Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Can't Go Wrong with Meat on a Stick

This is a long-held personal belief.  You simply cannot go wrong with meat on a stick.  Think about it.  Have you ever had any sort of meat on a stick that was not good?  Be honest.

I don't care if it's a corn dog or a halibut skewer, meat on a stick is always delicious.

And the best part is that you can skewer just about anything.  I recently bought a small package of petite sirloin steaks that had two small steaks in it.  My plan was to have them for dinner on one of the two nights that my wife works and it's just my daughter and me for dinner.  As it turned out, she had softball games both nights and we didn't get home until late.  The next night all three of us were home and these steaks needed to be cooked...

I cut them into a dozen two-bite-sized pieces, tossed them into a bowl with some kebab-sized chunks of bell pepper, white onion and button mushrooms.  I poured some balsamic vinegar and olive oil over them, seasoned with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper, and gave a stir.  I let that sit for about 30 minutes before I started my charcoal.  Total marinade time was probably close to an hour before I skewered it all and put them on the grill.

A week earlier, we made halibut kebabs from some recipe my wife found online.  Cut the fish, skewer with veggies, then brush with a mixture of apricot jam, water, cider vinegar, oil, Serrano pepper, salt & pepper.  I don't recall the exact proportions but I think it was more or less equal portions of all  the wet ingredients.  Simply brush the skewers before placing them on the grill and baste once or twice during cooking.  I guess you could always serve some of the sauce on the side if you wanted.

I've made Indian-style lamb kebabs that were fantastic.  Marinaded in some yogurt and spices overnight in the fridge, the lamb gets very tender.  Again we just used some recipe we found online.  They were delicious!  At that same time, we also made chicken tikka masala, which calls for the chicken to be marinaded, skewered and grilled before being placed in a pan and having a sauce built around it.  It's meat on a stick that doesn't even look like meat on a stick!

It's summertime, so you should be cooking on the grill a lot.  Kebabs are very grill-friendly, and you can make them out of practically anything.  Next time you're drawing a blank when that proverbial "What's for dinner?" comes up, you can't go wrong with meat on a stick.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

French Toast - Breakfast of the Gods

I do still plan to re-shoot my pizza entry, but softball season is in full swing and it might be a few weeks before that happens.  In the meantime, let's talk about breakfast...

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals.  I love cold cereals and milk, I love English muffins with butter & peanut butter.  I like hot cereals like oatmeal and farina (Cream of Wheat).  I really love eggs.  But for me, the crème de la crème of breakfast foods is French toast.

You might not be surprised to learn that the best French toast is made with day old French bread.  I'm sure that, like me, you've all grown up with French toast made with whatever sliced bread was in the house.  That sliced bread variety is also delicious--but if you have some French or Italian bread left over from a pasta dinner earlier in the week, slice that stuff up and make your French toast with it.  If you've never had anything but the sliced bread variety, you are in for a real treat.

One common mistake people make with French toast is not seasoning the eggs sufficiently.  I've seen French toast made with eggs and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I guess if that's all you've got that it's still better than pancakes, but for proper French toast you need more than just some cinnamon.

French Toast Ingredients:
Vanilla extract
Cinnamon - fresh ground if you have it
Nutmeg - fresh ground if you have it
Optional - cream, milk or half-and-half


It's hard to give precise measurements.  For two people, I'd usually go with three eggs, a generous teaspoon of vanilla, more nutmeg than cinnamon, and a teaspoon or two of sugar.  I also add about a yolks' worth of milk, cream or half-and-half to my egg mixture.  The cinnamon and nutmeg really are "to taste".  Personally, I like a lot of nutmeg.  You might like a lot of cinnamon or maybe just a hint of both.  Experiment!

It's easy to make a larger batch, too.  Just increase everything as you increase the eggs.  A good rule of thumb would be to use one egg per person plus one egg.  Four people?  Five eggs.  This would be for two or three slices of bread per person.

Mix everything together, whipping the eggs, cream and spices in a large bowl until you have a smooth, consistent batter.

Put a skillet on medium heat.  A non-stick skillet with a little bit of butter or oil is best.  Dip the bread into the egg batter, allow to soak for a few seconds.  When you pull the bread out of the batter, allow the excess to drip off before you put it into the pan.  Cook until done on one side, flip and cook the other side.  This won't take long.  A minute or two at the most.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup or your favorite jelly.

A word on maple syrup: use the real thing if at all possible.  It's delicious, it's natural and it's usually minimally processed.  If you're used to artificially flavored corn syrup, the flavor might seem mild at first but after a bottle or two you'll never go back to the fake stuff.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can use French toast as the basis for a Monte Cristo sandwich, with ham, turkey and some good Swiss cheese (typically Emmentaler or Gruyere).  Delicious!