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Creole Puchero (Puchero Criollo)

17 Mar


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

First of all, great news: Paleo Takeout is now available for pre-order! Alright, back to the food.

Puchero is a popular stew in many Spanish-speaking countries (the word puchero means “stewpot” in Spanish). There are many variations to this dish, but I was especially drawn to the version that comes from the Río de la Plata region, where Argentina and Uruguay share a border. One dish from this area in particular is called Puchero Criollo, indicating it is of Creole origin. That led me to read up a bit on Creole history, and that settled it – this was the dish I wanted to share with you folks.

The term “Creole” generally refers to cultures of mixed European and native heritage. The most popular use of the term in the US is Louisiana Creole, indicating those descended from French or Spanish colonists prior to the Louisiana purchase. In terms of this stew, Puchero Criollo refers to a dish that is inspired by its Spanish heritage but uses items native to the Río de la Plata region; in this case, beef (primarily osso buco) is the common protein used in this dish since cattle are plentiful in the region. To have a little fun with the dish, I added a few staples of Louisiana Creole cuisine to the stew, like Creole seasoning and some andouille sausage.

In keeping with the tradition I started a while back, I’ve included Instant Pot electric pressure cooker instructions for this dish, to cut down on the cooking time. stovetop instructions are also included.

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Danish Meatballs (Frikadeller)

17 Feb


I know what you’re thinking. It’s something like this – “Seriously, Russ? You already have an awesome Swedish Meatball recipe in your cookbook. Way to put a new coat of paint on your old favorites.”

First of all, thanks for the compliment. Second, these meatballs are a little different. For example, Danish Frikadeller are often smashed and look more like little patties than those little round balls you might be expecting. Think of them as Denmark’s LEGOs (probably their coolest invention) vs. Sweden’s crescent wrench (also a cool invention); both are useful, but serve slightly different purposes.

The recipe itself differs from Swedish meatballs in that I found that adding a bit of tapioca starch makes the balls stick together really well, and they’re pretty delightfully spongy, too. I also played around with the spices until I found something that delivered a distinctive Old-World taste while using common pantry items.

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Indonesian Meat and Potato Fritters (Perkedel)

27 Jan


Perkedel are Indonesian fried fritters, found everywhere from city streets to high-end restaurants. This dish carries a lot of variations, but most contain potatoes and ground meat, so that’s what I focused on in this recipe (most variations use just beef, but I found adding pork evens out the flavors). Speaking of variations, I made two versions of this dish as you’ll see in the pictures below: one with the breading, and one without. Both are awesome and easy to throw together.

The word Perkedel is actually a derivative of the Dutch word Frikandel, which is a deep-fried sausage that doesn’t have a casing and is often sliced down the middle and stuffed with toppings (the original #hotdogasthebun, in truth). The Dutch first colonized Indonesia, so there is a lot of cool Dutch influence like this in the archipelago (and vice-versa – Indonesian food is wildly popular in The Netherlands).

Totally unrelated, but the folks at Tabasco offered to give a selection of their sauces to one of my readers, shipped in time for Super Bowl this weekend; head over to this FB post to throw your name in the hat, if you’d like.

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Instant Stew

20 Jan


First of all, sorry about that title. Just like the elusive free lunch, there is no such thing as an “Instant Stew”. You see, I recently asked my Facebook followers what dish they’d like to see me develop, and I received several requests for pressure cooker and stew recipes. We use (and love) an electric pressure cooker called an Instant Pot, so that’s what I used for this recipe (and hence the name).

At its heart, this dish is similar to many of my other stew recipes, but with a new approach. When it comes to simple weeknight recipes, many folks like the idea of crockpot stews (wherein you leave the ingredients to slow-cook while away at work). But I’ve found that more often than not, the vegetables become too mushy and tired after a long simmer. This is where a pressure cooker really shines, as it shaves a multi-hour recipe into just over an hour, making it a potential weeknight option with superior texture.

If you want to make this dish without any fancy (awesome) gadgetry, I’ve also included stovetop instructions below.

