Friday, July 27, 2012

Pastrami & Scrambled Eggs - Recipe Video

Your arteries will groan but your tastebuds will sing for The 99 Cent Chef's latest breakfast recipe video, Pastrami and Eggs. And it's so rich you may need your cholesterol checked afterward!

But so tasty, with peppery and spiced smoked pastrami mixed into creamy scrambled eggs -- it's too much of a good thing. I first had Pastrami and Scrambled Eggs when I lived in the L.A neighborhood of Glendale at the local favorite old school Billy's Deli. Upon leaving the restaurant my only thought was "Where have you been my whole life, Pastrami & Scrambled Eggs?"

And for the price of this $10.95 breakfast, you could easily do it yourself much cheaper. If you caught my Homemade Pastrami recipe video from last week and want to try your hand at it, just click here to get started.(I always store a few corned beef packages in the freezer from St. Patrick's Day meat sales.)

While not as economical as making your own pastrami from a corned beef brisket (that I got for 98 cents per pound from Albertsons,) you could pick up some pastrami from your favorite Jewish deli or packaged pastrami from the grocery store. And eggs are always cheap.

If you are like me, it's hard to finish a typical overstuffed Pastrami Deli Sandwich. So instead of eating it a day later on soggy bread, you can just take out the meat and use it in my Pastrami & Scrambled Eggs recipe.

And there is nothing to it. Just heat up some cooked pastrami and stir in your favorite egg scramble. You don't even need to season it, as the pastrami is usually peppered and salt-cured enough.

This is a dish to make on a Saturday or Sunday morning, where you'll have the time to recover from my food coma-inducing Pastrami & Scrambled Eggs. 

Pastrami & Eggs  - Video
Play it here. The video runs for 34 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (one serving)
  • 1 to 3 eggs - scramble any way you like it.
  • Leftover pastrami - shredded and roughly chopped. A pile that equals the size of one egg is a good serving. Of course, you can use as little or a much as you desire.
  • Salt and pepper - optional, as pastrami is seasoned enough for me - but you can add some if you like.
  • Cooking spray or oil -- optional. I left it out as the pastrami leftovers came off the fatty ends, and were oily enough.

Heat up your omelet pan over low/medium heat. Flake or peel off pastrami pieces from leftovers. Roughly chop the pastrami. You can oil the pan if necessary. Saute pastrami for a minute -- just long enough to heat it through.

Crack in 1, 2, or 3 eggs and start scrambling it all together. You can whisk the eggs first, then add to heating pastrami. Just make your favorite egg scramble recipe.

Cook to desired doneness, it should only take 3 - 5 minutes. Serve with any favorite sides like toasted bagels, bread, or sliced tomato and cottage cheese -- although it's such a hearty breakfast you may only need coffee.

Make this recipe your own. Try melting cream cheese into the scramble (or your favorite cheese) when eggs are almost done cooking.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Homemade Deli Pastrami - VIDEO

Move over Canter's and Langer's Delicatessen (our local deli temples to cured and sliced meats) there's a new pastrami maker in town. This is a recipe you will want to bookmark.

I've noshed Pastrami at sandwich citadels all over town: from limp and waterlogged Johnnie's Pastrami Dips in Culver City to the longtime classic at Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue, and Langer's Delicatessen voted the top-rated Pastrami Sandwich in Los Angeles (so says New Yorker writer Nora Ephron.)

Pastrami is brined beef that is smoked and finally steamed before serving. For my easy version, I flip the recipe -- boiling the brined beef until tender then finishing with quick smoking.

I've never made a Homemade Deli Pastrami, but Googleing a few recipes, it seemed simple enough. The most complicated part is easy: coat a slab of beef brisket in a dry rub of sugar, salt, coriander, and plenty of black pepper; then you seal it in a Ziploc (or sealed non-metal container) for a week or two in the refrigerator. The hardest part is waiting to cook it -- especially when it will turn out so smokey, peppery and succulent.

My recipe includes 2 versions: there's one that uses an untreated beef brisket (where you cure the beef in the refrigerator for a week,) and a quicker version using an already cured corned beef brisket (where you skip the refrigerator curing and go right to the cooking stage.)

After curing, I boiled the beef for 3 hours, then applied a dry rub, and finally smoked it on my gas grill for an hour. The bright scarlet colored slices of pastrami looked as good as any deli-made. The cooked pastrami was so tender I had to carefully slice it. Pete had his pastrami with my Homemade Deli Coleslaw (recipe here) and Dijon mustard, between 2 slices of sourdough bread -- I had mine simply on sourdough with a smear of Dijon. A sandwich doesn't taste better than when stacked with smoked meat hot off the grill.

