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Saturday, February 3, 2018

EZ Apps: Pizza Roll-ups



I love making these pizza roll-ups.  They are incredibly versatile. You could also fill them with Mexican style ingredients such as hamburger or shredded chicken with appropriate seasoning, cheddar cheese, etc.   You can even stuff them with chopped corned beef, potatoes and cabbage for an Irish feel.

In this recipe, I'm going to give you directions for making a simple marinara out of tomato sauce.  However,  you can just as easily use a canned spaghetti sauce.   Jarred sauce will definitely save you time though making it from scratch is pretty simple as well.

The possibilities for these roll-ups are truly endless.  If you prefer pepperoni, throw some in.  Hamburger along with mushrooms and green peppers?  Why not?

You can even make these vegetarian if you'd like.  Simply leave out the meat and use the cheese and whatever vegetables you'd like.  Throw in some of the frozen vegetable crumbles (meat substitute), and if you add Penzey's Italian Sausage seasoning, it will taste just like Italian sausage.  I know this from experience.

Just substitute whatever you'd like for the insides and it will be excellent.



Ingredients*



  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (mild or spicy, your choice)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 flour tortillas (8 inch)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
      Marinara
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil 
  • pinch of kosher salt
      OR
  • 2 cups your favorite spaghetti sauce

*Cook's note:  I used the eight inch tortillas and only had eight of them in the package.  I could have easily made 10-12 of these with the rest of the ingredients, then cut them in half to serve.  If you choose to use the smaller size tortillas it will make quite a few more.  Likewise, if you use the larger tortillas it will make less but you can cut them up into smaller pieces to serve.


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven 350° F.


  2. Cook the Italian sausage until it's well browned.  Set aside.


  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add olive oil.  Add garlic and cook until garlic is soft (about 30 seconds to one minute). Remove from heat and add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes (if using), oregano, basil and salt.  Mix well to completely combine.  THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL.  IF YOU ARE USING PREMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE, SKIP THIS STEP.


  4. Take a tortilla and using a brush, paint one edge of the tortilla with the egg wash.  This will help the tortilla stick together when you roll it up.


  5. Place about two tablespoons of the Italian sausage on the lower edge of the tortilla (opposite side of where you put the egg wash).


  6. Put two to three tablespoons of mozzarella cheese next to the sausage.


  7. Pour approximately two tablespoons of sauce on top of the cheese.




  8. Roll the tortilla up into what looks like a small log.  The area where you used the egg wash will help it stick together.


  9. Brush the top with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.



  10. Line them all up on a lined backing sheet and bake for around 20 - 30 minutes until crisp and golden.



  11. Dip in marinara sauce and enjoy!

EZ Apps: Deep Fried Mac & Cheese


When I'm looking for appetizers, whenever possible I go for simple.  It has to taste good, but simple is one of the first criteria.  This is particularly true if it's a day that I'm making multiple types of appetizers.  I don't want to spend my entire day on them and then have to make my main meal, dessert, or whatever else is going along with it.

That's where this particular appetizer shines.  It's incredibly simple.  It starts with something that you make the day before (or three or four days before): mac & cheese.  The best part about that is that it can be any type of mac and cheese you like.  Are you like me and you prefer to make it from scratch? Good.  That works.  How about the good old blue box of Kraft?  Yup, it works just fine as well.  As long as it's a mac and cheese that you like, it will work just fine.

Why the day before?  That's easy.  You want it to be well chilled so it holds its shape.  You can certainly make it in the morning and then refrigerate it before making the appetizer later in the day.

These are SO much better than any I've ever had in a restaurant.  You have to give them a try!




Ingredients


  • Refrigerated, leftover mac & cheese (How much you use is completely up to you. The amount of egg and panko mixture in the recipe is enough to make approximately two dozen mac & cheese balls.  You can opt to make your balls a bit smaller or a bit larger. Again, this is up to personal preference.)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp rosemary leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • oil for frying


Directions


  1. Heat the oil to 325 degrees.  For most frying, I heat it to 350-375.  I found that with this, you want it a bit lower.  If you use the higher temperature the outside will brown and even burn before the inside heats up.
  2. While the oil is heating up, put the dry ingredients (panko, parmesan cheese, salt, and any herbs/spices you choose to use) in a food processor and pulse a few times until fine.  Feel free to add any herbs/spices you might like to this mixture.  If you like an Italian herb flavor, throw in a bit of oregano, basil and thyme.  You can personalize this to your tastes.  Set aside.
  3. Mix the egg and milk together and set aside.


  4. Form the cold mac and cheese into balls.  You want the balls to be about 1 1/2 tbsp in size. I use a medium cookie scoop for this (available here), which helps ensure consistency.  Set aside.
  5. Roll the mac & cheese balls in the egg/milk mixture.


  6. Next roll the balls in the panko mixture and set aside.


  7. Carefully place the balls a few at a time into the oil.  You don't want to crowd them.  They should take approximately three minutes to cook at 325.  They will be a golden brown color.


  8. Remove from oil.  IMPORTANT: Let cool before biting into them.  They WILL be very hot!
  9. Eat as is or use your favorite dip (we love it with our Smoky Southern Gold sauce).


