Category Archives: meat

chicken fennel kebobs with tzatziki

to say that it is grilling season in texas would be somewhat incorrect–it is always grilling season in texas. we like our meat, we sometimes like to fetch it ourselves (aka hunting), and we like to cook it outdoors because it’s usually too hot to turn on the stove and, let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. regardless of where you stand on charcoal or wood vs. propane, direct or indirect heat, or barbequeing vs. grilling, most everyone agrees that cooking outside kinda rocks.

this is a fairly light preparation and works well when you are feeling overwhelmed by the summer heat but have a hankerin’ for more than just another salad. the cool creaminess of the tzatziki compliments nicely the char and warmth of the kebobs. and, if you’ve never grilled fennel, oh boy. it becomes sweet and caramelized, all while still retaining it’s crisp nature. add in some sweet red onion with singed edges, moist and lemony chicken, wrap it up in a seared pita and top the whole thing off with a cool sauce and let the magic happen.

chicken and fennel kebobs with tzatziki (4 servings)

adapted from bitchin’ camero


2 lb boneles, skinless chicken breats, cut into large cubes

2 fennel bulbs, remove frond and stem ends, clean and cut bulb into 2″ pieces (reserve a few fronds for the sauce)

1 large red onion, cut into 2″ pieces

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt & pepper


7 oz plain yogurt *

1 cucumber, seedless variety, or seed a regular one

1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds

1 large clove garlic

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

*greek yogurt will make a particularly thick sauce or you can just drain regular full or lowfat plain yogurt for a similar effect.

prepare tzaziki first so the flavors have some time to develop–sometimes i’ll make this a few hours ahead. grate cucumber with a box grater onto a paper towel or cheesecloth. make a small package of the papertowel and twist the ends up, squeezing out any liquid from the cucumber. you may or may not be alarmed at how much liquid you can get out doing this–DO NOT skip this step. chop garlic and make into a paste on the cutting board with the salt, by smashing it with the side of the knife. place garlic/salt mixture in a bowl with the yogurt, cucumber, fennel fronds, and lemon juice. adjust seasoning to your preferences. in other words, taste it. if you like more garlic go for it, but remember the flavor will be more pronounced as it sits.

alternate placing chicken, fennel and onion pieces onto 8 separate skewers. sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. place on a (preheated-very important) medium-high grill and cook for a total of about 20 minutes, rotating skewers every 5 minutes or so. you want a nice char on all sides and the chicken to be cooked through. allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with tzatziki and grilled pita.

this goes really well with a glass of nice, dry french rose. but everything, including another glass of rose goes really well with a nice, dry french rose this time of year, doesn’t it?


Filed under chicken, main dish, meat

homemade steak sauce

steak sauce-final

a few weeks back, after grilling some fabulous rib-eyes, houston realized that he had used the last his precious steak sauce on the steak eaten just prior to this one. he is not one to write it on the grocery list or even tell me we’ve run out, so i secretly thought about letting him suffer, ya know get his just deserts and all that. plus, i simply could not believe that of all the half used sauces, including the organic one from trader joe’s, the one laden with tabasco, and the regular ol’ A.1., that there was not a drop left in house. but i took pity on him, as usual, and  ended up making a very nice but simple peppercorn sauce, which houston conceded was a nice change of pace.

stea sauce-spices in vodka

but, believe me, you do not want to deprive this man of his steak sauce. he gets downright pouty about it if you do. me, i’m not a steak sauce kinda person. never have been, don’t believe i ever will. i find it a bit cloying and tenacious for my taste. plus, i really, really like the flavor of a good steak. so there ya go. i was intrigued enough about the subject of steak sauce, however, to look into what it takes to make some for mr. man. i did find the ingredient list for A.1. somewhat exotic: raisin paste and crushed orange puree? plus, unfortunately, the usual suspects: corn syrup, caramel coloring, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum. i also found out that meat loaf is their current spokesperson, which i think cranks up their cool factor to ten. i set about to make my own version of the stuff and came across this recipe from saveur by way of grace firth. it looked the most authentic. and it had vodka in it. who am i to mess with authenticity?