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Hanger Steak with Bordelaise Sauce

6 Jan


Local friends: I’ll be cooking a four-course dinner as a guest chef at So Gourmet Pensacola on Saturday, January 17th from 6-8pm. There are still seats available, RSVP for the event here. See you then!

Hanger steak is a v-shaped cut taken from the diaphragm of the cow. It was a relatively rare cut until recently, because butchers commonly kept it for themselves; in fact, another name for this cut is “butcher’s cut”. It weighs less than two pounds, which is a perfect size for whipping up a date-night dish. Gents, take note: we’re only a little over a month out from Valentine’s Day – plenty of time to practice this recipe beforehand!

Hanger steak works best when cooked quickly over a high heat, and served medium rare. Marinating the cut will infuse it with a punch of flavor, but it takes a little away from the spontaneity of this dish. Instead, I like to complement the simple, tender steak with a rich sauce, like the Bordelaise in today’s recipe.

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Seasoned London Broil (Flank/Sirloin/Round)

16 Dec


Note: after talking to the farmer that provided the meat for this recipe, I realized that this cut was actually top round and not flank. I apologize for the mix up, and I’ve updated the post accordingly.

Let’s talk about the cut referred to as “London Broil” for a little bit. Back in the day, flank steaks (taken from the abdomen of the cow) were prepared using a method called “London Broil” (marinated and broiled). Over time, stores started referring to the cut itself as “London Broil”, and then started to use that label for top sirloin (from the cow’s rear end) and top round (from the cow’s hind legs) cuts as well. Today, you’ll find all of these cuts labeled as “London Broil”, but rest assured that this recipe will work well for any of those three cuts.

We usually use these cuts to make beef jerky, because it is consistently lean and easy to slice. But the other day I decided to prepare it traditionally by marinating it overnight and throwing it on a hot grill. I was surprised by how flavorful the steak turned out, and in the end it was a lot of delicious meat with little hands-on work.

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Faster Pho

9 Dec


Pho is one of my favorite dishes of all time. It was one of my first meals when I moved to Hawaii nearly 15 years ago, and I’ve eaten it regularly ever since. To this day, if I’m feeling under the weather, I immediately reach for the nearest pho bowl that’s lying around (if only it was that easy).

I spent years working on a good recipe of my own, which I wrote in 2012 (confidently declaring it my “definitive recipe” – ha!). I then updated and improved upon the recipe for my cookbook. I love my cookbook recipe, and I would confidently put it toe-to-toe with your favorite bowl of soup. Unfortunately, it takes over 7 hours to make it from start to finish, since I make the broth from scratch. While spending a whole day making one soup is very satisfying (and slightly therapeutic), I wanted to put together a faster version with similar flavors, which I’m proud to debut today.

This dish first emerged as a Hanoi street food during the late 1800s, and was brought to the US in the 1970s by refugees after the fall of Saigon. The inclusion of beef in the dish is reflective of its French influence; prior to French colonialism, cows in Vietnam were mainly used for labor and not as a food source.

Be sure to scroll through to below the recipe text, because I also recorded a video of the recipe. Thanks to everyone for your feedback on my last video; I adjusted my side camera angle so that you can better see what’s in the pots, but since this recipe is basically just a lot of boiling, it’s not very exciting footage!

For this recipe I used the US Wellness Meats eye of round, oxtails, and marrow bones, all sourced from grass-fed cows. I pressure-cooked the oxtail and marrow bones to make broth; I then picked the meat off the oxtails and added it to the soup with some thinly-sliced eye of round. US Wellness Meats is currently offering 15% off all orders under 40lbs using the code “soda”, and the deal expires at midnight CST tonight (December 9th), so jump on it! Okay, on to the recipe.

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Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

25 Nov


Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are often considered the most comforting of dishes, so much so that every Eastern European country wants to stake claim on owning the original recipe. While there is no definitive origin story, the prevailing story is this: members of the Russian aristocracy, visiting France in the mid-1700s, became enamored with their dishes of stuffed and roasted pigeons. Upon returning home, they ordered the dish to be recreated, and the closest they could come were the stuffed cabbage rolls we know and love today. This is evidenced by the similarity between the Russian words for stuffed cabbage rolls (Golubtsy) and pigeons (Goluby).

