

My favorite marinade is a form of a classic Mediterranean marinade, although I vary the ingredients from time to time, depending on what I have on hand, and what I'm making. The ingredients at their most basic form is really just Italian dressing. If you're pressed for time and desperate, any old Italian dressing you have laying around will do. Just throw the meat into a zip lock bag and pour in some Italian dressing. Stick it in the fridge for an hour up to overnight, and the meat will be yummy yummy!

And when I say meat, I'm referring to white meat: chicken and pork. Red meat, like steak, is fattier and more flavorful in general! and usually doesn't need much of a pre-treatment besides some salt and pepper. The exception for this is flank steak, which I grill for fajitas. I use the same marinade with some exceptions, which I list below.

Here is my basic marinade formula:

Juice of two lemons, or equivalent of limes (limes tend to be not as juicy, so it may take four or five). I would say about 1/4 to 1/3 cup worth.

tablespoon of salt

teaspoon of pepper, freshly ground if you have it. If you're going to let the meat marinate overnight, you can use whole peppercorns if you have them

3 or more cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

splash of basalmic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

any fresh or dried herbs you have laying around (for pork and chicken, rosemary or thyme work well, but you can have fun and experiment. Believe me, YOU CAN'T MESS THIS UP!!!)
important: dried herbs are more potent than fresh! I use about a small handfull of fresh, but only a pinch or two of dried.

Mix all these ingredients together in a bowl, and then pour over the meat, which you've already put in a ziplock bag. Then toss the bag in the fridge and party until it's grillin' time!

FOR FAJITA MEAT (flank steak or chicken):
use the lime instead of lemon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more/less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
instead of the vinegar, use a couple of good glugs of tequila (feel free to take a few glugs yourself. cheers!)

after marinating, grill away! Don't have a grill, you say? Well, you can invest in a cast iron grill pan for the stovetop, like I did. or you can just throw it in a pan (cast iron still best!). You won't get cool grill marks, but who cares? For bigger pieces of meat, like pork loin, I start out on the grill pan for the first 10 minutes (until I get nice grill marks all around) then I throw it into a 400 degree oven (ummm...can't convert that to Celsius off the top of my head, sorry) until the internal temp reaches 145.

I know I know, you're supposed to cook pork to 160. Well, first of all, you'll get carry over heat after you remove it from the oven (this is true of all big pieces of meat). Which means that the temperature will continue to rise. You should ALWAYS let the meat rest under foil before you slice and serve, anyway. Also, AMERICAN pork is extremely lean, and if you cook it to 160, it will be as dry as toast. Also, your risk of getting trichinosis is very very low, much more so than in our grandparent's day. so you have very little to fear, I promise! (I emphasized American, because I have NO IDEA what Aussie pork is like.)

So! to recap:

1. marinate 1 hour to overnight
2. grill, or cook on stovetop and then put in the oven (for big thick meats, like pork loin)
3. only cook to 145 internal temperature
4. let rest under foil for 5-10 minutes
5. amaze your friends and family with your meaty genius.