And I totally lucked out getting a whole corned brisket of beef for 98 cents per pound at my local Albersons grocery store. The best time to buy corned beef is during the St. Patrick's Day holiday. Sometimes it's less than a dollar, other years it is still way below $2 per pound. That's when it's on sale. I always get 2 or 3 packages to use during the spring and summer outdoor BBQ season

A cut of corned beef or brisket needs to be slow-cooked to tenderize it -- that's why it's so cheap; but when slow-cooked and smoked, it is one of the most tender and tasty of meats.

Please note that my recipe video is for untreated beef brisket, in another word, it's not corned. So, I take you through a few easy steps to make homemade corned beef. Hey, it's no extra charge!

But if you want a shortcut to my Homemade Pastrami recipe, just get an already corned beef (especially cheap during St. Patrick's Day holidays) and skip my week-long refrigerator curing stage, and go right to the boiling stage. You can go to the end of this post and under Hindsight -- you'll see the packaged Corned Beef recipe version.

The most expensive spice ingredient is ground coriander, but you could even get around that. When you get packaged corned beef it comes with a spice packet. Just sort out the round-tan coriander seeds and grind them up. (If you don't have a grinder then hammer a Ziploc bag with coriander seeds until they are the size of roughly ground pepper.)

You do need some patience though, but it's quite easy to do. And the results are worth the wait. And at the end of this post, I give you an alternate recipe for oven-baking the pastrami, for my visitors who don't have access to an outdoor grill -- it's still quite tasty.

*For a no-brine-and-refrigeration quickie version, go to the end of this post.

(For an interesting history of Pastrami you can listen to it online, just click here and play the audio. Pastrami was first brought to New York by European Rumania Jews in the early 20th Century.)

So for some of the most delicious cured beef you will ever have, watch The 99 Cent Chef's latest stop motion animated opus, Homemade Deli Pastrami video, and do try making one yourself -- you will have your family and friends eating out of your hands!

Homemade Deli Pastrami - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 4 minutes, 4 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

Check back for my next blog post on what to cook with Homemade Deli Pastrami leftovers.

1 large brisket (or corned beef for a shortcut version.) The size will vary - I've made pastrami with 4 to5 pound sizes, so far.

Ingredients for Curing Dry Rub
  • 1/4 cup of salt - kosher preferred. I've even used regular table salt.
  • 1 tablespoon curing salt - optional,  it's to keep the pink color of meat. Okay to leave out if color is not important, or if curing salt is not available.
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar - or regular sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander -
  • 1 tablespoon powdered garlic - optional

Directions for Curing Pastrami (skip this part if your get a Corned Beef Brisket)

 Rinse off the beef brisket. Mix salt, sugar, black pepper, and coriander together. (All the spices I used were already ground up.)

Rinse off the brisket, pat dry or let it drain for a few minutes. Coat all sides of brisket with curing spices.

Place coated brisket in a Ziploc bag or sealable container (not metal though, use ceramic, glass or plastic.) Store coated and sealed brisket in the back of the refrigerator for at least a week.

Dry Rub Ingredients for Smoking
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander - optional. Once corned, the beef brisket has enough coriander flavor.
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper - okay to use less. Sometimes black pepper can overpower everything, but I like my pastrami that way.
  • Wood chips for smoking the pastrami on a BBQ grill -- about 4 cups.

Directions for Cooking Pastrami
After the brisket is cured for a week, remove it from the refrigerator and rinse off the meat. And if you are using an already Corned Beef just remove it from the package.

Add brisket to a large pot with a cover and fill it with water to just above the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cover.

You want to low boil it for 30 minutes then totally replace the briny water with fresh - enough water to cover the meat by an inch. This first extra boiling step helps leech out most of the salt, otherwise, your finished pastrami is way too salty. (If you are using an already store-bought Corned Beef, there is no need to replace water, just keep boiling away.)

When you get the fresh water to boil, reduce the heat to low, put a lid on the pot and simmer for at least 3 hours. Check on it from time to time to make sure the water doesn't cook out (the water can cook out by a third, that's okay, as the meat will continue to steam.)

When finished boiling, remove the meat and set it to drain. Make a dry rub to coat the meat for smoking. Mix the pepper and coriander and coat all sides of the brisket.

