Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alton Brown's Individual Upside Down Peach Cakes


My daughter loves the show Good Eats, because the show's theatricality and its knowledgeable host Alton Brown makes food science fun.

One night Alton was doing a show on peaches and made individual upside down peach cakes. The little delights were calling out to me, particularly since I had some giant, luscious peaches from Trader Joe's in my fridge.

So the next night I came home and whipped these up.

They were a little sweet for me, but a little lemon juice would make them just right. Perhaps if I had light brown sugar as the recipe called for, that might have made a difference as well.

Alton says the cakes make the best breakfasts ever. Guess what we're eating tomorrow?

Notes:

I made 6 portions in 4 oz. ramekins instead of the 6 in the recipe to save on calories. In Weight Watchers points, this is 4 points per serving without the ice cream.

I didn't use crystallized ginger, but Penzey's apple pie spice.

This also can be made with pineapples, pears, or other fruits.


The recipe is on the Food Network.

Alton Brown's Individual Upside Down Peach Cakes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 medium peaches, peeled
1-ounce finely chopped crystallized ginger, approximately 3 tablespoons
2.5 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving, optional
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide 2 tablespoons of the butter between 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside. Evenly divide the brown sugar between the ramekins; sprinkling it into the bottoms of the dishes. Cut each peach into 12 to 14 pieces. Lay the peaches on top of the sugar; evenly dividing them between the dishes and sprinkle with the ginger. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combine. Pour the batter over the peaches; dividing the mixture evenly between the dishes. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from the oven to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each dish and turn upside down onto a serving plate. Repeat with each cake. Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Leftover Maven: Chicken, Sausage and Kale Soup


Since I'm eating healthy these days, what better thing to have for dinner than soup?

It's great to have a leftover rotisserie chicken carcass with meat. You can throw it in some chicken broth, onion, carrots, and celery and make an enriched stock in 20 minutes. With it, you can make any kind of soup.

With some kale, one of my friend Kate's potatoes from her garden, and some Trader Joe's spicy italian sausage, I had the makings of a delicious and nutritious peasant soup.


Chicken, Sausage, and Kale Soup

Broth:
Oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 a large carrot
1 celery stick
1 leftover rotisserie chicken carcass and any meat, skin removed
2 cans College Broth Inn chicken broth

Soup:
2 Italian chicken sausage, cut in slices
1 potato, cubed
2 carrots, cubed
2 celery, roughly chopped
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
Italian seasoning

Take carcass and pull off any big pieces of meat and set them aside. If there are little pieces of meat on the carcass, that's okay. Break the carcass into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.

Heat 2 tsp. of oil in a pan and brown chicken sausage. Remove sausage and set aside.

Add onion and sweat over medium-low heat until translucent, adding a little more oil if needed.

Add chicken broth, chicken carcass, carrot and celery, adding a little more water if necessary to cover the chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While the chicken broth is simmering, cut the chicken you set aside into bite-size pieces.

When the chicken broth is done, strain the chicken bones and veggies, from the broth. Defat the broth if you want. Add the broth back to the pot and bring it to a simmer.

Taste stock and season with salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and chicken sausage. Cook until tender and then add cut up chicken and kale. When kale wilts, the soup is done.

Enjoy.

Weight Watchers Points = 3 per serving if 6 servings.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Agave Banana Bread


I am the ultimate bouncer. I gain weight. I lose weight. And then I gain it again.

I eat healthy. I eat with abandon. And so on.

Well, I'm on a healthy kick again.

Last year, I went on an elimination diet to rule out food allergies and sensitivities to find out whether something I was eating was contributing to the chronic pain I was experiencing.

It felt like I couldn't eat anything ... eggs, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, corn and corn products, gluten, nuts, processed sugar, turkey, shellfish, even white rice and soy products. How is an Asian supposed to not eat white rice and soy sauce, I thought? Even worse, I couldn't have my morning cup of coffee. Now that was a buzz kill.

But I survived the 8-week experiment, and my doctor was impressed that I was religious in following his prescriptions. I also lost 18 pounds (which I've gained back and then some blogging). And I found out that I should avoid corn and almonds, but that other things were pretty much okay.

In the process, I discovered agave nectar as a low-glycemic sweetener, good for someone like me who is predisposed to diabetes.