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Easy Crockpot Ribs


Before I go any further, I need to clarify something.  I have a smoker - multiple smokers actually.  I also have multiple grills.

So, you may (rightfully) ask, why am I cooking ribs in a crockpot?

Excellent question.  There are multiple parts to the answer:
  1. Weather.  Sometimes the weather just doesn't want to cooperate.  I'm not fond of cleaning off the snow to use my outside equipment.  Same holds true with rain.  I'll use the smoker/grill when it's lightly raining but not when it's pouring.
  2. Convenience. There are times when it's just easy to pop the ribs in the crockpot and walk away for awhile. 
  3. The number one reason? I have a cooking blog and I know not everyone is as lucky as me and has a smoker. 
Also, since I have a small BBQ sauce company on the side, I'm frequently asked by customers how they can make ribs to use our sauces and rubs WITHOUT a smoker.

This is one way to do it.  I know there are several recipes out there.  Some use root beer, some use Dr. Pepper, yet others use fruit jams.  This one uses apple juice.  Oh yeah, and BBQ sauce.

Of course, I'd love you to use my BBQ sauce, but the truth is that any sauce you like will work.  If you should want to try our sauce, you can find it here.

And for the inevitable question, do they taste as good as using a smoker?  In my opinion, no.  BUT (and it's a huge but) you can make them without having to invest in an expensive piece of equipment you may have no interest in or no place to put.  They also have the advantage of being very good, simply without the added smoke flavor.

Now, on to the recipe.


Ingredients

  • 1 rack pork ribs (2-3 pounds)
  • 2-3 tbsp rub* (I use my Pork and Poultry Rub, but any rub you like will work.)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (For this, I used our Sweet and Mild sauce.  We have 11 sauces available ranging from mild to very hot.  You can use any sauce you like and it will work fine.)
*If you prefer, you can use salt and pepper instead of a rub.  Simply sprinkle however much you'd like on both sides of the ribs in place of the rub.

Directions

  1. Turn the broiler on in your oven to preheat.  
  2. Ribs frequently have a membrane on one side.  You can choose to leave this on if you'd like, but I always remove it.  It helps the rub to penetrate the meat and gives a better flavor.  To remove it, the best way is to grab one edge of it and simply pull it off.  It can be difficult to grab but it's much easier if you use a paper towel.  If you make a lot of ribs, you can actually purchase a tool that will make the job of removing the membrane much easier.

    Membrane on the ribs
    Tool for removing membrane.  Grabbing with a paper towel works just fine.
  3. After you remove the membrane you can trim the ribs if you choose.  There will be no difference in taste either way.

    Ribs trimmed and ready to be rubbed.  Trimming is NOT necessary
    The meat that was trimmed off is above and to the right and will also be cooked
  4. After you trim the ribs (optional), you are ready to use your rub.  Simply sprinkle a fairly heavy coating on both sides of the ribs and rub it into the meat.  If you prefer to use salt and pepper instead, do the same thing with it.


  5. Put the ribs on a lipped pan.  You can use a sheet of parchment paper or foil to line it to facilitate cleanup if you'd like.
  6. Put the pan in the preheated oven for five minutes.
  7. Flip the ribs over for an additional five minutes.


  8. If you use a crockpot liner, this is the time to put it in.  If you'd like to try one, you can find them here
  9. Pour the apple juice in the crockpot (with or without the liner).
  10. Remove the ribs from the oven.
  11. Put the ribs in the crockpot with the apple juice. You may have to cut the ribs for them to fit, depending upon the size of your crockpot.
  12. Pour one cup of BBQ sauce over the ribs.


  13. Cover the ribs and cook on HIGH setting for four hours.  You can cook them for 6-8 hours on low if you prefer.  If you do, the texture of the meat will become somewhat "mushy" though the taste will be the same.


    Ready to come out of crockpot
  14. After the four hours is up, carefully remove the ribs and place on a lipped pan.
  15. Turn the oven to 350.
  16. Using the 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce you have left, spread it over both sides of the ribs.


  17. Put the ribs in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  This will "tighten" up the sauce and give them a wonderful flavor and a better appearance.


  18. Remove the ribs from the oven and serve.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bacon Wrapped, Maple Glazed Pork Roast


I love a good roast. It can be pork, beef or just a good roasted chicken.

My wife isn't fond of beef, so a beef roast is something we have infrequently.  She DOES love pork though, so I don't have to do much convincing before I make this for a Sunday dinner.

I brine nearly all of my pork and poultry before I use it.  I simply feel that brining makes it taste better and helps the meat retain its moisture.  It's so easy to overcook and dry out a good pork loin that I believe brining is a necessary step and have been doing it for years.

I'm not going to give a brine or stuffing recipe in this post.  There are MANY variations available on the web and I have a brine recipe here or here (and a completely different one here).  For the most part, any brine will work on either pork or poultry.  You simply have to find one that you like.  The same is true with stuffing.  Whether you want the convenience of a box of Stove Top stuffing or you make it from scratch, it will work.  You just want some form of bread based stuffing though I'm certain other types would work as well.

