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Today’s Micro Recipe

Today for a post workout snack I made a red cabbage wrap filled with beef. My plan was to get a boost of vitamins, protein, and flavor. Cabbage, particularly the red variety is one of the healthiest foods in you market. It’s great for men’s health issues and as a general detoxifier particularly of the lungs. I spiced things up with ginger and sriracha both known for aiding in weight loss and circulatory health.

Overall it turned out to be a tasty 10 minute meal, that was well worth the work and easy to manage with aching arms and hands.

Ingredients

1 large washed red cabbage

2-3 oz ground beef

thin slice of ginger

1/2 clove garlic

3 thin onion slices

handful of shredded carrot

sriracha

salt

Process

Cook the beef with the garlic and ginger in a wok or pan with steaming rack. Remove and set aside. Add water and steaming rack to pan/wok. Place beef, carrot, onion, salt to taste, and sriracha to the cabbage leaf. Roll it like a burrito. Secure with toothpicks. Place on steaming rack when water comes to a boil. Steam 5 minutes.

Total time 10 minutes, serves 1.

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From the Checkered Pig Fan Page

Amazing Brisket is a Rare and Beautiful Thing

Brisket is easily my favorite food ever, and I take it upon myself to seek it out anywhere I go in the United States. From New York to South Carolina and all the way out to Chicago, the nation is falling in love with barbecue, and I am both an evangelist and critic of this slow-cooked succulent style of preparing meat. Without hashing out the history and minutia of barbecue,  it involves smoking meat and cooking it over low heat (except in the North, where it is generally cooked with direct heat) producing a smoky, juicy product that is more tender and delicious than the particular cut could otherwise be.

With brisket, the process is especially important because the cut comes from the breast of the cow and it is full of connective tissue and dense muscle. However, connective tissue results in big flavor when it breaks down with fats and saturates the surrounding meat. As a result, what starts as the toughest part between the hoofs and horns can transform into a truly magnificent piece of beef. The very nature of the cut is such that good and mediocre preparations are miles apart. In my experience, most barbecue restaurants don’t make very good brisket. Either they rush it, over- or under- season it, cut corners in smoking or preparation, or at times they just don’t understand the cut, and then in the end the brisket will be dry, tough, and flavorless.

The Pig is King

As I mentioned, when I travel I make a point of eating at barbecue restaurants whenever I come across them. So far I haven’t had the pleasure of testing the barbecue in either Oklahoma or Texas, which is a problem I hope to remedy. Brisket was originally a cowboy cut,  and I imagine it is very good in Texas. That being said, the best barbecue places I have found are a Texas style barbecue restaurant in Kentucky (the name of which I now forget), and surprisingly (for me, anyway) a small place in my home town. On a trip to visit my family over the summer I discovered the Checkered Pig, and my life has changed. Well, at least my standards in good brisket have changed.

Dinner

Checkered Pig is apparently named for, and equally well known for ,their pork shoulder – but who cares when the brisket is this good. Don’t get me wrong, the pork is great, and they win awards for that as well, but the brisket is so good I will literally eat it all day. In fact, last week I did eat Checkered Pig’s brisket all day. I went to the Danville location for lunch and settled up to a New Castle, a brisket sandwich, and fries. The Brown Ale is great with brisket, but that’s beside the point. The sandwich is cheap and piled high with brisket in a regular bun with a bit of sauce. It is strictly a no-frills affair, and for good reason. Even with a slosh of the excellent house-made hot sauce and BBQ sauce, I could easily bite cleanly through the sandwich without losing brisket on either end, a rare feat for a dish like this.

The ease with which I ate my meal speaks to the tenderness and texture and quality of the meat. The texture is perfect – just a little spring on the tooth and then it melts on the tongue. The taste is buttery, smoky, spicy, and beefy. Looking at a slice of the meat you can see a distinct thick pink smoke ring all the way around, and you can taste the time and effort that went into creating that marker of good smoked meat. The bark (or ‘crust’ for the non-barbecue-aficionados) is crunchy, subtle, and full of flavor. You can easily detect paprika, onion, garlic, sugar, molasses (likely from brown sugar,) and many other spices. It is beefy perfection between bread.

