CategoryMain Course

Weeknight Shrimp and Leek Sauté

Inclement weather and feeling a bit under-the-weather has kept me indoors and in a simple food mood. I know when I’m starting to go downhill as we tend to eat out more, or graze on cold food in the fridge. Sometimes a little push to get back in the groove is what I need to get back on track – and it’s good to get “back to basics” with one pan meals.

In this case, I’m starting with quick cooking shrimp in mind, then changing it up to adapt to things I have in the fridge – think of it as a French-influenced stir-fried shrimp, without using the words “fusion cuisine” anywhere.

The key to this is building the dish in layers. Wash, clean, and slice leeks thinly. Cut up some celery too, if you happen to have it (I love the stuff). Heat up a pan with some high-temperature oil like grapeseed or safflower oil and a bit of butter for flavor. Leeks go in first to soften up and develop a bit of color. Then the celery just until it starts to soften, next a handful of walnut pieces, and when the nuts are toasted, in goes a pound of shrimp. Keep tossing or stirring the food in the pan – this is one of those times where you get to keep poking and mixing around the food so it cooks evenly. Finally, add a bit of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to brighten it up, serve in a bowl, and finish with a drizzle of walnut oil over the top.

That’s all there is to it. One pan, a bit of cooking things in sequence rather than all at once, and dinner’s ready in about fifteen minutes. This is completely adaptable, too – once you decide on the central ingredient (Shrimp? Pork? Beef? Mushrooms?) it becomes an exercise in pulling together complementary flavors. For instance – swap shallots for the leek, sesame oil for the walnut oil, peanuts for the walnuts, and add a handful of basil and this becomes Thai-inspired. Play with it and make it your own.

And, however your day goes, I hope cooking a quick meal helps get your groove back.

Grilled Steak Shootout

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

Grilled steak. As iconic Americana goes, that’s right about at the top with Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving feast. And like so many shared cultural foods, if you ask ten people the best way to grill a steak, you’ll get twelve surefire answers. I wanted to set up a little side-by-side shootout for myself, to decide a) what works best for me, and b) whether I could finally grill a steak without overcooking it.

Steak Contestants - Spoon & KnifeThe contenders are bone-in strip steaks each clocking in right around 16 ounces. I don’t mess around with steak.

I wanted to try three methods:
• Grilling lid closed, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, single flip.
• Grilling lid open, constant flip.

While getting to know the grill again, I’ve found that foods cook more evenly with the lid closed. This makes me a bit twitchy as a cook. I firmly believe that when you put heat to food, for the most part you leave it alone – I don’t stand there and poke and prod food in the pan. However, I do have use of all my senses – sight, smell, sound, touch, and when appropriate taste – to know how food is cooking. Is it cooking faster than usual? Unevenly? Ready to toss, turn, or flip? Cooking times are at best approximate – if I tell you to grill a steak for two minutes, I don’t mean precisely-to-the-second, because there are so many variables to consider.

Steak Oiled For Grill - Spoon & Knife

Oiled and salted for the grill.

Cooking with the lid down is like the scene in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker practices lightsaber use against a floating drone with the helmet’s blast shield down. It’s blindfolded cooking. You can kind of hear the food cooking, and you can generally smell it, but you can’t see it without opening up the grill, and doing that drops the surrounding temperature.

Still, it’s hard to argue with results, and in all the recipe testing I’ve done, I’m getting better results with the lid closed. All the instruction books say to do that (that I’ve seen, not just from STOK), and why argue with a manufacturer?

Open Grill Side By Side - Spoon & Knife

Open Grill methods, Side by Side

For the grill open test, I had two techniques to consider. One school of thought is to only touch the steak once (three times if you twist it for diamond grill marks), and otherwise? Leave. It. Alone. I generally follow this kind of rule on the cooktop.

The other technique is a constant flip. By flipping every 20-30 seconds, you’re in effect pulsing the direct heat hitting the steak, the argument being that the steak will cook more evenly (less of a band of grey overcooked steak around the center). I haven’t tried this before, although I certainly get the arguments.

STEAK MASTER RECIPE:
One steak (I like strip, ribeye, or sirloin; try for 1″ to 1-1/2″ thick)
Salt
Oil

Just before putting on a hot grill, season the steak with salt and brush a thin film of oil on.
Grill steak. On a hot grill, this is roughly 3:30 per side for medium rare, but that really depends on many factors – use an instant read thermometer to be certain.

Steak Results - Spoon & Knife

Clockwise from top left/top: open/single flip, open/continuous flip, closed/single flip.

The results? Better grill marks are observed on the closed lid steak. The constant flip did cook more evenly to the edges, and seared more evenly – no time to develop grill marks. The open lid single flip had the largest gray band of overdone meat around the outside. And flavor? All three were fantastic, although Christine and I tended to prefer the closed-lid steak (and I’ll work on my timing to keep from overcooking).

