Tag Archives: maillard reaction

Blackened Trout and Sauteed Kale with Ginger

In an effort to eat healthier, we have incorporated more fish into our diet.  Well, I have incorporated the fish and the rest of the family enjoys the benefits as well.  So far, I haven’t had a lot of resistance and Maddie, my five year old, actually comes home from school every day wanting to share a nice can of King Oscar Brisling Sardines.  As far as sardines go, they’re the best.  I’m actually really excited to have a kid to share this tradition with.  My dad used to kick back with a can and I’d hover around like a baby bird wanting to get my fill.

Eating better is nice, but it actually stems from trying to eliminate nightshade vegetables from my diet in an effort to reduce inflammation.  Autoimmune diseases are no pleasure cruises and it’s about time I try to monitor what I eat.

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I’m not really a fan of cruciferous foods, but that kale actually tasted…great.

Today was a bit challenging as I wanted blackened fish, but most blackening seasonings contain paprika and cayenne, two delicious nightshades.  I quickly looked up a nightshade free blackening seasoning recipe and decided I could make something taste halfway decent.  Granted, I only scanned the ingredients on Seaweed Girl’s Blog.  It was the first thing I saw on Google.  Though I’m not a ginger dynamo, the flavor is growing on me and today was a nice day to experiment.

If you want a zesty bed of kale, this worked out well.  I didn’t really follow the directions that closely.  Be sure to add about a half teaspoon of minced fresh ginger when you add the garlic.  Niiice.

I went with steelhead trout again.  I think it just has an amazing flavor.  I scraped the scales and coated the fillets with extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients for Blackening Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon peel (I found it on the spice aisle.  It’s granulated and worked nicely.)

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Method

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This seasoning made a really nice crust.

Combine ingredients.  Simple.

Liberally rub seasoning into fish and allow to marinate 30 minutes.  I just left mine on the counter on butcher paper and continued prepping the rest of the meal.

Heat cast iron skillet.  It has to be hot to get the coating to crust.  Science happens right before your eyes as your food undergoes the magic that is the maillard reaction.

Place fillets flesh side down and make sure they make good contact with the skillet.  (If you have a lot of fish, you’ll need to work in batches.)  Allow to sear for three minutes.  You don’t want to fiddle with it and end up with a broken mess.

Turn fish over and allow to sear an additional two or three minutes.  It really depends on how thick your fillets are.

Remove from heat.  Enjoy.

Best. Pinto Beans. Ever.

I know I’m making big claims, but I know you will be hard pressed to find better beans elsewhere.  I grew up on Great Northern beans where the seasoning consisted of diced ham, chopped onion, salt, and pepper.  That’s how my mom cooked them.  Great Northern beans are a very neutral legume, so this simple preparation is satisfactory.  They used to be my favorite, but after a couple of years testing out different pinto bean preparations, I have decided that I would much rather have pintos.

Pinto beans are also versatile.  I’ll have a bowl of beans.  I’ll make refried beans with leftovers to enjoy with eggs.  Leftovers find their way into chilis, stews, and even spaghetti.  If you have a great recipe that calls for beans, these lowly beans will elevate the the dish to levels that cannot otherwise be attained.

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds dried pinto beans

2 beef short ribs

1 bell pepper

1 stalk celery

1 anaheim chile

1 white onion

1 link andouille sausage

2 strips bacon (finely chopped)

1 tablespoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme (I usually use dried thyme leaves, but this is what I had on hand)

1 teaspoon mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons chimayo blend chile (more on this later)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup red wine

7 cloves garlic-minced

2 tablespoons beef base

2 teaspoons cumin

1 can Rotel

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 

Method

Sort and soak beans in water the night before.  Rinse thoroughly before you are ready to cook.

Chop all vegetables and set aside.

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Pre-measuring spices can save some effort later. I have to do this if I’m measuring spices. I never do. I just toss them in as I see fit. That wouldn’t be a very good recipe to share, though.