For the roast in this post, I used a brine with apple cider in it and put apples in my stuffing.  I tend to like apple and pork together, and this gives a subtle boost to the flavor.

The technique I used to cut the roast is called a roll cut.  You basically just "roll" the roast out as you're cutting it.  If you have problems with this (or simply with understanding my instructions) there are many good videos on YouTube of how to do it.  That's how I learned.  This is only my second time trying this type of cut and it turned out fine (both times).

This technique and recipe should work for any size pork roast.  You will simply have to adjust the amount of brine (optional) and stuffing you use based on the size of the roast.  The roast in this post was about 3 1/2 pounds.  The last one I did was nine pounds and it worked equally well on both.

Lastly, if you have any questions/comments on the technique (or anything else) feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.  You can also find me on Facebook and leave me a message or question there.

Ingredients*

  • Pork roast/loin (Any size will work.  The one in this post is about 3 1/2 lbs, the last one I did was 9 lbs.)
  • Prepared stuffing (Any stuffing that you would use in a turkey would work well here.)
  • Bacon (The amount will depend on the size of the roast.  You need enough to be able to cover the roast.)
  • Maple syrup or honey (again, depends on size of roast, but typically 1/4 cup is enough)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
* You will also need butcher's twine to tie the roast up before putting in the oven.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place roast (brined or not) on cutting board


  3. Starting on the left side of the roast,  (if positioned as in the picture above) using a very sharp knife , make an approximately one to two inch cut just above the line of fat, going into the meat.  It's important to keep your knife parallel to the cutting board when doing this.  


  4. Push the meat back and again, make a cut in the meat, "rolling" it back towards the opposite end of the cutting board.


  5. Continue doing this until the roast is basically flattened out.  It isn't going to look nice and even.  (Well, if you're anything like me it won't.)  How the meat looks won't make any difference in the final product and no one will notice.






  6. The end result will be a fairly flat piece of meat that you will be putting your stuffing on in order to roll back up.
  7. Salt and pepper both sides of the roast generously.  I also like using a rub on the meat.  In my case, I used Mac Brothers Pork Rub, but salt and pepper alone will work fine.


  8. Next, spread the prepared stuffing on the exposed side of the meat.  You want the fat side of the meat DOWN at this point so it will be on the outside of the roast.


  9. Leave a border of about an inch along the sides of the meat.  Leave about two inches from the end where you stopped your cut.
  10. Starting at the far end, you want to start rolling up the roast gently.  Looking at the picture below, this is on the right side which is the side of the meat where you ended your cut.  You want to keep rolling fairly tight but not tight enough that you push the stuffing out of the ends.



  11. Continue carefully rolling the meat up until it again is the size and shape of a typical roast.


  12. Now, the roast needs to be tied together so it won't fall apart as it cooks.  You will need some butcher's twine.  There is no need to tie fancy knots like you sometimes see on these (unless of course you know how to do that and feel like it!).  I tie it in multiple places along the top with a simple knot (There were four ties for this roast.  I think I used seven on the nine pound roast I made.).


  13. The next step is to cover the outside with bacon.  There are multiple ways to do this.  The easiest is to simply take strips of bacon and wrap them around the outside.  I decided to make a bacon "weave" and wrap that around the roast.  This will only work if your roast is fairly small (probably four pounds or less), otherwise it won't fit unless you do more than one weave.  A "hack" that simplifies working with the weave is to put it in the freezer for a few minutes after it's been woven together.  If you do this, it will be much easier to work with and wrap around the roast.



  14. Brush the bacon with the maple syrup (or honey if you prefer).


  15. Place roast on a roasting rack in a pan.  You are now ready to put your roast in the oven. Your oven should be at 425 degrees at this point.  You only want to cook at this high temperature for 15 minutes to give a good sear.
  16. Turn oven down to 325 degrees after the initial 15 minutes and continue roasting.  You should baste the bacon at least one more time with the maple syrup or honey while it's roasting. When you turn the oven down to 325 is a good time to do this. You can do this multiple times if you want a heavier maple/honey flavor, but one additional time is sufficient.  
  17. How long your roast takes to cook is going to be determined by how large your roast is.  A good rule of thumb is 25 minutes per pound but it's important to go by INTERNAL TEMPERATURE, not time. The USDA recommends between 145-165 for pork.  I much prefer the lower end of that time so it's not dried out.  I typically keep it in until it hits about 140, then take it out and loosely cover with foil for about 15 minutes.  The internal temperature will rise that extra five degrees after it's taken out of the oven and before it starts to cool.
  18. Remove from oven when temp hits between 140-160 (depending upon preference) and tent loosely with foil for fifteen minutes.


  19. Cut into slices and serve


When I make this, I typically put vegetables in the bottom of the pan.  This time I used parsnips and carrots.  Any kind of root vegetables work well for this.  I also put a small amount of chicken stock in the bottom of the pan (only about 1/4 inch).  The juices from the roast and bacon will drip into this and become a great way to make gravy if you wish.  It also helps keep the roast from drying out.  If you choose to do this you should check every 20 minutes or so and add more stock as needed as the juices burn off.