Now time to smoke it. There are several ways, you mainly need an outdoor grill with a cover. I have a 2 burner gas grill. The object is to smoke the meat with indirect heat. That is, place the meat as far away from the flame as possible. The meat is already cooked, so you just want to smoke it at this stage. If you have a simple outdoor charcoal BBQ grill then build a fire way off to one side.

The flame is for a pan of wood chips. You could even loosely wrap a large handful of chips in aluminum foil and place them over hot coals or the gas flame. Leave some space between flame and wood container or the wood will catch fire too easily.

Depending on how hot the flame is, the wood chips should start smoking in 5 to 10 minutes. When the smoke starts, place the boiled brisket as far away from the flame as possible and cover the grill tightly. Check every 10 minutes or so and replace the wood chips with fresh ones as they cook away if needed.

I smoked my pastrami for an hour. Even just a half-hour of smoking will still give you a great flavor and a crunchy crusted pastrami.

During the hour of smoking, I had to replace the blackened wood chips a couple of times. The meat will still heat up and brown, even away from the heat. If you are using a coal-burning grill your smoking time may be shorter, as they often burn hotter than a more controllable gas grill (about half an hour of smoking?) The length of time it takes for the wood chips to stop smoking is all the time you really need.

After the pastrami is smoked, place it on a cutting board, slice across the grain, and make a big fat pastrami sandwich, your way!

Curing the pastrami in the refrigerator can last one to two weeks.

After curing the meat, make sure to boil the pastrami for half an hour, then totally replace the water with fresh, or it will be too salty.

The trickiest part is smoking the pastrami. I do it for a short amount of time so the meat doesn't dry out too much. Add the meat once the wood chips start smoking. Smoking makes the meat so flavorful, that it's worth it.

If you have a large enough grill with room to spare, then add a few links of sausage around the brisket -- no sense wasting any of that smoking space!

Pastrami in the Oven using a Corned Beef
If you don't have an outdoor grill you can still make a delicious pastrami. Follow my corning directions above for a fresh brisket. The easiest way is to skip the corning process and buy packaged corned beef.

Follow my boiling directions above, boiling the corned beef until tender.

When corned beef is tender, remove it and set it on a plate or rack. For a smoky flavor rub a tablespoon or two of liquid smoke all over the tenderized corned beef. Also sprinkle on black pepper liberally, about 2-3 tablespoons. You can add more or less to suit your taste.

In a preheated 350-degree oven add corned beef to a baking pan or dish. Bake for about an hour until corned beef has dry outer skin. Remove from oven when done.

When ready to serve, slice the pastrami "across the grain", so it doesn't break apart.

I like my pastrami sandwich with mustard. It's traditionally served on rye bread, but sourdough is a tasty and cheap substitution. My Deli Coleslaw recipe is a click away, here, for added veggie crunch on the side, or on the sandwich itself. I got about 4 large sandwiches from a 4-pound (uncooked weight) corned beef brisket -- you may get more depending on the sliced serving size.

If you are reheating cooked pastrami, it is best to steam it covered on a steamer rack for a few minutes until warm. You could also microwave it. I like to place a hunk (or a few slices) of pastrami on a plate and cover it with a small damp paper towel, then zap it until warmed through.

My favorite use for the trimmings of pastrami is to mix it into scrambled eggs. Check back for that recipe next week.

Ground coriander is expensive. Packages of corned beef come with a spice packet that has tan coriander seeds. (Most corning beef directions from stuffy chefs and by-the-book newspaper food sites rail against these packets and say to toss them out -- I use them and while not perfect, the spices are flavorful enough.) So, the cheapie way is to sort out the seeds and grind them up (hammer seeds in a plastic bag, or use a coffee grinder.) That's how cheap I am!

Quickie Pastrami Version using Corned Beef
Just take out the corned beef from the package and rinse it off. In a pot of boiling water add the corned beef along with the contents of the herb and seasoning package that comes with the corned beef.

Low boil the corned beef covered for about 3-4 hours until tender. Remove from water.

I like to coat the brisket with a couple of tablespoons of black pepper for the smoking stage, but you can add as much (or little) black pepper as you like.

My Homemade Pastrami flavor is not as intense as a Jewish deli's, but it's the next best thing and your dining guest will not know the difference -- as long as you don't spill the beans!

