Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday meals are perfect for slow cooking, or really, any day you have time to get your ingredients prepped and plopped into the cooker. This was a during the week meal and one I enjoy from time to time and decided to keep after experimenting because the wife enjoyed what the results were.

This chicken i get a rub together with some salt, pepper, onion, garlic powder and cumin. Take it, mix it together and rub it all over the chicken and let it sit at least 4-5 hours but if you can get 12 in you will be living the live. One thing you have to do is make sure you lift up some of the breast skin and put the rub down that part of the chicken.

Next morning, I tossed the chicken into the cooker with some better than bouillon chicken base, about 1 cup of water for a generous teaspoon and add that to the cooker to allow the chicken to really bask in moisture and flavor. I also added  1/2 cup of apple juice and a whole cut up apple for additional flavor and moisture. I didn't have a full onion which I normally use in the cavity with the apples but the spring onions filled in just fine as I dices a few up and sprinkled them in and on the chicken. They are a bit milder but it works for us. Set it on low and come back later from work and voila.

For us, we are a sauce loving family, and pulling the chicken is going to be a somewhat trying event if you expect to have the entire thing come out like you put it in. It won't but it is so tender and juicy even though you have to search with your tongs to get all of the goodies out. You can use the remaining liquid for a gravy if you like but we like to take the chicken, drizzle some sauce over it and throw it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get the skin a little crispier thanks to the sugars in the sauce.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My mother went to Vegas last month and managed to squeeze in a visit to Fatburger pretending she was Floyd Mayweather waiting on TI. She has been talking about the turkey burger she had since she came back. She looked up the locations and found out there is one in Columbia, MD pretty close to where I work. At her urging I stopped by for lunch.

 The place was quiet, clean and had a little counter where you can sit on a stool while they get your 1/3rd pound burger ready. They also serve shakes and your choice of skinny or fat fries. I am not a fan of thick cut fries so skinny was my option. The fries themselves are marginal at best. They taste like those vaunted 'new' fries that Burger King rolled out a while back. They didn't end up being very crisp and didn't get any 'better' with the ketchup.
My burger I got simply with bacon, cheddar cheese and ketchup and mustard. The burger itself wasn't bad. A nice sized patty and the bacon was pretty good but nondescript overall. The bun is plain and the sandwich did avoid being overly soggy or greasy which is a positive. As far as taste, it isn't anything especially different like the BGR burger was. The cheddar cheese I got disappeared though, not much bite or sharpness came from it at all.

 This was straight forward and placed on a griddle. I actually prefer the Five Guys burgers to this one which really reminded me of a Wendy's burger. It was alright but it wasn't overwhelmingly good. The price was also really high for what was received. I mean Five guys at least smothers you in fries but the combo I had was almost 13 bucks from Fatburger and it didn't blow me away. That's a lot for burger and fries so it needs to be extra special.

Overall I guess if you want the uniqueness of the Fatburger name it might be worth a stop if you're near Route 175 getting close to Jessup but I'm not sure it's worth a trip specifically to go there.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If you've been to PF Changs you know they are known for their Chicken lettuce wraps and my wife and I were smitten by them after going there once. Fast forward a couple of years later and looking for something different and a little 'healthy' these lettuce wraps are always a nice little option. now this isn't my own personal recipe as I got it in an issue of Food Network Magazine. You can get your own copy here.

Almost Famous Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The thing about this recipe is that you have to chop so many things up. The past few times I have made this recipe I hand cut the chicken breasts. Today I decided to use the food processor.

This was much easier than chopping by hand and it didn't get too fine like ground chicken, but it was more chunky, just like the restaurant version so I was very happy with it. Now you have to marinate the chicken in the rice wine corn starch solution so I suggest you might want to look to the right and take a peek at the Tupperware link over there and then send a message to my wife because if she has an online party going on you can get yourself a deal.

After that it's a simple process to cook up the ingredients and combine them to have a nice meal that is a little different from the norm.

This is a great recipe and one that made it into our family recipe book.

Rating: 10/10

Monday, June 9, 2014

Burgers have made a resurgence in popularity and there are always new burger style chains as we fall in love with classic Americana all over again. A stone's throw away from a Five Guys in Columbia, Maryland I decided to give this spot a try even though the Yelp reviews (you can follow me there too!) were a bit spotty. I took the chance anyway.

