April 25, 2009

A Blog Entry in Which I Describe Four, Count 'em, FOUR Dishes!

Last weekend was a busy one in my kitchen.

It was also a bit of torture.
And if you think I’m being melodramatic, then I’d like to see you make BBQ brisket in a slow cooker. You spend several hours smelling its BBQ yumminess knowing that you have hours and hours and hours to wait before you can have any, and then you just try to tell me that that isn’t some sort of horrid, self-inflicted torture.

In the end, it has so totally been worth it. The two pounds of brisket that simmered for a little more than eight hours in the BBQ fixin’s turned out just lovely.

Admittedly, this BBQ brisket won’t be winning me any awards, but it was a very good first attempt at making BBQ. Especially if you take into account that 1) I rarely make any dishes that contain a beef ingredient that isn’t ground and 2) that I have no real clue as to what goes into the making of BBQ.

That last comment might be a bit of an overstatement, if I’m being honest. The reality is that there are no BBQ from scratch recipes in my family. At least none that I’ve ever seen. So while I get the differences between Texas, Kansas and North Carolina BBQ, I’ve only ever really had BBQ from scratch while at a joint that specializes in BBQ.

Anyhow, the BBQ brisket was turned into pulled BBQ brisket sandwiches. Yummy. In fact, I had some leftovers last night, and it was just as good, if not better than when it came out of the slow cooker the first night.

At the end of it all, this BBQ attempt has inspired me to do a little more research into BBQ recipes so that I can better understand how it’s done and then I can see what I can do to make it my own.

To go along with the BBQ brisket, I made two side dishes. Cole slaw. Easy enough. I’ve made it plenty of times before and went with my good ol’ standby recipe from my trusty "Better Homes & Garden Cook Book." Unfortunately, since I now use that recipe as more a guiding post than a recipe, I got the proportions a little bit wrong. Oh well. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be doctored up later on.

The other side dish qualified for the new-to-me category. It was a Baked Mexican Black Bean
dish. This one was fun to make, even if I did misread the instructions and underestimate the cooking time by about an hour. It just meant that the BBQ brisket had to slow cook for a little bit longer.

This was a good dish made with a half pound of cooked bacon; onions and garlic sautéed in the bacon and bacon grease; add a whole jalapeño, a pound of black beans and six cups of liquid (chicken broth, water, a combo, or whathaveyou) dumped and in brought to a boil. Then, you throw all of that into the oven to bake for an hour covered up; and then add a can of diced tomatoes and bake it for another hour uncovered.

It was this last step that I missed when reading the directions. On the bright side, I realized this early enough to turn down the BBQ brisket so that it wouldn’t overcook.

Like all bean dishes of this sort, it was great straight out of the pot and has been great in subsequent leftover dishes.
Well… Actually, they’ve been really great straight out of the fridge on some tortilla chips, but I’m willing to bet that they’d be great in a burrito or quesadilla too.

And, lest you think I’ve been a horribly lazy person by not blogging about all of this earlier this week, let me tell you that I also made a third new-to-me dish last weekend.

It’s a Tuscan Bean Dip. Very simple stuff. Lots of garlic sautéed in a quarter cup of olive oil until golden. Toss in a couple of teaspoons of fresh rosemary and a pinch or so of hot pepper flakes after the oil was taken of the heat. Now, at this point, if you had a grownup’s food processor, you’d dump all a can of cannelloni beans and all but a teaspoon of the oil in that and process it till creamy enough to suit you taste.

In my case, I have a mini-food processor. So I mixed the beans and the oil together in a bowl and processed it in batches. That worked out just fine *and* I got to use my mini-food processor for the first time ever.

A fact that I hope doesn’t upset my Mom or Dranny too much since they gave it to me eons ago thinking I’d use it to chop veggies.

A note for my Mom and Dranny: I was just scared of it and of liquefying the veggies instead of just chopping them. Really. I swear.

Back to the point…

When finished, the Tuscan Bean Dip was perfect on some toasted slices of french bread along with some goat cheese on some other slices. It was just right for a light supper in my case or would be a good appetizer-y dish in other instances.

At this point, you may well be wondering just how many cookbooks I managed to use this weekend. I am sad to report (sort of) that I only used one new cookbook.

One?! Just one?!
Clearly, I am very not efficient at this whole cooking challenge thing.

The cookbook in questions was the surprisingly good “Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes.” I say surprisingly good because I half expected this to be full of cast-off recipes that the Food Network stars didn’t like. Instead, it’s actually full of a lot of interesting, basic recipes for all types of occasions.

So while my cookbook usage efficiency is a bit on the crap side of things, the recipes were not. And there you have it.

Now I must be off. I have a new menu to plan.

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