steak sauce-grating tomato

this is something that had never occurred to me before: grating a tomato for the juice and pulp.

below is the tamarind pulp called for in the recipe. the stuff i got was labeled ‘seedless’. but it looked like it was not smooth by any means. so i heated it, then strained out the lumpy bits.

steak sauce-tamarind

homemade steak sauce (makes 1 cup)

adapted from saveur 

you will need to allow about 8 hours of infusion time for the vodka and spices. i pulsed the spices in a grinder a few times. alternatively you could use a mortar and pestle. i put the cinnamon sticks in a plastic bag, then wacked them with a rolling pin. highly recommended method, especially if you have a bone to pick with someone.

1/2 cup vodka

2 tsp crushed whole allspice

2 tsp crushed cinnamon stick

10 crushed whole cloves

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tsp hot pepper sauce

4 crushed garlic cloves

4 medium tomatoes, cored and cut in half or quarters

1/4 cup sugar

6 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 tamarind pulp, smooth and seedless consistency

place vodka, allspice, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a small glass bowl or measuring cup. cover with plastic or lid and allow to sit at room temperature and infuse for 8 hours. strain vodka mixture and set aside. put 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, and crushed garlic in a small bowl and set aside. roughly grate tomatoes and discard skins, strain solids. you should have about 1 cup tomato pulp remaining; set aside. heat 1/4 cup sugar, 6 tbsp red wine vinegar in a skillet over medium heat, until sugar dissolves and it develops a deep caramel color, about 6-7 minutes. stir in tomato pulp.  reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until thick, about 4-5 minutes. remove and discard garlic from soy sauce mixture, then add mixture to skillet. bring to a boil, add tamarind and vodka mixture and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. i actually took it off the heat sooner than i thought i should based on a review that reminded me that sauces like this thicken up considerably after cooling. keeps chilled in refrigerator for up to two months.


Filed under condiment, meat

viva ribapalooza!


ribapalooza-score cards2

this past weekend saw another  instillation of ‘ribapalooza’ at our house. this was the 5th annual. and the hottest (i believe it was officially “the hottest july 4th on record” per our friendly weatherman, at 105 degrees!). ribapalooza is best described as a rib contest without any real rules, save that your entry must be ribs of some sort (a few years back our friend michael entered ‘fish ribs’!) and you must have them ready for 4pm judging, give or take. this year’s entries included st. louis, baby back and beef ribs with all manner of preparation methods represented: roasted, barbecued, smoked, etc. there were glazes made with soda, cherry sauces, jalapeno-honey lacquers and much, much more.


each entrant places as many of his or her ribs as there are judges into a nondescript container that is given a number. each entry is brought to the judge’s table individually by one of mediators (we don’t really call them that, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?) so they are judged solely on their own merits, not compared with one another. the ribs are judged in four categories: appearance, taste, tenderness/texture, and originality. we’re really getting serious these days, too. we have real-live trophies and a bonafide graphics department makin’ everything look real official (thanks, casey!).

ribapalooza-me & frank

here is the lucky winner from this year, frank mancuso from saint arnold beer. the winning rib recipe was made with, what else, saint arnold root beer (their only non-alcoholic offering). i was lucky enough to take 3rd! there is always plenty of sangria, a keg of saint arnold and plenty of heat on hand.


frank has generously offered up his award-winning recipe for you, dear readers.

after all, ‘there is no delight in owning anything unshared’, right?


Saint Arnold Root Beer Ribs



For the rub:

1/4 cup of salt

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 1/2 tbs. of black pepper

4 teaspoons of mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons of chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon of allspice


For the glaze:

2 cups of Saint Arnold Root Beer

1 cup of Heinz Chili Sauce (or Ketchup)

1/2 cup of  mustard

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of molasses

2-4 teaspoons of chipotle powder


Two racks of St Louis ribs

1/4 cup of Saint Arnold Root Beer

Coat the ribs with the rub, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours.


Heat the oven to 300 degrees and bring the ribs to room temperature.