Easy Homemade Deli Pastrami - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salami or Chorizo with Melon

In the dog days of summer you do not want to heat up the kitchen -- so here is a cool and cheap recipe that is perfect as a backyard or patio party appetizer, Salami or Chorizo with Melon.

Normally made with expensive slices of Italian ham called prosciutto, I've found that any decent sliced cured meat on sale is an inexpensive way to go. My local 99c only Store always carries 3.5 ounce lean slices of salami (including a Tuscan Brand) and even Spanish style cured Chorizo. Both are as lean as prosciutto but with a more intense, but still pleasing  flavor. And they pair nicely with cool and sweet melon.

As for melon, they are on sale everywhere. I've never tried a Lemondrop Melon. The light green flesh is firm with a hint of tart lemon flavor. While not as sweet as a cantaloupe (which I find too sweet) -- it's really quite tasty. I would get it again.

As for the preparation there is nothing to it, just slice the melon, scoop out the seeds and slice to a desired thickness. You can make the melon pieces about the same length as the cured meat slices (or, if you need to stretch it out then half the salami and melon slices to make even more appetizers.) Finally just wrap a salami slice around the melon and fasten with a tooth pick. If you are serving this at a party you can prepare it a few hours ahead of time and refrigerate.

Cured salty meat is a perfect contrast to cool sweet melon. I especially liked the Hormel Spanish Chorizo which is slightly spicy. Really, any inexpensive salami would work well. One 3.5 ounce package is more than enough for one Lemondrop Melon. Even after eating a slice, one melon will give you at least a dozen pieces (depending how thin you slice it.)

Spanish Style Chorizo

So, for an interestingly cheap and cool swimming pool party appetizer, try out The 99 Cent Chef's Salami or Chorizo with Melon.

Ingredients (about 12 pieces)
  • 1 melon - any type on sale. Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Lemondrop - even Watermelon.
  • About 3.5 ounces of sliced salami or chorizo - you want thin sliced so it will easily wrap around melon. You can use any type of salami on sale. Of course you can use thin sliced prosciutto or a favorite cured meat, and even sliced ham.

Cut melon in half and spoon out the seeds. Slice the melon to desired thickness (about 1/2 inch thick.) Trim off the rind from the melon flesh. Cut melon slices to about the same length as the salami and/or chorizo slices.

Lemondrop Melon

Finally wrap melon pieces with a slice of salami and spear each one all the way through with a toothpick.
You can chow down right away, or refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

*For a smaller bite (to stretch appetizer and feed more guests,) cut salami or chorizo slices into half sizes, same with melon pieces.

Tuscan Brand Salami

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicken & Lemon Cream with Pasta

I'm lucky to have a lemon tree near our condo. For the last couple of months clusters of lemons have been ripening. It's first-come-first-serve with the neighbors. Since my latest recipe, Chicken & Lemon Cream with Pasta, uses only one lemon, there is plenty of this tart fruit for all the neighbors to pick.

Combining cream with lemon juice smooths out the sourness, giving the pasta sauce tartness and sweetness -- it's a great flavor combination. Some recipes stop there, and you can, but I thought to add a bit of poultry protein from a convenient tin.

I prefer cooking with fresh chicken, but sometimes the workday is too long and a 5 ounce can of cooked chicken makes dinner come together quickly and easily. I can always get it at my local 99c only Store, so it's cheap enough (although not as economical as fresh.) You could also use some of the roasted whole cooked chicken on sale under the heat lamps you bring home from your local grocery store. And every month my Latin market has bone-in chicken breast on sale for 99 cents per pound.

Click here on the website devoted to picking fruit in public spaces for free, it's called Fallen Fruit. So if you are fortunate enough to have a neighborhood lemon tree around, or your farmers market and ethnic grocery have some on sale, then be sure to try out The 99 Cent Chef's delicious Chicken & Lemon Cream with Pasta.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
  • 5 ounce can of chicken - *Okay to use fresh chicken, about half of a whole chicken breast.
  • Juice of 1 lemon - about 1/4 cup, fresh or bottled.
  • 1 cup cream - whipping cream or half-and-half. Okay to use whole milk.
  • Finish with parmesan cheese - Fresh shaved or dried.
  • Pepper to taste - canned chicken has plenty of salt.
  • 1/3 package of pasta - okay to add more for a big appetite.
  • Water for boiling pasta.

Start water for pasta and add pasta when at a low boil. Follow cooking directions -- I usually shave off a minute or two for al dente. Pasta should be ready about the same time as Chicken and Lemon Cream Sauce is done.

