Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)


Thai beef with Siam queen basil and scallion cooked in a cast-iron wok over hot coals on a charcoal grill. Intense heat is need to achieve a great sear on the beef, while keeping the vegetables crisp.

This is a legendary Thai dish which quickly became one of my favorites after having it served at two local Asian restaurants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; May’s Egg Rolls and Plia’s Kitchen. At May’s they use a super-secret killer spice which I never could figure out… it’s Vietnamese, brutally hot and the owner will not share the recipe with me. 🙂 I grow fresh Thai queen basil and peppers every summer in my garden and am always bummed at the end of harvest season when they aren’t available.  The steak is marinated with Laoganma black bean chili paste, which is a staple in my kitchen. It adds such a great, subtle flavor to my stir fry recipes.

Control the heat with the ground Thai chili powder – you can also add hot Thai green chilies if preferred. A note on the garlic – you’ll see that I add it directly to the beef marinade instead of frying it separately in the wok. I’ve learned it doesn’t scorch this way, and it adds a complex depth of flavor to the beef. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

4 tbs. canola or peanut oil, divided
12 oz. flank steak, thin-sliced at a bias against the grain
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh Thai queen or holy basil leaves, stems removed
3 scallion, roots trimmed and sliced at a bias in 1″ pieces (use both white and green parts)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the Beef Marinade~
6 cloves peeled garlic, minced
1 tbs. Mongolian chili oil
2 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili paste

Combine For the Sauce~
1 tbs. Thai fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground hot red Thai chili powder, to taste

1/4 cup reserved beef stock (use up to 1/4 cup based on preference)

Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions  (1.5 cups rice and 3 cups water with 2 tbs. salted butter.)
Bring water and butter to boil and simmer rice over very low heat, tightly covered for 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Cooking Tools: heavy cast-iron or steel wok, heat-resistant silicone oven mitts, Asian wok shovel and spider strainer, serving bowl for transferring the beef.

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the steak marinade:  Slice the flank steak thinly at a bias against the grain. Place in a ziplock storage bag with the minced garlic, Laoganma black bean chili paste and the Mongolian chili oil. Squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the spices. Chill in your fridge for at least one hour.

Prep all of your other ingredients so you have them ready and close at hand. Thai cooking is very fast, with just a few minutes of actual time in the wok over a hot outdoor grill.

When ready, prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal in a mound for a medium hot fire. Light and let it come up to temperature for 15-20 minutes. While the grill is heating up, remove the steak from the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Dust with the cornstarch and turn with a spatula so the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Place the wok directly over the center of the hot coals on a grilling grate. Allow it to come up to temperature and smoke, about three minutes. The wok will be ready when a drop of cold water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tbs. canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef, spread and distribute evenly in the wok. Allow to sear for 2 minutes before turning. Continue to sear for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a serving bowl and set aside.

Next, add the remaining 2 tbs. of canola oil, the bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry until just crisp-tender. Add the beef back to the wok and then add the sauce ingredients except for the beef stock. Stir constantly until reduced by half. Quickly add the basil leaves and scallion. Stir until just wilted, about a minute, and add a bit of the beef stock until the desired consistency is achieved for the sauce. Quickly stir to incorporate.

Carefully remove the wok from the grill, using silicone mitts, and set on a heavy, heat-resistant trivet. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

A note on the flank steak: I’ve used this special cut of steak for all of my stir-fry recipes with great results. If you cut it at a bias against the grain of the meat, it will never dry out and always be fall-apart tender. I buy a full cut that is vacuum-packed and divide it in half the long way. I’ll then vacuum-seal the remaining half and freeze it for later use. If you prep the steak when partially frozen, it cuts much more evenly. Just ensure you let it warm to room temperature before wok-searing.

Serves 2-4

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes

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Upside-Down Meatloaf


Lodge Upside-Down Meatloaf | Culinary Compost RecipesThis recipe is from the Taste section of the Minneapolis Star newspaper, published in 1974. It is also featured in the book Lodge Cast-Iron Nation. It has always been a favorite of Eleanor Lodge Kellermann’s family, served with cornbread. Use a Lodge 9”x5” cast-iron loaf pan for best results.

People that know me know I’m a sucker for a good meatloaf recipe — and this is an excellent recipe. Enjoy—

INGREDIENTS:

Vegetable oil or Crisco shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
12 cup ketchup
1.5 pounds ground chuck
3/4 cup crushed saltine crackers (oyster or square)
1 small onion, grated
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Ground horseradish served on the side

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease a Lodge cast-iron loaf pan with Crisco or vegetable oil.

