Awesome Skirt Steak Tacos

We spent the day with my mom and dad last Saturday. It was a day full of projects and shopping, and by day’s end it was time for some food. There is a general indecisiveness that creeps into situations like these. The conversation goes something the scene in Jungle Book: “What do you want? I dunno. What do you want?” and on and on. So, instead of going out (which seems to be the default on days like today) I went to the grocery store. It was time to make some home made Mexican food. Namely, steak tacos.

I have been working on perfecting steak for fajitas and tacos. I have used different cuts of meat trying to find the right one…asking someone would have been too hard…and have finally landed on skirt steak. I got the idea from Marixa. Marixa’s favorite restaurant steak meal (Carne Asada) is from a wonderful Mexican food place called Mama Rojas in Oklahoma City. After having that meal with her I have been on a skirt steak crusade.

The ingredients: One pound of skirt steak. Fajita seasoning (your choice). A hot grill.

After rubbing the steak down with the seasoning, I let the steaks cook until they were just pink in the center (3-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick the steak is). I took them off the grill and let them rest for a few. As I was cutting the steak into pieces for tacos, I took a bite. Falling down in the kitchen is not recommended, but the steak was that good.

I added sauted onions and peppers with the meal as well as some Spanish rice. It was so very good. The trick to all of it was the cut of meat. The dry rub mixed with those skirt steaks blew me away. It is nice to have pleasant surprises in the kitchen. Sure beats things blowing up! I am sure there are fancier ways of making this meal, but it didn’t need it. I am actually wondering if it is too soon to have them again!

Fried Chicken? Yes, please!

I love Paula Deen. I don’t get to watch her show that often, but I absolutely love it when I do. More than that, I have found several of her recipies on my Food Network: In the Kitchen app for my iPhone that are just awesome. The recipe of this evening? Southern Fried Chicken.

I had never made fried chicken before this evening. I don’t know if it was a mental block or me just being a chicken (pun intended), but I had a mental picture of breading falling off in the oil and mangled chicken pieces for dinner. It wasn’t a good image and since I like good food and not a mutilated greasy mess for dinner, I hadn’t just stepped out and tried it. (This is actually something I am working on many different fronts (trying new things), but I will save that for another time…)

I rocked this meal. I tried to think of a way to say this with humilty, but nothing came to mind. So, I will stick with my former statement. The chicken was crispy on the outside, had really good flavor, and was moist on the inside. That is my criteria for a good piece of fried chicken for sure. It was so good that our niece Rileigh (daughter of very close friends), who is 3 and a picky eater, ate all of her chicken in quick fashion. That was more than enough compliment for me!

One of the best parts of this recipe is the seasoning she puts on the chicken. It is the same seasoning that she uses in her fried okra recipe as well (1 cup of salt, 1/4 cup of pepper, and 1/4 cup of garlic powder all mixed together.  I really sound like I eat a lot of fried stuff don’t I?) It added just the right balance to the chicken. The heat of the red pepper sauce played well off of the flavor of the seasoning.

How about you? What other recipes have you perfected for fried chicken? I am very excited to get back to cooking. I have some ideas on how to play with the recipe a bit. We will see how it goes.

Learning to be consistent. In cooking and in life.

I am a Food Network junkie. It is usually what we have on in the evenings. (So much so that my son, who is two and a half, knows most all of the Food Network chef’s and asks for them by name…) One of my new favorite shows is Restaurant: Impossible. It is a lot like Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, but without all the swearing.

On one episode, Chef Robert Irvine had the kitchen staff, four people in total, cook him the same dish off the menu. Each of them was to cook it the way they would serve it, without communicating with one another. The result? Each person cooked it a different way. The chef’s point was this: if a person comes into the restaurant and orders a dish they want it cooked the same way every time. Because there was no communication in the kitchen (no head chef) there was no consistency to the meal. Success can not be built in that way. It made a lot of sense to me.

I posted a few weeks ago about a disaster I had in the kitchen. You can read about it here. I made a dish called Pasta Carbonara. It is a delicious fettuccine meal that has bacon pieces in a cream sauce. I made it again last night, and atoned for my sins a few weeks ago. While making the dish last night I realized something. I used the wrong recipe a few weeks ago. (I even linked the wrong recipe in my last post…I couldn’t believe it!) I used the wrong blasted recipe! How do I expect to get the same results if I don’t follow the same steps…or at least use the same ingredients?!! It was a lesson in consistency for sure.