The Numbers

Taste 5 of 5

Appearance 5 of 5

Texture 5 of 5

Then I Went Back For More…

The brisket is so good, in fact, that after it settled I got back in my car and went to their drive-through for dinner. Yes, it is so popular, they need a drive-through window in addition to the main restaurant. Sadly, state law prohibited them from passing me a six-pack through the window along with my dinner. The above photo was my dinner – well, there were also fries, a sweet potato, and hush puppies, all delicious in their own right –  but who wants to hear about starch when there’s a steaming delicious pound of meat on the plate. In short, if you’re ever in Martinsville or Danville, VA,  GO TO CHECKERED PIG. If you live in Greensboro, NC, just hop on 29 N, and Checkered Pig is less than an hour away.

For more information (and barbecue worship) check them out on Facebook. The previous post on The Garlic Press is a video of the guys from the Checkered Pig in competition.

Checkered Pig on Urbanspoon

Winter = Chili

In the winter months, a steaming bowl of one sort or another is often the best way to keep yourself full and warm. Chili is a classic and each region has its own distinct style. In many cases, chili seems to be one of those dishes that people are leery about experimenting with or branching away from their  standard. In the Southeastern U.S., where I’m from, chili is almost always beef, tomato sauce, red or black beans, some garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder served with some shredded cheddar cheese on top. It’s  generally quite good and filling but a bit dull after awhile. Some years ago, I had the pleasure of judging a chili contest in southern Virginia, and the chilies ranged from very good to pretty awful. What struck me the most was that the most deviant or innovative recipe simply added some fresh orange juice to the typical mix. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big proponent of the power of simplicity in cooking, but I think the combination of meat, beans, and sauce lends itself to a bit more creativity.

My goal in the test kitchen was to attack traditional chili with creativity and ramped-up spices. You see, lately I have been taking dishes from where I grew up and combining them with elements of other ethnic and regional cuisines. A few weeks back, I experimented with a tomato-based barbeque sauce infused with black tea and chai spices. Surprisingly, the sauce was a great success, so I decided to try concocting a Chai Chili.

Some of the flavors of chai are regularly paired with beef, so I felt that it could work. Cinnamon, for example, is used commonly in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines to flavor beef.  I chose to keep the spice mix simple as to avoid overpowering the wonderful play between beef, mushroom, beans, and tomato. The fusion of Indian and Southern flavors seemed a bit too strange at first, but I recalled a red bean dahl I’d had once, and I knew this would work.

Ingredients

1/4 lb 80/20 ground chuck

1/4 medium sweet onion

3 cloves garlic

12 oz canned tomato

16 oz red beans

8 oz black beans

1 cup beef broth

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp black pepper

2 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 beef boullion cube

1 bag Chai-flavored tea (Stash or Good Earth are my preferred brands)

2 tsp coarse sea salt, to taste

6-10 mushrooms, quartered (avoid those terrible button mushrooms)

1 Tbsp olive oil OR butter

Method

Brunoise the garlic and onion. Quarter the mushrooms and set aside. Add the oil/butter to a medium pot and heat to medium heat. Sweat the garlic and onion, and once the onion is clear, add the beef. Season the beef while it is cooking and stir until it is lightly browned.

At this point, add the tomato and reduce the heat to low. In a small sauce pot bring the broth to a boil, add the bag of tea, and remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add the stock to the chili pot, and toss in a boullion cube and the vanilla. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the beans and mushrooms and reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the beans and mushrooms are tender. Serve and enjoy. The recipe should make 3-4 bowls.

Judging the Chili

The chili turned out even better than I had expected! It was warm with a hint of spice and reminded me of the chili I ate growing up and the great bowls of curry and red beans I’ve been devouring for the last few years. The vanilla added a lot in the background without taking over the dish. Generally, I was pleased with the results and everyone in the kitchen was surprised and pleased when I told them about the special twist.

To quote an angry Peruvian,

“If you don’t like the smell of burning meat, get off the planet!”

Here at the Garlic Press, we agree wholeheartedly. As the grilling season comes to a close (for cowards, anyway) here on the Mid-Atlantic, we decided to craft the best burger ever. In a lot of ways, we succeeded – and in a few, it ended in bitter, bitter failure. Nevertheless, the Ancho Relleno burger delivered a serious smack in the taste buds that brought me to the verge of a flavor-gasm of the hottest variety. This burger is a Southwestern take on Minnesota’s famous Juicy Lucy Burger. The Lucy Burger, invented in the Twin Cities, is essentially 2 burgers pressed together with a core of molten cheesy goodness. After being introduced to this beautiful crime against nature, we knew we just had to make it our own.