So when I was looking at some ripe bananas on my counter, my healthy side reached for the agave nectar, whole wheat flour, and some flax meal.

I adjusted another banana bread recipe I had, and it came out quite nice. Moist and not too sweet. I noticed the bread browned a lot faster than normal, so I would recommend checking it after the 45 minute mark. Which as you can see from the picture I didn't do (I checked it at 55 minutes in).

The other thing I noticed about using the agave was that the interior in the bread was not speckled with those dark brown banana threads. So it's quite light inside.

Light Banana Bread

Wet
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (3 bananas)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg white

Dry
2/3 whole wheat flour
1 1/3 flour
3 tbs. flax meal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

Mix all the wet ingredients together until well-blended.

Mix dry ingredients and pecans together.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture, stirring until just moistened.

Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3 loaf pan coated with oil spray (Pam).

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or less, until toothpick in center comes out clean.


12-14 slices (Weight Watchers 4 points if bread is cut into 12 slices and has no nuts)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers September 2009 Challenge: Puff Pastry & Vols Au Vent



The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. For the recipe, click here.

Oh boy, puff pastry. I almost chickened out and then reminded myself that making things I would never make on my own was why I joined Daring Bakers in the first place.

Puff pastry involves wrapping a block of butter in a casing of dough, and then you roll it out, fold it in thirds, turn it, roll it out again, and so on until you have hundreds of thin layers of butter and dough. If done properly, the pastry puffs dramatically as the moisture in butter turns to steam in the oven and pushes up all those layers into a crisp, tender, delectable symphony of texture and flavor.

I watched the video of Michel Richards making puff pastry several times, so I would know how thick the pounded butter should be and how to make the turns. I read on another website that the dough and butter should be about the same temperature and consistency. I already knew that the dough should be worked on a cold surface like granite or marble. Another tip was to not use the fan in the convection oven or you'd get slinky-shaped vol au vents.

But before I got to the oven part, I needed to get through making the puff pastry.

The pastry making started out okay.

I made the dough in the food processor, shaped it into a ball, slashed it on top in tic-tac-toe pattern, and put it in the fridge to rest. Check.

I pounded out the cold butter, making sure it was not too thin, probably around 1/2" to 3/4" thick. No problem.

I encased the butter in the dough and did the first turn. Nothing was oozing, and the rolling was easy. Cool.

I started gaining confidence.

At turn four, I noticed the counter was wet. At first, I thought some liquid got on the countertop, but it was actually butter. The butter was coming out of small rips in the outer layer of dough. Maybe I didn't have enough flour on the countertop when rolling, and the dough started adhering to the surface and breaking open. Or could this be what the recipe meant by "oozing"? Whether ripping or oozing, one thing was for sure: trying to roll the dough out when it was in this condition only exacerbated the problem.

I patted down the rips with flour, wrapped it in plastic, and stuck it in the fridge for one hour.

When I brought it out to make the final two turns, the oozing was gone.

When I cut the vols au vent as directed and popped them in the oven, they puffed! They puffed unevenly, but I am satisfied with my first try. The vol au vent is pictured here with some coq au vin made by my 11 yr. old Christina.

The puff pastry can also be used in sweet applications and can be frozen for another time.

My conclusion from this challenge is that puff pastry wasn't as hard as I thought. I'm glad I completed the challenge.




P.S. A few hours later, I took some scraps, rolled them out and made mini-puff pastries. I split them in two, added a couple slices of banana and a drizzle of chocolate for a lovely dessert bite. Yum!

What made it even better is my husband found our long-lost camera tripod. Finally, no more hand shake in my photos!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Single Grain of Rice Can Tip the Scale



This is an entry that's a little bit different from my other entries, but I'd like to share a food-related story from my other blog, When Pigs Fly, which is about philanthropy and the wonder of every day blessings.

In the movie musical Mulan, the Emperor says,

A single grain of rice can tip the scale.


How true this is. A single grain of rice can mean the difference between life and death, an act of kindness between hope and despair, a donation the difference between the success or failure of many.

Gabriel Bol Deng was here at school today to talk to the kids about his heartbreaking experience as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and to talk about his organization, Hope for Ariang. Although many would have succumbed to the horrors of what happened in war-torn Sudan, Gabriel is a shining example of someone who took the coal of darkness and hopelessness and reshaped it into a shining diamond of compassion and assistance. He works tirelessly to tell many his story, so they will be inspired to make a difference. Hope for Ariang raises funds to support the construction of a school in Gabriel's hometown that will serve over 600 children and more and the drilling of wells to provide water for over 20,000 people.