Measure seasonings. (paprika, thyme, oregano, white pepper, chimayo blend chile, and black pepper.  (I purchased this Chimayo blend chile online from New Mexico.  They are known for their Hatch chiles and I want to do everything possible to make my beans taste great.  I’m merely sharing where I bought my chile powder because I like the product.  If you want to use something better than McCormick, that is one place to look.  By the way, I use many different McCormick products.  They’re great.  When you find something even better, you need to snatch that opportunity.)  Save the cumin until later as cooking it too long can make it bitter.  Add seasonings to a bowl for a later step.

the Maillard reaction is beautiful to behold.
The Maillard reaction is beautiful to behold.

Preheat pot.  I use a cast iron dutch oven for my beans and it has served me well.  Once heated, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Salt and pepper beef short ribs and brown.  Remember the Maillard reaction I described in my jambalaya recipe?  This is important for flavorful beans.  Typically, the meat will initially stick to the bottom of the pan.  After it has formed that crust, or scab, the meat will release.  At that point, you can turn the meat to brown the other sides.  If you are really patient, you can brown the edges with the aid of tongs.

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I love the smell of meat in the morning. Or ever.

Remove the ribs and set aside.  Hopefully, you have prechopped the andouille.  I prefer Manda, but Savoie’s is a good choice.  Cut it lengthwise.  Then cut the two halves lengthwise again.  Now you can dice it up into small triangle-ish pieces.  Add the andouille and finely chopped bacon to brown.

Add vegetables to increase taste factor.

At this point, add chopped vegetables and cook to soften.  Once the vegetables are about halfway done, add the garlic and short ribs.  You don’t want to add the garlic too soon or it could turn bitter.  All vegetables will be ready for the next stage once the onion is translucent.

 

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We are about to have some beautiful bean footage.

Add 1/2 cup red wine (I had some Bordeaux on hand).  I don’t drink, but I often cook with alcohol.  Never use cooking wine.  It is inferior.  I don’t know how to judge wines, but I figure a $10-$15 wine will work nicely).  Deglaze pot with wine and add in beans, spice blend, and Rotel.  Fill pot with water and simmer slowly for about an hour.

At this point, you can add cumin.  (I actually have a spice blend that I got in Honduras.  I know the main ingredient is cumin, but I have not identified the others.  For all I know it’s ground coca leaves.)  You also want to add the beef base.  I’ve used both the powdered and pudding-like base.  I like the latter one better, but the former is easier to store and doesn’t take up valuable refrigerator space.

This is a good time to remove the beef ribs to cool.  Once cooled, dice up what little meat is there and reintroduce to the bean pot.

Simmer around another 1/2 hour to an hour and you have an incredible pot of beans.

These beans go terrific with flour tortillas or buttery cornbread.

This is my recipe that I finally wrote down to minimize variation.  Feel free to share it, but please credit me accordingly.  Also, if you have a better recipe, I’ll be glad to try it out.

 

Dinnertime.
Dinnertime.

 

Chicken, Pork, and Sausage Jambalaya

I’ve been a fan of spicy cajun food my entire adult life. I began teaching myself to cook sixteen years ago and have enjoyed trying to make cajun dishes that were palatable. It is no coincidence that I started my cooking journey a week after I met my wife.

I’m sure it’s a typical story. I met Heather 12/11/2007. The following weekend she invited me over for dinner. Man, was I stoked! I love food. I can’t believe I met a woman who could cook.

I showed up for dinner at the appointed time and was surprised that we were eating Hamburger Helper. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Hamburger Helper, but on a first meal at home you put your best foot forward. That night I decided that I was going to learn how to cook. The following weekend I began my foray.

That first meal was one I made one or two times prior. We had spaghetti with homemade sauce. It was quite tasty as I watched a friend make it numerous times. This friend was a good cook, but he never let me get any hands on experience. I watched him intently for two years as I was surfing his couch.

When I first started cooking, say the first five years, not all meals were as tasty as that spaghetti. I worked until midnight and the first year or two, I would go to Albertsons after work and make pot roast, pork chops, even chicken fried steak. I’d normally eat around four am and it was common for me to crank out some meal complete with mashed potatoes and gravy. Many of these meals were disappointments, and occasionally were downright inedible. Today, I rarely make something that embarrasses me to feed to my dogs.  If I get distracted the dogs may have some awful treat to enjoy.