I’ve loved Southwestern cuisine since long before I learned how to say mas carnitas.  Of course, by ‘Southwestern cuisine’ I’m referring to the earthy and unpretentious food popularized by the kind of Texan we love. This is not to be confused with that chipotle mayo garbage promoted by morons like Guy Fieri or a that particular chef who runs a certain bar and grill in the city. Flaming aside, the Lucy Burger begged for the spicy treatment and some gourmet flair. Some hot inspiration came in the form of a shaker of chili flakes and powders from the good folks at Dave’s. Really, you should get some.  Now. Furthermore, I was seriously missing Keswick Creamery‘s Dragon’s Breath pepper jack cheese, my absolute favorite! As a side note, this cheese hails from central PA, close to where I attended college. However, you can pick it up at the DC farmer’s market every Saturday, and you may recognize it from their feature in the Washington Post. Although I have run out of their sexy dairy products, I had some random pepper jack around that would suit the recipe nicely.

What resulted was a match made in West Texas Hell, sinfully delicious and a touch north of picante. The test kitchen often has a pound of 80/20 ground chuck on hand, because anything made of 90%+ lean ground beef is crime,  the punishment for which involves having to eat that crap. It is one of those staple items we can’t be without, and thus we have a standard burger format: 1 lb. of 80/20, 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup of grated hard cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and some oil. This burger base is almost infinitely versatile and easy to style up. Spices, herbs, and other bits of amazing can safely be mixed in without fear of destabilizing our beef sculpture. Once the ancho chili and pepper jack had been selected, it was just a matter of raiding the garden and pantry. Some ciabatta bread, spinach, thyme, mushrooms, orange pepper, and Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard made the cut. We fucking love that mustard. Arugula would have been better, but someone behind the scenes here at the Garlic Press refuses to plant or buy any…ever. Such shortcomings aside, we all thought the burger was better than opium and Fake Plastic Trees.

Ingredients

Burger Mix

1lb. 80/20 ground chuck (no substitutions)

1 egg beaten

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tsp. oil

1/4 cup finely chopped thyme (or marjoram or oregano, just as long as its fresh)

1 tsp. fleur de sel (kosher salt is okay too)

2 tsp. cracked pepper

1 tbsp ish Ancho Chili Pepper

1 tsp Green Yucateco Sauce *9000SCU

The Rest

2 slices pepper jack cheese

1/2 orange bell pepper

1/2 cup sliced baby portobella mushrooms

  • 2 tsp. butter (for mushrooms)

4 slices of ciabatta bread

  • 1 tbsp oil

Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard

Process

Add all of the burger mix ingredients to a large meat safe bowl. Mix carefully by hand until the ingredients are evenly spread throughout the the ground chuck, but do not over mix. Remember this isn’t an erotic massage, the beef only has egg holding it together. Next divide the meat into 4 sections as shown below.


This should be done by hand and roughly as shown. Next, move the meat to the refrigerator. Brush the orange pepper in oil and char it lightly on a hot grill. Then begin sauteing the mushrooms in butter on low heat. Retrieve the burgers, and remove 2 of the 4 sections. Roll each and press lightly onto a plate as shown.

oh yeah

From here, simply fold one slice of cheese in half twice and place it in the middle of one of the patties.

Place the other pattie on top and begin to carefully crimp and mold the edges together until the seam disappears.

Repeat the process with the two remaining portions of burger mix. Then mold the the two burgers roughly into the shape of your slices of bread, only a little larger as they will draw up as they cook.

The burgers should then be placed in the refrigerator again. Finish the mushrooms, and brush the ciabatta with oil. Grill the bread a little on each side until grill marks appear. Go back or the burgers, and place them on a hot grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Do not press or poke the burgers EVER. Remember they, are 1/2 lb. each.  Remove them from the grill, and let them sit 1-2 minutes while you add mustard to your bread and cut and slice the cheeks of the pepper. The cheese needs a minute to cool inside the burgers. Assemble roughly in accordance with the following or initial photo and enjoy.

From there its up to you to man up to a mighty burger, and to remember that ketsup is for poseurs. Enjoy this burger with with a strong ale or lager. We like it with Chimay Red Ale, and Rogue Dead Guy Ale.

-Chase