In preparation for his visit, the 6th grade spearheaded a bake sale to raise money for Hope for Ariang. Last night, we got home late, and since I was not feeling well, I told Christina, "I'm sorry, honey, but I'm just not up to baking something for the bake sale."

No matter. Christina said, "I'm fine on my own. I'm going to make Rice Crispy Treats with M&Ms. I don't really have a recipe, so I'm just going to wing it."

As I watched her guesstimate the marshmallows, butter, and some caramel chews, and pour the tumbling grains of crisped rice out of the cereal box, I felt immense pride.

Here is a girl who is showing enterpreneurship, resourcefulness, and creativity for a good cause.

The next day, we were running late and were in the car already backing out of the driveway when Christina said she needed to get something in the house. She got out of the car, ran in the house, and when she came out, she had some tightly folded dollar bills in her hand.

I asked her what they were for, and she said they were for the bake sale.

"I have $6 from my piggy bank, and if there's nothing I want to buy from the bake sale, I'm going to give this money anyway. I know this is not about cookies, but about helping kids go to school in Africa."

In addition to my earlier pride, I felt immense satisfaction in knowing my daughter understands philanthropy, which means "love of mankind," and what it means to live the school motto, Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.

And who knows? Her final six dollars may help pay for the door that will open into a new school and a future for hundreds of children.

A single grain of rice can tip the scale.

Note 1: If you want to make a difference, please donate to Hope for Ariang and click here. A little goes a long way.

Note 2: Picture is attributed to the Accidental Hedonist. For the link, you can click on the picture or here. Recipe also included in the link.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


Becky Decatur is a fellow parent at school and her husband Jim is our esteemed Assistant Head of the Upper School.

When she saw my chocolate chip muffin post, she was kind enough to send me a healthier version involving whole wheat flour, flaxseed, and pureed pumpkin.

If you like moist, dense muffins that taste of fall, give these a try.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Combine:

1 cup canned pumpkin (Unsweetened)
2 eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla


Add to the wet mixture a mixture of:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/4 ground flaxseed meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp/ salt
1/2 c. Hershey's mini chocolate chips


Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending on size

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kid Friendly: Chocolate Drizzled Caramel Rice Krispy Squares



My daughter Christina and I were in the cashier line at the grocery store. You would think a kid would be tempted by the rows of candy and gum, but not Christina. Her hand went straight for a woman's magazine picturing well-designed pumpkins and claiming to have 178 new ideas for Halloween.
What inspired Christina was not the 178 new ideas that the magazine's editors and writers worked on, but the M&M advertisement section at the end of the magazine. The insert featured recipes using, you got it, M&Ms, and other brand products. She saw this picture of crispy pumpkin treats and wanted to make them.



We picked up the ingredients -- Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows, caramel chews, butter, and chocolate -- and Christina went to work.
She measured out her ingredients and unwrapped dozens of caramel chews. Then she melted the marshmallows, butter, and caramels together and mixed that sticky, gooey mixture with the cereal. She spread the mixture out on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.

Faced with the choice of making rice crispy squares which could be eaten in minutes and pretty, chocolate-coated and orange-piped pumpkins on sticks, Christina punted.

She melted one cup of chocolate chips in the microwave, dipped a fork into the melted chocolate, and drizzled the chocolate onto the squares.

Then she cut off two pieces and went on her way.

Now that's good thinking!

For the recipe, click here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nat's Oysters Four Ways



On Saturday, my friend Fontella surprised me by making me Curry Chicken. On Sunday, my friend Nat dropped off a cooler full of oysters freshly pulled out of the bay by Nat's knowledgeable hands.

Is this a great weekend or what?

Giant bag of oysters on ice in cooler.


Coming au natural without the sophistication that cultured oysters bring, these oysters were gnarly things, reminiscent of the crusty ghost pirates in Pirates of Caribbean. Most were Super Bowl sized oysters, and some were even padded with other smaller oysters that were fused to their shells.

These XXL oysters found themselves over the white hot fire of my Big Green Egg, poached open to be consumed with melted butter, hot sauce, and lemon.