Press the brown sugar evenly in the bottom of the pan. Then add the ketchup. Ensure it is spread evenly. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and form into a loaf. Press firmly into the pan. Bake uncovered for 60-70 minutes.

When done, the internal temperature should read 160° F. Use an instant-read digital thermometer for accuracy. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes. Carefully turn the pan upside down on a serving platter.

Slice and serve with horseradish.  Serves 4-6

Mike’s Notes:
I used a medium-sized onion and there was a lot of liquid rendered out after it rested for ten minutes. I’m going to back off to 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk to compensate.  Also, I don’t think there’s nearly enough ground pepper; I would double it, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Finally, if you’re expecting a perfect presentation when turning the meatloaf out on a serving plate — don’t get your hopes up. This recipe is about down-home convenience, not aesthetics.

Hearty Country Wheat Bread


Hearty Country Wheat Bread | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe based on handwritten notes from my grandmother, who ran a lakefront resort in Northern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, her recipe didn’t specify actual ingredient measurements — in retrospect, she may have felt she didn’t need documentation due to the sheer volume of made-from-scratch bread she produced each week in that old maple-fired wood stove.

I have tried to recreate her recipe by working with measurements from King Arthur Flour’s website, but their recipes use four cups of flour which produce a much larger loaf (hey, they are in the business of selling flour.) As a result, my initial tests produced a very dense loaf that invariably fell flat.

After several failed attempts, I now have a very close rendition to her amazing bread. This loaf is excellent when served as toast, and has a wonderfully-textured crumb. Enjoy – this bread brings back so many great memories of my Northwoods childhood.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sifted King Arthur® white bread flour
1 cup sifted Hodgson Mill® whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup lukewarm filtered water
2 tsp. quick-rise baker’s yeast
2 tbs. honey
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. room-temperature salted butter
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules

DIRECTIONS:

Carefully sift and measure the flour, then level. Do not pack by tapping the measuring cup, or your loaf will be too dense. Combine with the other dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Turn on the processor and slowly add the warm water. When the ingredients start to pull away from the bowl surface, stop. Remove the dough and place on a very lightly-floured work surface and continue to knead for one minute. The dough should be very elastic and only slightly tacky. Form it into a round ball.

Place the dough ball in a greased 8-cup mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set your timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
When the dough has doubled, (it may take up to 2 hours) remove and very gently punch down. Form into a log that will fit a standard greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. (I highly recommend Lodge cast-iron for its even heat distribution; you’ll get a much better crust.) Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set aside again for 2 hours.

While the dough is in the second rise, preheat your oven to 350-degrees F.
After the second rise, the dough should expand to about 1 inch above the top of the loaf pan and spring back when touched (actual time may vary.)

Place the loaf pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, uncovered. An accurate instant-read thermometer should read 195-200-degrees F. in the center, when done. The crust should be an even golden-brown.

Remove promptly from the pan and allow the loaf to cool completely on a wire baker’s rack. Wrap in a plastic bag, or cut and serve for immediate use.

Makes 1 standard loaf.
For white bread: Substitute 1 cup white flour for the wheat flour.

Note:
You can place the dough in a non-heated oven with the oven light turned on. This will create a warm environment that aids in a more consistent rise.
This is very helpful in colder months when ambient room temperatures may affect the result.

Culinary Compost
 never endorses products for profit, and has received no monetary compensation for the content of this post.

Hearty Country Wheat Bread | Culinary Compost Recipes

Rustic Country Artisan Bread


Rustic Made-From-Scratch Country Artisan Bread | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe adapted from the Tartine Bread Cookbook. Unlike the no-knead recipe featured here, you must knead and then proof the dough. The result is a bread with more rise and a fantastic soft and airy crumb texture. Try both recipes and see which one works best for you.

A five-quart cast-iron dutch oven with a tight-fitting cover is ideal for this recipe. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1.5 cups warm water (110-115°F)
1 tbs. white granulated sugar
1.5 tsp. active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour, leveled
1 cup, whole wheat pastry flour, leveled
1.5 tsp. table salt
bread flour, for dusting the dough work surface
Cornmeal for dusting the pot
XV olive oil

Directions:

Measure the warm water and place in a quart Pyrex dish. Add the sugar and use a wooden spoon to stir and dissolve. Add the active dry yeast and stir gently. Let stand ten minutes until the surface starts to bubble.

While you are waiting, measure the flour and salt and add to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spatula, mix the dry ingredients. Slowly add the water, sugar and yeast mixture. Fold in with the spoon until the mixture starts to pull away from the bowl. Using your hands, carefully pull out the dough and continue kneading by hand for eight to ten minutes on a floured work surface. Add a bit more flour or water if necessary. The consistency of the dough should be tacky.