In a foil-lined large baking or roasting pan, arrange the ribs with the meat side up, pour in 1/4 cup of Saint Arnold Root Beer, cover pan tightly with foil and place in the oven.


Meanwhile, place all the glaze ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy.


After an hour and a half, take the ribs out of the oven and spread some of the glaze on each side of the racks. Place back in the oven, meat side up and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.


After 30 minutes, take out the ribs and spread more glaze over them and cook for 30 more minutes or until ribs are desired tenderness.


At this point, take the ribs out of the oven, spread more glaze on them and then cook each side under the broiler for four minutes.


Divide and serve!


ribapalooza-mac n cheese


after some grumbling and some smack talking from our non meat-eating friends, we added a mac ‘n’ cheese competition on the side. congratulations to chris for winning the cheese crown with his very austin-type entry, complete with avocado.




congrats to all the winners and many thanks to all who participated to make ribapalooza V a success.


Filed under main dish, meat

taco night!


fond food memories for me always include names like taco night, friday night-pizza night, and potato bar. to this day whenever i finish making loaded baked potatoes and salad for dinner i always tell houston that “the potato bar is now open”. that sentence must be deeply imbedded within my genetic code. it just spews forth without hesitation. anyway, i still get a kick out of ‘themed’ dinners like these–they make me feel child-like.

everyone once in awhile taco night means going out for tacos (there are so many places to get fabulous tacos in austin, don’t even get me started…), but mostly it means making the taco filling (we use ground turkey–it has a very meaty bite, but is much lighter than hamburger) and fryin’ up the shells and serving the whole mess with fixin’s. that way everyone gets to eat tacos exactly how they like ’em.


i like to get those ready first and keep them in the fridge nice ‘n’ cool ’till everything else is ready. you can go tradtional tex-mex with ice berg lettuce and yellow cheddar or put another spin on it like i have here. this is more california baja-style with shredded purple cabbage and queso fresco.


do you remember these? everyone used them. sometimes i still do if i’m feeling lazy. but really, you already have everything that’s included in this packet hanging out in your spice rack. really. go look right now.


the only thing you might have to get is some cocoa powder (unsweetened). but you should get some of that anyway and add it to your next pot of chili. it adds a nice depth of color and flavor that will really surprise you.


you should NOT under any circumstances, however use store-bought taco shells. go the extra mile and fry them yourself. this is the differnce between ok and delicious. it’s really easy. i found these red tortillas at our local mexican mega-mart. they’re made with red chili powder-purdy, huh?


bring a shallow frying pan 1-2 fingers full of vegetable or canola oil you’ll want something fairly inocuous here. can you tell i’ve had this pan since the time my mother fried taco shells in it? ah, my first (and still only) le creuset!


use a deep fry, a.k.a. candy, thermometer to get the oil to about 350 degrees F. this is the perfect temperature to get fried things crispy, not soggy.


add in your first tortilla, sliding it in carefully as not to splatter yourself. let it puff up a little. after about 5-10 seconds, while it’s still pliable, fold it over but not all the way. you want to be able to get fillings in there after you take it out. fry on 1 side for about 5 seconds, then flip over to the other side. each tortilla should only take 15-20 seconds in the oil.



drain on some paper towels. you can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven if you like.


fill ’em anyway you like and enjoy!


homemade taco night tacos

1 lb ground turkey

1 small onion, diced

2 fresh jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced or sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves, minced

a few tablespoons of canola oil (plus more for frying)

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (find this in the baking aisle, it was what you once used to make hot chocolate before they came out with those little packets)

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp mexican oregano (fresh or dried)

1 cup of your favorite salsa

1/4-1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime

fixin’s and hot sauce or salsa of your choice—get these chopped, shredded and ready to go. put them in the fridge so they’re nice and cold when you build your tacos. the contrast with the hot, spicy meat and the toppings is all part of the package.