Meanwhile add cream to a saute pan over a medium heat. Slice lemon and slowly add juice while continuously stirring cream (so it doesn't curdle.) To keep out seeds just squeeze juice into a bowl and remove them -- this also makes adding juice a little at a time easier.

No need to boil, just continue to stir cream and lemon juice until it comes to a low simmer.

Open can of chicken and add it (including the liquid) to cream. Lightly stir until chicken is heated through, another couple of minutes.

*For uncooked fresh chicken, chop into bite sized pieces. Add to sauce and cook until done, about 5-10 minutes. Slice into the thickest chicken piece -- done when juices are clear (no pink or red coloring.)

Season with pepper to taste (no salt as canned has plenty - if fresh chicken is used then go ahead and salt to taste.)

For a thick sauce, reduce liquid by a third; or just go ahead and pour it over the pasta if you are impatient and like a thinner sauce.

If I am using dried parmesan I'll add it with the chicken. If the parmesan is fresh, then I will shave it over the finished and plated pasta.

Of course you can keep this dish vegetarian and use your favorite milk substitute.

And leave out the chicken and replace it with some favorite veggies like broccoli or asparagus. This Italian entree is all about a lemon infused sauce on pasta.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vegetable & Chicken Potsticker/Gyoza - Deal of the Day

Trader Joe's has some serious competition in the frozen party food department! I've been to many gatherings where the baked samosas, meatballs, or dips and chips come from there; and they will always have the most interesting and varied selections. But for my latest Deal of the Day I would like to introduce you to an appetizer that is cheaper and as tasty as any Trader Joe party platter treat. (Trader Joe's is a L.A. grocery market curating unique and healthy fare, often at a great price.)

I've seen these packages of Gyoza in the 99c only Store frozen deli case for some time now, but was wary to give them a try, until now. Boy, am I glad I finally broke down and shelled out 99.99 cents for this 7 ounce package of Vegetable & Chicken Potsticker/Gyoza by Tasty Select. This is a fantastic Deal of the Day -- no sense wasting time here with my rating. On a scale of 1-9, 9 being best, these Japanese style dumplings get a perfect 9 !

And they're wife tested and approved (she requested I pickup more packages on my next 99c only Store trek.)

The Gyoza are plump, tender, and very flavorful. Strands of sliced cabbage are threaded through ground chicken to add crunchy texture. I guess if I wanted to complain, that is the only vegetable I could discern. On the package the vegetable ingredient list includes onion, garlic and soy bean -- I could taste a little garlic. Since "vegetable" is listed first on the package, I was expecting more of a balance.

No big deal really, because the Gyozas are fat with ground chicken -- that's what I'm after. Japanese restaurant Gyoza is typically filled with ground pork, so this is a lighter take, and it's good. I got 10 plump Gyozas from the package. The label also points out that there are no preservatives or artificial coloring.

I do have a quibble with the cooking directions though. It calls for steaming them in water so they don't stick to the pot or pan. This defeats what makes Japanese potstickers different from Chinese dim sum dumplings: for Gyoza you want to lightly brown the tender wheat flour wrappers for the extra caramelized color and flavor. (And obviously, as the package photo shows, the Gyoza are mainly sauteed to get that color.)

Since it takes about 10 minutes to brown them on a couple of sides, that is plenty of time to heat them through, even when added to the pan fully frozen. The main thing is to add a tablespoon of oil (or cooking spray) to the pan so they do not stick. (There may be some wrapper tearing, but it's not too much -- the chicken and veggie stuffing is not mushy, so it won't spill out.) They just taste so much better sauteed than steamed -- just my preference. Of course, you can follow the package directions for steaming.

This is a great Deal of the Day, and when you serve them at you next cocktail party you can say you got them from Trader Joe's -- go ahead, I won't tell anyone.

And as a bonus, here is a Gyoza dipping sauce (it's a delish all-around sauce) recipe for you.

Gyoza Dipping Sauce (for about 10 Gyozas - double amounts if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce - I like low sodium (salt.)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar - usually rice vinegar, but any you have will do.
  • 1 teaspoon oil - usually sesame oil, but again any will do.
  • Pinch of favorite sweetener - optional
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes for heat - optional.

Just whisk it all together in a small bowl, just before serving Gyoza (oil and vinegar tends to separate when left alone for a while -- or keep dipping sauce in a container with a top, so you can shake it up.). Once Gyoza are bitten open they will soak up the dipping sauce much better.

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