Gently form the dough into a ball and place in a separate bowl greased with a bit of olive oil, that is about three times the size of the dough ball. Cover with a dampened, warm towel. Place the dish in your oven and turn on the oven light. Allow to proof (rise) for two hours. The warm environment in your unheated oven with just the oven light on will allow the dough to rise perfectly.

After two hours, remove the dough ball and place back on your floured counter. Punch down the dough and gently fold it back in, forming a ball. Place back in the covered bowl and let stand for ten minutes so the gas caused by the yeast has a chance to reincorporate. After ten minutes place the ball on the floured counter and gently pull and fold over the dough in thirds. Pinch the seams together and place back in the bowl and let sit to rise again for 30-45 minutes. This stage is called the second proof.

During the last twenty minutes, remove the bowl from the oven and place on the cooktop. Preheat your oven to 450° F. Place an ungreased five-quart cast-iron dutch oven inside with the cover on. Preheat the pot.

After the second proof is done, carefully remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle the dough ball lightly with more flour and add to the preheated pot. Working quickly, carefully score two shallow slits in the top of the dough with a serrated paring knife. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, uncover the pot. Reduce the heat to 375° F. Bake uncovered for an additional 9-10 minutes, until the internal temperature of the bread reads 200-204° F. Monitor closely during this time so it doesn’t overcook.

Carefully remove the bread and allow to cool for one hour on a wire baking rack. Using a serrated bread knife, cut and serve.

Makes one loaf. Serves 6-8

Note: An accurate instant-read digital probe thermometer is a must for this recipe.

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Pizza


Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Burnt, but not forgotten….

This is a recipe loosely based on one presented by Geoffrey Zakarian of Food Network. His recipe was great, but I wanted more toppings to properly fill a 12″ cast-iron skillet. My version is in between a thin-crust and deep dish pizza with a wonderful smoked Gouda-stuffed crust.

On my first attempt, the kitchen smoke alarm went off six times, the cat hid in the basement, and the crust was slightly burnt. Lesson learned. Every oven cooks differently — and knowing how blistering hot cast-iron gets, my next attempt will be at 475°F for 20 minutes, with no preheat on the crust. I’ll update ya’ll on my progress. Overall, it had great flavor, and an intense, rich, smokey undertone from the gouda cheese. I stressed over making pizza dough from scratch for the first time, but it was easy.

This is a winning recipe. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Dough:
2 cups bread flour
1.5 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. breadmaker yeast
3/4 cup warm water + 2 tbs. (115°F)
1 tsp. honey
1 tbs. XV olive oil

For the Pizza Sauce:
2 tbs. XV olive oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne chili pepper flakes, to taste
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 can 8 oz. Contadina® tomato sauce
4-5 chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt, and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Crust:
4 tbs. XV olive oil
White flour, for flouring the dough surface
4 oz. premium smoked Gouda cheese, cut into 2″ x 1/2″ slices
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Kosher salt

Pizza Toppings:
1/4 cup crumbled, cooked bacon
1 Johnsonville® mild Italian sausage, casing removed, fried until no longer pink, crumbled and drained of fat
Premium Volpi® pepperoni sausage slices – 12-14, enough to cover the pizza
2-4 oz. premium smoked Gouda cheese, 1/4″ cubed, as preferred
1/4 cup black olives, thinly sliced and blotted dry
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 sliced red bell pepper
6-10 fresh basil leaves rough-chopped
3 large Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauteed in 2 tbs. XV olive oil for five minutes
4 oz. shredded hard Parmesan cheese

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the pizza dough by adding 2 cups bread flour, kosher salt, yeast, honey and olive oil to a food processor with a dough blade.
Turn on the processor and gradually add the warm water until the dough pulls away from the sides of the work bowl. In my Breville Sous Chef processor, it only takes one minute.

Remove the dough and place on a sheet of nonstick baker’s parchment paper that has been sprinkled lightly with flour. Knead gently for one minute. Place in a greased mixing bowl covered with a damp, warm towel, and let stand for one hour. I prefer to let the dough rise in my oven with the oven light on. This is a great technique when temperatures are cooler in the winter.

Preparing the Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and then add the chili flakes and minced garlic. Saute for five minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t scorch. Add the tomato puree and basil. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Shut off the heat.

Preparing the Pizza Crust: Preheat oven to 475 or 500°F. Grease a heavy, 12″ cast-iron pan with 2 tbs. XV olive oil. Dust the bottom of the pan with a bit of cornmeal to prevent the crust from sticking.