in a large skillet over medium high heat, saute the meat up in a bit of canola oil until almost no pink, breaking it up as you go. take it to just underdone because you will adding it back in and it will cook for a little longer. this will prevent it from drying out. drain the grease from the meat through a colander. set aside. add a bit more oil to the same pan and saute the onion and peppers until soft. add the garlic and saute for about a minute, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t brown (this will make it bitter). add the chile powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano and stir often for 30 seconds to a minute. add the meat back to the pan as well as the salsa and water. i start with 1/4 cup or so of water, give the whole thing a good stir, then add more if it appears too dry for my taste. you want it a little soupy, but not drowning. turn the flame down to low and cover, simmering for 5-10 minutes. turn off the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice.

fry up the tortillas. heat a shallow pan with about an inch or so canola oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. fry tortillas one at a time, folding each over after about 5 seconds in the oil, then cooking for about 5-6 seconds for each side. drain on paper towels.

get your toppings and hot sauce out and open up the taco bar!

these go great with a cold beer like st. arnold fancy lawnmower.



Filed under main dish, meat, mexican

italian meatloaf (with super sophisticated balsamic glaze)


i wish i could tell you that i had very fond memories of coming home on a cool evening after playing outside for hours to the inviting aromas of freshly baked meatloaf.  but the truth is, i just can’t. we were latch-key kids (remember that term?), often getting home hours before mom and fending for ourselves half the time. but before you go all feeling sorry for me and everything, i have to tell you that in reality, we did quite well for ourselves. i might not have ever learned how to bake bread, make homemade butter (we actually did this!) or  make cookies if i didn’t have to. i am glad for the basic skills i acquired and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

mom did cook when she could, but meatloaf was just not in her repertoire. and that’s ok, because i believe there are much better versions of it out there these days than in the 1970’s. it is now understood, for instance, that manhandling the mixture will produce a heavier, denser loaf. and that shaping it into a loaf, rather than stuffing it into a loaf pan, produces a less greasy version than it’s outdated cousin. the use of bread quickly soaked in some milk does the trick of adding bulk and keeping it moist, instead of breadcrumbs from a can, but those’ll work, if that’s all you have.

i use 3 types of meat for my meatloaf. the ground sirloin and ground pork sausage are strictly for flavor, while the ground turkey helps keep it light:


add the veggies and other stuff and form into a long loaf and place on top of some parchment paper on a sheet pan or baking dish:


slather on the ketchup-balsamic glaze–as thick as you wanna. i actually wish that i had made twice as much to put on top. (sorry the photo’s not so great, but you get the idea):


make your mashed taters and veggie while it’s baking and you are livin’ the good life!


italian meatloaf with ketchup-balsamic glaze


1/2 pound ground turkey thighs

1/4 pound ground sirloin

1/4 pound ground pork sausage (we use one large link of homemade pepper pork sausage from our butcher-look for something interesting and flavorful!).

2-3 slices bread

1/3 cup milk

1 small onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh flat italian parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

2 eggs

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

a few splashes worcestershire sauce

1 teasoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


for the glaze:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup


preheat oven to 350 degrees.

place bread in a small bowl and cover with milk mixture. in a large bowl, gently mix together meats by hand until fairly homogenous. add bread, tearing apart into small pieces, and soaking milk to bowl. add onion through pepper and mix by hand just until mixed, try not to over mix as this will cause meatloaf to be too dense.

form into a long loaf shape and place on ungreased parchment paper on a sheet pan or baking dish.  bake for 50-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. move to a platter or cutting board (out of it’s own ‘juice’) before slicing.


Filed under main dish, meat



if you are not a meat eater, you may want to sit this one out. i am one of those that think not much can’t be improved without the addition of bacon. a few weeks back, a few of us went in on an entire pork belly from our local farmer’s market source, richardson farms. they are friendly folks and their meat is local and hormone and antibiotic-free!

fat side up (no skin, which i guess in retrospect would have made for some pretty good cracklin’s):


and the other side:


we portioned it out:


as far as our portion, we have decided to make bacon (insert joke here) and pancetta. i will update you over the next few weeks to let you know how it’s all progressing.

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Filed under bacon, meat