In recent years, a new phenomenon has sprouted up: Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Regular cabbage rolls require you to par-boil the cabbage leaves and roll each wrap before roasting or simmering everything; the whole process can take hours. Instead, home chefs have been simply chopping up the cabbage and adding it to the filling, cooking everything at once in about 1/4 of the time. This is the variation we’re going to tackle today.

Be sure to check out the video after the recipe; now that we’ve relocated to a house with a larger kitchen, I filmed a short cooking demonstration of the dish. I’m still working out some production kinks, but if you like the video I’ll keep cracking at it!

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Stew for You (or Two)

18 Nov


Recently, I’ve been thinking about living a simpler life. The idea started when I visited Mickey Trescott’s new home in the Willamette Valley over the summer, but it really solidified when we moved all of our things from Maryland to Florida last month – over 14,000 lbs worth of belongings. As we started unpacking boxes, I couldn’t help but think that I just didn’t need so much stuff. The worst part about it? We’re still unpacking.

So for the holidays this year, we’re trying to not buy any objects for each other. Instead, we’re gifting experiences. So this week’s recipe is going to be a little different from your usual Tuesday post; I’m going to walk you through how to make gifts to hand out to people that aren’t stuff. A couple years back I made a few gallons of my barbecue sauce and gave it away as gifts. While I had a lot of fun with that idea, I wanted to do something more immediate and useful – wouldn’t it be better to just gift someone a fully-cooked delicious meal? And thus my idea of Stew for You (or Two) was born. The concept is simple: make a large batch of delicious stew, vacuum-seal it, and give it away as gifts.

I’m particularly in love with my Beef à la Mode recipe from earlier this year, yet I’m sure that its 3.5-hour cook time deters readers from making it often enough. Instead, imagine reheating a vacuum-sealed homemade meal directly in gently simmering water, offering an unbeatable experience in just 20-30 minutes. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, a resealable mylar bag or Wrap ‘n Boil bag would work well, or even something like this IndieGoGo project would be great.

So read on for the stew recipe and sealing instructions, plus other gift suggestions. Let’s make Stew for You (or Two) go viral.

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Pressure Cooker Short Ribs

14 Oct


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

I’m relatively new to the whole pressure cooking scene. We didn’t use them in the restaurants where I first learned to cook, and I’ve frankly been a little intimidated to try one out at home. When it comes down to it, I’ve always had issues with cooking food when I can’t see what’s going on inside – I like to be in direct control of my creations (this is also one of the reasons you don’t see baked goods on my site). Pressure cookers have always seemed like the epitome of this idea, since you basically seal it up and let some sort of magic wizardry happen within.

My perspective changed when I bought an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker last year. Something about it removes all of my previous inhibitions; I think it’s the idea that I can set it to a certain time or intensity, and have it turn off and depressurize automatically, all on my own terms. Regardless, I love the fact that I can use this same machine to make broth, yogurt, and rice, or to sear and slow cook without dirtying two dishes. And most importantly, it breaks down tough cuts of meat in a manner of minutes, like in today’s recipe. To showcase my new love for pressure cooking, I went with a simple short ribs recipe, flavored with a bit of brandy and maple syrup. If you don’t have any fancy gadgets, don’t worry: I provided instructions for electric pressure cookers, conventional pressure cookers, and stovetop pots.

Pressure cooking is not a new concept, it has been around in Europe since as far back as the 17th century. They weren’t modeled for home use until the 19th century, but pressure cookers have been integral in many restaurants and home kitchens ever since. They work by sealing in the steam from cooking, allowing you to cook foods at higher temperatures and with less energy since hardly any heat escapes during cooking. In fact, pressure cooking is the most energy efficient way of cooking out there. There are many out there who swear by conventional stove-top pressure cookers, and after my latest success with an electric pressure cooker, I’m starting to eye a few conventional models on Amazon.

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