When the pizza dough has doubled in size, punch down, then roll out on parchment paper or a floured counter top into a 14″ circle (see note below.) Carefully place in the cast-iron pan. Press the dough into the corners of the pan to prevent air pockets from forming and leave about one inch overhang for the next step. Add sliced Gouda cheese around the perimeter of the dough, and then fold and crimp the dough over the cheese, forming a rolled crust. Brush the rim of the crust with the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil. Sprinkle the rim very lightly with kosher salt.

Add the prepared pizza sauce to the center of the dough and spread out evenly with a large spoon. DO NOT over sauce, or the crust will be soggy. Layer the toppings, finishing off with the remaining Gouda and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake as instructed, 475-500°F, for 20 minutes, watching the crust carefully. Remove from heat, let stand for fifteen minutes in the pan to set*, and then cut and serve.

Serves 2-4.

 

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

 

3/12/16  UPDATE: Made a second pie and cooked it at 475°F for 20 minutes. Crust came out PERFECT. Results shown below. Experiment and have fun!

Gouda Stuffed Crust Cast-Iron Baked Pizza | Culinary Compost

 

NOTE: When rolling the pizza dough, you need to give it time for the glutens to relax and reduce their elasticity. If you try immediately rolling the dough to the full diameter needed, you will tear it and not get a circular shape. After punching down the dough, roll it out into an eight to ten-inch circle. Flip over and allow to rest on the work surface for five minutes. Repeat this step after rolling it larger. Repeat again to get the final size with a bit of excess for the rolled crust. This process takes a bit more time, but your crust will be very even and easier to work with.

*Finally, the more vegetables you add, the more rendered liquid you will have in the final product. If your pizza comes out soggy, even after standing for 15 minutes, reduce the amount of peppers, onions and mushrooms. They all have very high water content.

Shakshouka – Middle-Eastern Egg Bake


Shakshouka Middle-Eastern Egg Bake

I stumbled on this recipe after a friend posted it on Facebook. I have adapted it from the original, featured on The New York Times.  It is a recipe that originated in Tunisia, North Africa, and remains very popular in Israel, due to cultural ties from the early 1950s.  The incredible, mind-numbing heat from the Berbere spice takes center stage, so use it sparingly.  I created this as a single-serving dish, as the rest of my family cannot tolerate the spice. Prepare it in a 5″ well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.

Serve on a cold winter morning — it is incredibly satisfying.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

2 tbs. XV olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium tomato, cored and finely diced
1/4 cup Feta cheese
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. Berbere seasoning, to taste (use with reservation)
1 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and then ground in a mortar
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

 

Directions:

Prepare all of the ingredients and have them ready.  Preheat your oven to 375°.  Using a 5″ cast-iron skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onion and pepper over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Lower the heat and add the minced garlic, taking care not to scorch it. Continue to saute for two minutes.

Add the diced tomato, smoked paprika, berbere, ground cumin, salt and pepper, and continue to saute for about 3 minutes until reduced.

Add the crumbled Feta cheese, then carefully crack two eggs and place on top. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the eggs have set. Carefully remove and place on a trivet. Allow to cool for two minutes, add the chopped cilantro and serve in the skillet.

 

 

Smoked Spanish paprika (L), Ethiopian Berbere (R) and whole cumin seed

Smoked Spanish paprika (L), Ethiopian Berbere (R) and whole cumin seed

shakshouka recipe | Culinary Compost

Saute the onion and pepper in olive oil. Then add the minced garlic.

Mike’s Wisconsin Batter-Fried Bluegills


This recipe takes me back thirty-five years to my childhood in northern Wisconsin. My grandmother would fry up 60 fresh-caught bluegill fillets in a large black cast-iron skillet for the family. There is no better home-cooked meal – period. I hope you enjoy this special recipe as much as I do.

Ingredients:

30 bluegill fillets, cleaned and rinsed in cold water
1 quart vegetable oil
8 oz. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat a 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven over medium-high with the vegetable oil. The oil will be ready for deep-frying when a drop of water sizzles on contact.

Place the buttermilk and egg in a wide, shallow baking dish. Whisk thoroughly. Place the bluegill fillets in the dish and coat evenly.

Prepare a two-quart plastic food storage bag with the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Shake well.

Shake off the fillets and add to the bag, about eight at a time. Coat evenly and transfer to the dutch oven; frying in batches. Deep fry until just lightly golden-brown. Ensure that the bluegill fillets are not overcooked. Using a Chinese spider strainer, remove and transfer to a heated platter with paper towel to absorb the excess frying oil.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Serves 4-6.