This lead me down the path of thought even further. This is one of the lessons I have been learning over the past few months. Learning to be consistent. I am finding it is the path to greater achievement. This has been true in blogging, building relationships, exercising, working, and just about every other area I can think of.  You can’t go to the gym sporadically and expect to build a perfect physique. You can’t spend random time with your spouse and expect for your marriage to be perfect. You can’t expect the dish to come out perfect if you don’t follow the recipe the same way every time. To build (or cook) things of quality and lasting value, you have to be consistent.

It sure makes things taste better when you are.

Cupcakes! Cupcakes! Oh yeah, Cupcakes!

Now that I have your attention, I would like to have a very serious discussion about something near and dear to my heart: cupcakes. Ok, maybe near and dear to my tastebuds, but you get the picture. It almost doesn’t matter what flavor, as long as the cake is moist and the icing is sweet I want one. I have something to admit, I am not very good at making them…yet.

I have been working at perfecting my skill in this area. I can make a pretty decent cake right now. It is moist and spongy, but I am still very early in my learnings. I have been watching many of the shows on the Food Network (namely Cupcake Wars) and I am amazed at all of the different recipies that people come up with. It is truly an art form mixed with a bit of chemistry. Baking really is the crossroads of science and art. You must be precise with your ingredients and the conditions, or your cakes will not turn out the same way every time.

This is where I still have much study to do. I have experimented with using different wet ingredients in the cakes. One batch I used Grand Marnier, another some spiced rum, and another some blackberry wine. It hasn’t really done what I have wanted it to do. It gives the cakes a moist texture, but it doesn’t enhance the flavor as much as I have been hoping.

So, the journey continues. Here are a couple of things I have learned as I have been making cakes the last couple of weeks:

1. Using the food processor is a very good way to mix the batter.

2. Old fashion paper cups are still a good way to go. I tried some silicon cups. Eh…no thanks. I am going to stick with the paper.

3. I am going to have to start taking cakes to work if I intend to keep practicing. Holy cow…I could gain 20 pounds in a hurry with this experiment! But, I don’t like not being good at something I want to do. It irks me. So, I will have to practice, practice, practice.

4. Strawberry sauces can taste just as good over a cupcake as icing. Yes it is true!

Do you have a good recipe that you could share? Here is the one I have been using lately as my basic recipe (thank you Food Network!). What tips and tricks have you learned?

A Friday Evening Feast

I do my best to not be part of the ‘Oh, lord it’s Monday…Thank God, it’s Friday’ crowd. I think that attitude makes us miss a lot of important stuff that goes on during the week. At the very least, we don’t get the kind of enjoyment out of life that we can. With that being said, I was very excited that it was Friday a couple of days ago. Why? It was time for seeing good friends and having some home made Mexican food.

I got a little more ambitious than normal and made the following: Chicken and Beef Fajitas, Fried Jalapeños, Fresh Squeezed Limeade, and Tex-Mex Sundaes. I had a blast. Since I covered the jalepenos in a different post, I am going to focus on the limeade and the Tex-Mex Sundaes. (We will save the fajitas for another time!) All in all I was in the kitchen for about three hours.

I found the limeade recipe through Chef Rick Bayless. It is the perfect blend of sweet and tart and absolutely refreshing. It is also very easy to make. It takes the juice of 6-8 limes, a cup and a half of sugar, and a quart of sparkling water. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed. One word of caution though, the sugar will react with the sparkling water and create quite a mess if you aren’t careful!

The Tex-Mex Sundae is courtesy of Paula Deen. It is all kinds of awesome. It is a wonderful blend of textures. It starts with a base of a fried tortilla that is then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. On top of that put 2-3 scoops of homemade cinnamon ice cream. The recipe calls for a topping of chocolate syrup and a cherry. I have taken a little creative license and have topped it in a few different ways. I like the chocolate syrup topped with whipped cream. Marixa doesn’t want chocolate syrup at all, but prefers a strawberry sauce over the top with whipped cream on top of that.

The strawberry sauce can be made by thawing a package of frozen strawberries, adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and half a cup to a cup of powdered sugar. You don’t want to make the sauce too sweet or it will mask the flavor of the sundae.

Overall, I would call Friday night a success. Everyone enjoyed the food and that is what we cook for isn’t it? I continue to be amazed at how food can bring people together. It can be a very intimate time that is shared among friends. I am very thankful for this. It is one of the reasons I enjoy cooking as much as I do.