My culinary skills have vastly improved over the past three years. I have many friends who are professional chefs and they are always happy to give me cooking tips. I like to tell people that I’m finally becoming an adequate cook.

Today, I had to make jambalaya for a catering event. I’ve made it before, but I haven’t been happy with previous efforts. There is money on the line here so I have to make sure it is acceptable.

I looked through recipes and decided I could adapt this one. I made several changes and I hope you are happy with this endeavor. I hope you try it and tell me what you think.

I just remembered that I forgot bay leaves. I intended to add maybe seven to the pot. Remember that this recipe is for 50. You can use some fancy math like division to reduce the amount. I’d do it for you except I’m lazy.

Here’s the ingredient list:
5 pounds pork loin
15 pounds bone in chicken thighs (after deboning you will have around ten pounds of meat)
5 pounds sausage
3/4 pound bacon
2 large onions
3 bell peppers
1 bunch celery
3 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp chili powder (I used New Mexico Hatch chili powder I ordered online)
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp dry thyme
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
10 cups rice
21 cups water
6-8 ounces chicken base

Add all dry ingredients in a bowl to add later.

Marinating pork loin.
Marinating pork loin.

Trim pork loin and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Marinate in soy sauce, mustard powder, and white pepper.  I didn’t use a lot of any of these ingredients, just enough to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for two hours.

Place chicken thighs on baking sheets.  Cover liberally with Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning.  Roast at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Chicken cooling.  Don't forget to debone.
Chicken cooling. Don’t forget to debone.

Remove chicken from oven and let cool.  Meanwhile, chop vegetables.  Since you have the knife out, chop smoked sausage into 1/4″ rounds.

Down Home is one of my favorite sausages.  They manufacture it in Stonewall, LA, which is maybe fifteen minutes from where I live.  I couldn’t find a website for the company, but I included a link to a radio station I used to work at where they give the down low on the Down Home.  No, I have not received any plugola.  If they gave me free sausage, there would be plugola, but I would tell you about it.  Somehow, I don’t think it’s plugola unless it’s a secret, though.

Last thing to cut up is to cut up the bacon.  Cut that into small pieces.  Once cut, toss the bacon into a heated pot to render.  Once partially rendered, throw in the marinated pork loin.  After it is browned it is time to put the sausage in.

I was watching some cooking show a couple of years ago where this old man was cooking a monster pot of jambalaya outside.  He kept saying that you want to cook the sausage so it is scabbed up.  He’s right, you want scabby sausage.  I was unable to do it this time because of the sheer volume, but when I have a manageable batch, I cook the sausage so it is nice and scabby.

Before you blow scabby chunks, let me explain.  This old cajun may or may not have gotten all technical on us, but he was describing the maillard reaction.  Chemistry stuff happens to the meat when you brown it.  Think of a really nice crust on a steak.  That crust is the scab this old coot was describing.

No scabs on the sausage. I’m just not awesome enough to do it with this huge batch. If I had a tilt skillet, though, I would’ve rocked the scabs.

When you have a scabbed up pot of sausage, you want to add the vegetables and saute until soft and the onion is translucent.  I wait until this moment to add the chicken.  Remember that chicken?  Well, we forgot to debone it.  So, before you burn up a pot of meat, be sure to have deboned the chicken prior to firing up the stove.  After it’s deboned, I spread it back onto a baking sheet, apply some more Tony Cachere’s, and let it crisp up some at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Now that we are back on track, don’t add the chicken until the vegetables are sauteed.  This way, you can avoid tearing up the meat from over stirring and whatnot.

This is the moment to add your dry spices and Worcestershire sauce.

I add the base to the water and stir until well mixed.  Then it’s time to add the rice and base-infused water.

Jambalaya is ready to simmer.
Jambalaya is ready to simmer.

Simmer the conglomeration of meat and rice for around 50 minutes while occasionally stirring.  It is actually desirable to have the food stick to the bottom of the pan to get some crusty bits.  Remember?  Maillard reaction?

One big, swingin' pot of jambalaya.

Once the water is absorbed, it’s time to eat.  Enjoy.