The Burger Joint is actually pretty small and simple in the design. The dining room had a few patrons there which was cool being as though it isn't that crowded which means people like to sit and eat in. But the walls were corny with popular 80's classic pop album covers on the walls. They weren't original sleeves, but reproductions specifically to go on the walls. It wouldn't be bad if they were original or unique but they were so generic and run of the mill it took away from the dining room to me. The menu is pretty decent and there are a good amount of options including specialties like their Ahi Tuna Burger. They also have milkshakes but at 4.99 each they are well on the high side of the price scale.

I ordered a regular cheeseburger with bacon and lettuce which I threw away because it was vanity that made me order it to begin with. They give you a buzzer like they use at the Olive Garden to let you know when your food is ready. It keeps them from yelling I guess. to the burger, I am a well done man and the burger was cooked perfectly. It was think and still juicy and fully cooked. The bacon was crispy but the bun oddly had a bunch of sesame seeds on only one side. The flavor was different. It was smoky like freshly grilled and thick. This is part of their appeal or niche, fresh ground burgers made from aged beef and grilled over an open flame, not flattened and fried like at a Five Guys or Wendys.

Looking at their website, starting in Philly, these burgers did remind me of the Philly Gourmet variety that you can get from the frozen food section at the market. I'm not generally a fan of these thick style burgers but this one, while having that consistency that I personally don't like, was good and flavorful. I could see easily how some might slather these up in steak sauce before eating. I also got cheddar on my burger but the flavor was drowned out by the burger though the applewood smoked bacon brought a good amount of saltiness to the meat.

I also got some fries and I wasn't impressed at first glance. They looked like thick frozen fries but they were actually cooked perfectly. I like crispy exteriors and these were almost like potato chip crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. Pretty much perfect.

Overall BGR, The Burger Joint is pretty good but for me the price was a bit high. The burger was good but not my favorite ever though the fries made up for any personal shortcomings I had with the sandwich itself.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, June 2, 2014

One of my new favorite cuts or pieces of meat is short ribs. Now I can't have a grill going right now so I have to find other ways to have ribs without the fire of the grill. So I took time went through some recipes and switched up a winter recipe I have used to bring some of the summer time flair and flavor I'm used to these.

First thing I did was go to the store and grabbed some short ribs, and some back ribs this time since they were on sale. I broke this down into portions since there are four of us, everyone got a short rib which has more meat than the back ribs, but everyone also got a couple of those as well. These back ribs came from Safeway and the price was really good so I hopped on them. Alternatively a week later, I grabbed a pack of strictly short ribs from BJ's for a decent price and went with this same recipe for Sunday dinner.

The first step is setting up my rub and getting on the ribs and letting them sit overnight. It's not a requirement, but it always helps to let them sit and absorb the flavors as the salt in the rub helps with the osmosis (boom science term) and absorption of the spices into the meat.

Spice Rub Ingredients:
1/4 Dark Brown sugar
2 Tblsp. Salt
3 Tblsp. Pepper
1/2 Tsp. Paprika
1/2 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 Tblsp Cumin

Mix these ingredients together and use for Ribs and Salmon (I Omit Red Pepper for that). The Cumin gives it a really nice flavor. I love to have it with the grill smoke especially.

When it's time to cook I take a large pan and drizzle it with some Olive oil, get it hot and sear these bad boys on all of the sides. One, I have seem debates on whether or not this actually locks in flavor and since these will be slow cooked I'm not sure if it matters but that would be the goal. Secondly, it looks better once it has been fully cooked when you have the browned bits to it.

After I remove them from the pan they go straight into the slow cooker which is turned onto low. Along with the ribs I create a braising liquid to help add flavor while keeping the meat moist and tender. I use Beef stock normally created using Better than Bouillon Brand ( I just use less water per tablespoon indicated on the label), A1 Steak sauce, and Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce.

Braising Liquid Ingredients:
1 -2 cups Beef stock
1/4 cup A1 Steak Sauce
1/2 Cup Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce

Let it simmer and cook for about 5 hours then if you want, you can pull the ribs from the slow cooker and put them into a dish with some more sauce and broil for some extra stickiness and char, or serve them right up and pour some extra sauce on the top. Either way, be very careful because by this time the ribs will be falling apart because they are so tender and cooked. The meat will be so delicious and smooth fingers will be licked and seconds will be desired.