Of course, it never hurts to finish the grilled steak with a little lemon brown butter, alongside some grilled broccoli… but those are another post.

Seen in this post:

Grilled Steak

Ingredients

  • One 16 oz. strip steak, about 1" thick

Instructions

  1. Dry the outside of the steak and preheat the grill.
  2. Salt the steak and brush on a thin layer of oil
  3. Place steak on grill and close cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Rotate steak 45 degrees (diamond hash marks) and cook for 1 minute 30 seconds more.
  5. Flip steak and repeat.
  6. Let steak rest at least 10 minutes before cutting and eating.

Notes

NOTE: Cooking times are very approximate. Judge for yourself or, better, use an instant read thermometer.

http://spoonandknife.com/grilled-steak-shootout/

There’s burgers and there’s BURGERS…

[NOTE: This is a sponsored post from STOK Grills.]

It’s slightly cliché, but burgers seem as good a place as any to start with a grill. Straightforward, unfussy, simple is often better. Plus, it gave me a chance to do some side-by-side comparison of using the grill vs. the griddle for a better sear.

Burgers At Rest - Spoon & Knife

Burgers at rest.

KEEP IT SIMPLE BURGERS:
6 oz. beef chuck, freshly ground
(that’s it)

Grind the meat with a coarse die in the grinder.
Form into patties using a biscuit cutter or other form.
Let the patties rest on a tray in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Heat the grill on high for 5-10 minutes. Brush grates with oil.
Salt and brush/drizzle a thin film of oil on the top of the patties. Place on the grill oil side down and salt the other side.
Close the grill cover and check the burger after two minutes; the goal is to see juices start to seep or pool on the top of the patty.
Flip the patty and cook until desired doneness (an instant read thermometer is your friend here).

That’s it – straightforward and fast. One thing to note; compared to cooking these on a pan or griddle on the stovetop, these cooked a bit more evenly and didn’t have as much juices pooled on top for the flip. Keeping the grill cover closed creates something of an oven effect – it’s far from a sealed container, but it definitely holds heat in and affects cooking. The burgers cooked more evenly and with better grill marks when closed, so I still prefer that method.

Burgers On Grill - Spoon & Knife

Burgers on the grill.

I also cooked a burger on the griddle; on a stove, a flat hot metal surface helps with even all-over sear. I didn’t get so much the same effect on the grill griddle insert, something I want to try out a few more times. Cooking burgers over the grill grates has the advantage of a larger surface (more meat!).

However, the griddle was perfect for the elevated form of a burger: the bacon-wrapped juicy lucy.

Making Burger Patties - Spoon & Knife

Making burger patties

BACON-WRAPPED JUICY LUCY (CHEESE STUFFED BURGER):
Two 4 oz. beef chuck patties, formed as above
Two slices of American cheese (Use whatever cheese you prefer, but I’m a sucker for gooey American on a burger. Call me old-fashioned.)
Three slices of thick-cut bacon

When forming the bottom patty, press down in the center to create a small indentation or well. Fold the corners of the cheese in to the center, and place the cheese on the bottom patty, leaving a margin of beef around to help seal. Place or form the second patty on top of the first, remove the mold, and double-check that a good seal has formed – nothing quite as deflating as a cheese blowout on the grill.

After resting, wrap the patty in the bacon strips. There’s not a precise science to this, but I try to cover as evenly as possible (i.e. don’t have all the ends meet in the center) and keep all the ends on the same side of the burger (so, a “seam side” and a “flat side”).

Preheat the griddle side of the grill over medium heat. Place the burger bacon-seam-side down to start, and cook until juices are seen on the top or the bacon browns well on the seam side. Flip and continue cooking until done.

This burger needs to cook more gently than the simple recipe – this is a larger burger, with cheese at the core, which needs to cook and melt before the bacon exterior burns. On the Quattro, that meant a hot side grill for the simple burgers and a medium side griddle for the juicy lucy – both can cook at the same time.

Bacon wrapped Juicy Lucy - Spoon & Knife

Bacon wrapped Juicy Lucy

You know, this whole grilling thing? I could get the hang of it.