Oysters coaxed open by a live fire on the Big Green Egg.

Poached oysters with melted butter and hot sauce.

The smaller ones my husband pried open, and I served them plain, with cocktail sauce, and with a crunchy bread topping of toasted bread crumbs, garlic, shallots, scallions, and bacon.

Raw oysters with crunchy bacon and bread topping.



Raw oysters with cocktail sauce.


My favorites were the raw oysters, small, briny, and sweet, with cocktail sauce and lemon. The poached oysters were okay, but their large sizes were a little too much of a good thing. I shucked those oysters and plan to cut them up and put them in soup tomorrow.


Thank you, Nat, for fishing up some dinner on a beautiful Sunday.




Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Pot of Trinidadian Curry


Today I was at school with my kids to welcome and give a tour to a group of prospective families who were considering our school. Fontella, a fellow parent and friend, was there too with her daughters, and she gave me a warm hug and freely shared her lovely smile.

Last year, Fontella brought a Jamaican curry chicken to one of the school's Multicultural family group get togethers. It was the best curry chicken I had eaten, because the chicken was the softest and silkiest I had ever tasted. It was addictive. After that night, I would fondly tease Fontella with a "Where is my curry chicken?"

Well today was no different. I went on and on about where was my curry chicken, hugged her goodbye, and went home.

A couple hours later, I got a call from Fontella. Surprise! She went home and actually made curry chicken, and she called me to come pick up some.

Don't you agree I have lovely friends?

This time she made a curry with Trinidadian curry powder, which she called a dark curry.

I asked her how she went about cooking curry, since I was taught how to make other curries -- Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Jamaican, Indian, and Guyanese -- from other friends.

Like my Jamaican friend Coleen, Fontella uses pre-mixed curry powders, bought from the local Caribbean store. There's Jamaican and Trinidadian curry powders, duck/goat curry powders, etc.

If Fontella is using chicken breasts, she slices it thin and dusts it with Goya adobo powder, cumin, and onion powder, so that it can marinate in the spices.

She fries some garlic in oil and takes it out so it doesn't burn. After frying whole allspice berries in the oil until fragrant, she adds the curry powder, chicken, onions, and garlic and cooks them slowly for a few minutes, then adds a little water and cooks it at a low simmer, as Fontella says, "until it's done."

We figured out this was about 15 minutes.

Eat with rice for a lovely meal.

P.S. Fontella's handsome, young son reminds us to avoid those allspice berries -- they're for flavor, not for eating!

P.S.2 For a similar recipe, go to my story on Jamaican curry chicken. If you want to make it Trinidadian style, use Trinadadian curry powder instead of Jamaican curry powder.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leftover Maven: Chicken and Potato Curry



I had some leftover coconut curry sauce from the The Daring Kitchen August 2009 Challenge.

I also had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, and my co-worker Kate gave me some potatoes from her garden.

Serendipity!

Now I had everything to make a quick, quick, and let me say, QUICK, chicken and potato curry to eat with, you got it, leftover rice.

All I have to say is "Yum"!

Chicken and Potato Curry


Potato
Rotisserie chicken
Coconut curry sauce (recipe below)

Rice

Peel and cut potato, one or more depending on what you want, into medium-size pieces. Put in a small pot filled with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, cut up part of a rotisserie chicken, as much as you need, into medium size pieces. Put leftover curry sauce and heat to a simmer in a pot on the stove.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add them to the sauce. Add the chicken to the sauce to heat through.

Serve over cooked white rice. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Sauce
from The Daring Kitchen August 2009 Challenge
This makes a great sauce to just pour over rice as well. This does freeze well, but the texture will be a little different. The flavor is still the same though.

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced

1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4.Let it simmer for half an hour.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chocolate Chip Muffins



My daughter Lizzy LOVES chocolate chip muffins. All summer we went to the grocery store and bought her the store-brand muffins -- small, fluffy, oily things.

They weren't that bad. They weren't that good.

When school came around again, I said "Let's not buy muffins. Let's make them for home and for school, to bring to the first advisory of the year."

Advisory happens twice a week. A small group of students meet with their advisors to talk about school, social stuff, and anything that's on people's minds. Lizzy has her advisory group, as does Christina. I have an advisory too, since I'm an advisor to a group of AWESOME 10th grade girls.