Items shown in this post:

Bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed burgers

Ingredients

  • Two 4 oz. beef chuck patties, formed as above
  • Two slices of American cheese (Use whatever cheese you prefer, but I'm a sucker for gooey American on a burger. Call me old-fashioned.)
  • Three slices of thick-cut bacon

Instructions

  1. When forming the bottom patty, press down in the center to create a small indentation or well. Fold the corners of the cheese in to the center, and place the cheese on the bottom patty, leaving a margin of beef around to help seal. Place or form the second patty on top of the first, remove the mold, and double-check that a good seal has formed - nothing quite as deflating as a cheese blowout on the grill.
  2. After resting, wrap the patty in the bacon strips. There's not a precise science to this, but I try to cover as evenly as possible (i.e. don't have all the ends meet in the center) and keep all the ends on the same side of the burger (so, a "seam side" and a "flat side").
  3. Preheat the griddle side of the grill over medium heat. Place the burger bacon-seam-side down to start, and cook until juices are seen on the top or the bacon browns well on the seam side. Flip and continue cooking until done.
http://spoonandknife.com/theres-burgers-and-theres-burgers/

Gluten-Free Meat Meatloaf Recipe. Meatloaf with Bacon. Yes, BACON.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf with Bacon

Having to eat a gluten-free diet means finding workarounds for some recipes, and meatloaf was one of them. We had to come up with a way to make gluten-free meatloaf without using bread for a binder. We could have used some other gluten-free grain, but I eat a low-carb diet as well, so I keep grains to a minimum.

As a result, Mike created a recipe that I like to call Meat Meatloaf. The best part? It involves BACON. Mmm…

This keeps well, so we made a double batch. Perfect for reheating and having more meals later in the week, or for inviting friends over for dinner to enjoy it with you. We’ve done both.

We used the food grinder attachment on the KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. Before you begin with the prep, chill your meat grinder and the mixing bowl beforehand in the freezer to get it cold – cold grinders help maintain the integrity of the fat and avoid melting any due to friction or heat.

The Vegetables for Meat Meatloaf

First up, the vegetables. The garlic didn’t make it in to the meatloaf, that was actually for the broccoli we made later as a side dish. Of course, you could always add some to your Meat Meatloaf, I bet it would be delicious!

Carrots for Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Carrots for Meat Meatloaf

Carrots, Finely Chopped for Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Four Carrots, average sized, washed, peeled and diced for the meatloaf. Two stalks of Celery, also diced. One average size Onion, diced. You want all of the vegetables to be a similar size.

Cutting Celery for Meat Meatloaf

Celery for Gluten-Free Meatloaf with Bacon

Finely Chopped Celery

how to cut an onion

onions for meatloaf with bacon

Finely chopped onions for gluten-free meatloaf

Use a Dough Scraper to Lift Vegetables

Have you ever struggled to get all of the vegetables off of the cutting board once you’ve chopped them? Get a dough scraper / chopper. It will make scooping them up quick and easy!

Parsley for Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Chopping Parsley

Once you have everything chopped, stir it all together and set it aside while you prepare the meat.

Combine all the vegetables for gluten-free meatloaf

For this recipe we use a brisket and bacon. Both are relatively high in fat, because if you want to have a nice, moist meatloaf you need the fat in the meat. It will cook off, but it will leave a lot of delicious flavor behind.

Our meat ratio was 2 parts of brisket to 1 part of bacon. Since we had a 3lb brisket, we used 1.5lbs of bacon. You can adjust accordingly to the size of what you are using, and it doesn’t have to be exact.

Cube all of the meat to prepare it to go through the meat grinder. Make sure your cubes are small enough to fit the grinder attachment.

Bacon for Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Cube the bacon for the meat grinder

Cutting down the brisket for meatloaf with bacon

Brisket, cubed, ready for the meat grinder

Once everything is prepped, remove the grinder and mixing bowl from the freezer and assemble them on the KitchenAid mixer. Use the course grind.

Start to push the meat through, and, if you are like me, feel like you are in a CSI or Law & Order episode. Watching meat come out of a meat grinder is just weird!

Grinding meat for gluten-free meatloaf

If you prefer a finer grind, you can run the meat through a second time.

Once the meat is ground, add 2 eggs to help bind the meatloaf. Add salt and pepper for flavor. Mix the meatloaf thoroughly using the flat beater blade.

Adding salt to the gluten-free meatloaf recipe

Adding the vegetables to the gluten-free meatloaf recipe

Place the meat in a loaf pan, or two loaf pans if you made a double batch like we did. Press down on the meatloaf to make sure that there are no air pockets, holes or gaps – this will be a bit more crumbly and you don’t want it to fall apart.

Invert the loaf pans on to a rack on top of a foil-lined cookie sheet. The cookie sheet will catch all of the juices that will cook out. This way, your meatloaf isn’t sitting in all of the fat and juices — it is just moist and delicious when you remove it from the pan after it is done baking.

Forming the gluten-free meatloaf with bacon

Press down on the meatloaf to get out all air bubbles

Bake, upside down, on a rack on a foil-lined cookie sheet

They go in to the oven, upside down, with the pan still over them. This will hold them together while they start to bake. Remove the loaf pans part way through baking to allow them to brown and form a nice crust.

Mike waiting for the meatloaf to bake

While we were waiting for the meatloaf to bake, this magical stream of light suddenly started to shine in to our kitchen. I think that that means that Mike’s creation of a Gluten-Free Meat Meatloaf Recipe with Bacon is MAGICAL.

Fresh out of the oven gluten-free meatloaf with bacon

Fresh out of the oven, the meatloaf is ready to be sliced and served!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf recipe

We chose to serve ours with Sautéed Spinach and Roasted Broccoli. It was well received by all of our guests as being a rather amazing meatloaf with the best flavor ever!

Gluten-Free Meat Meatloaf. Meatloaf with Bacon. Yes, BACON.

Gluten-Free Meat Meatloaf. Meatloaf with Bacon. Yes, BACON.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb. beef brisket
  • 1.5 lb. bacon
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1-2 white onions, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • Seasoning - salt, pepper, thyme, sage, or similar (here, 1/4 C of chopped parsley was used)

Instructions

  1. Chill your meat grinder and mixing bowl beforehand in the freezer to keep it cold - cold grinders help maintain the integrity of the fat and avoid melting any due to friction or heat.
  2. Dice vegetables and herbs and set aside.
  3. Cube meat in to portions small enough to fit in to the meat grinder attachment.
  4. Run meat through the grinder on the coarsest setting. For a smoother texture to the final meatloaf, run again through a finer die.
  5. Add eggs and seasoning and mix thoroughly while adding the vegetables. The mixture should be well mixed and consistent.
  6. Divide into two loaf pans and bake in a 375F oven, inverted over a rack (to let fat drip out) for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the loaf pans and turn oven up to 425F. Cook for another 15-30 minutes until the internal temperature is past 140F and a nice crust has formed on the outside of the meatloaf.
  8. Let the meatloaf rest, cut, and serve.
http://spoonandknife.com/gluten-free-meatloaf-recipe-with-bacon/

Cook’s Notes – Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Cook's Notes - Vermilion Snapper Meuniere gluten-free recipe

For today’s meal, we made our Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette recipe. You can see the photographs of the process and the recipes for both dishes in that post.

Vermilion Snapper Meunière

Meunière comes from the French word for “miller’s wife”, and generally refers to the technique of dredging something in flour, quickly frying it, and serving with a lemon, parsley, and butter sauce. It’s a classic preparation for fish, but it can equally be used for chicken, for example.

With apologies to millers everywhere, cooking gluten free means I needed another starch for the fish. Corn starch was the first thing at hand. I didn’t want to smother the fish, so I used a tea strainer to sift corn starch over the fish. That worked well enough; if I had to do it again, I would probably just put corn starch on a plate, dredge the fish, and be extra careful about knocking off the excess.

Preparation is key here. This cooks lightning quick from start to finish once the pan gets hot. You don’t need much – fish, butter, lemon, parsley, flour – but have it all laid out and ready to go. Chop the parsley. Cut the lemon in half. And so on. Don’t dredge the fish ahead of time (it’ll pull moisture out of the fish and get gummy), do that while the butter melts in the pan. Once the fish cooks, get the lemon juice in the pan quickly so the butter doesn’t burn. Bringing it to a boil and stirring helps emulsify the sauce. Basically, before the pan hits the heat, close your eyes and mentally walk through all the steps from start to finish. You don’t want to have to think about what to do next once this gets going.

Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

That’s part of why the warm leek salad makes a great side – once the leeks sweat and cook through, it can just hang out over a low flame and keep warm. You don’t want to have two dishes that are complicated to finish coming together at the same time – it works in a restaurant where there are multiple cooks working in concert. At home, cooking solo? Don’t make the task harder than it needs to be.

Vinaigrette, in its essence, is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, by volume. You can vary that depending on whether you want more bite or less, or whether your vinegar or oil is particularly pungent, but that’s the basics. Often, vinaigrettes are made with a very neutral oil to not mask the flavors of a dish. But, in this case, with the rendered and reserved bacon fat available – why not put it to good use? Lemon juice brings a sweeter, milder acid to the dressing instead of vinegar, and dijon mustard is a sympathetic sharp flavor. Play with this depending on what else you are serving; for pork chops, for example, throw in chopped rosemary, or with chicken, thyme and tarragon.

Finding Good Local Suppliers

To close, I can’t stress how beautiful this vermilion snapper fish was. Finding good local suppliers and getting to know them are the surest way to stunningly awesome food. In this case, I trust PJ Stoops to tell me about the fish he has on offer and tips for preparation. Christine mentioned in the post that she doesn’t like fish, and that’s a bit of an understatement. I was amazed that she enjoyed this as well as she did; while I would like to say it’s because of my culinary prowess, the quality of the fish really made the difference.

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