I looked on foodgawker and found a recipe at blogchef.net, which also happened to be the same recipe on Recipezaar. I made a double batch and came up with 24 muffins, golden brown and chock full of chocolate chips.

Just enough to feed the three advisories and leave NOTHING for home.

Oh well. Looks like we're baking tomorrow night!

Note: The fat in these muffins are butter, and as you know, butter hardens when it gets cold. If you can, put these in the microwave for a few seconds to re-melt the butter in the muffins and get that just baked experience. If you want them softer all the time, I imagine that you can replace all or some of the butter with oil, which stays in liquid form regardless of temperature.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
½ cup butter (melted and cooled)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (11 ½ ounce) package milk chocolate chips (or less)
½ cup walnuts (chopped)

Cooking Instructions:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffins cups (or muffin tins). In a large bowl mix together flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
Step 2: In another bowl stir together eggs, milk, butter and vanilla until well blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the milk mixture into the well and stir until well combined. Lightly stir in chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
Step 3: Spoon batter into muffins cups or tins. Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daring Cooks August 2009 Challenge: Vegan Dosas


This month's Daring Cooks' challenge is hosted by Debyi from Healthy Vegan Kitchen.

Debyi picked vegan Indian dosas which consist of a gluten-free crepe, a curried garbanzo filling, and a coconut curry sauce. For the recipe, click here.

I had never made dosas before, much less a vegan recipe, so I was in.

Wow, was this dish flavorful!

Although the recipe had three different parts, the ingredient list was fairly simple. The only items I didn't normally have in my kitchen were soy milk, some non-gluten flour, and unsweetened grated coconut. After the prep, the cooking was easy.



Since I couldn't find the spelt flour the recipe called for, I used a combination of garbanzo bean flour (1/2 cup), rice flour (1/4 cup), and flaxseed flour (1/4 cup) for the dosas. The crepes came together beautifully. I'm not really sure what they're supposed to be like, but the ones I made were a little crispy on the outside and soft on the interior.

Finally, the coconut curry sauce was the perfect accompaniment. Since there was plenty leftover, I'm going to throw some chicken and potatoes in it for some chicken curry to eat over rice.

Without the Daring Cooks, I would have never tried this wonderful dish. If you're not a Daring Cook, come join us! You'll have a lot of fun. For more information, check out the Daring Kitchen website.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Break Fast: Bolognese Sauce on the Big Green Egg



Note: This recipe was picked up by www.saveur.com in its Best of the Web series!

After not cooking for over two weeks, it feels SO NICE to break my cooking fast by firing up the Big Green Egg.

Basking in the perfume of wood smoke and the light of the afternoon sun, I occasionally check the bubbling bolognese sauce in which grilled pieces of chuck roast are slowly softening. When they are tender, I will shred them, add a dollop of half and half and make a hearty meat sauce to go over rotini with a good measure of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Shredding the beef is a piece of cake after a slow cook in tomato sauce on the grill.

This is our first weekend HOME since July 4th weekend and my kids' first weekend home in two months, so I'm particularly grateful to trade a ride in the car for the feel of a knife in my hand and the heat of the grill on my skin.

I burst with the pride I feel in my children as I watch them learn new cooking skills to put this meal together.

My youngest Christina practiced dicing onions, celery, and carrots, the aromatic workhouse of soups, stews, and sauces, for this recipe. She then browned some pancetta in my cheery orange dutch oven and cooked the mirepoix until it was lightly browned and translucent. We added some beef broth, red wine, and tomatoes to make the base for the bolognese sauce.

"Why do we need to brown the onions, celery, and carrots if we're just going to cook them a long time in the tomato sauce?" I queried?

Christina said, "To add flavor."

Exactly. Browning adds flavor and cooking the aromatics to help them shed some of their moisture also concentrates their flavor.

My oldest daughter, Lizzy, joined us to learn how to fire up the Big Green Egg. We cleaned out the soot from the bottom, added a fresh new mound of lump hardwood, and lit the grill. As we waited for the grill to come to heat, we talked about how air flow is critical to controlling the heat of the fire. The more air flow through the vents, the hotter the fire. We also talked about the importance of introducing air slowly when opening the Big Green Egg by slightly opening it for 5 seconds before fully opening it. Otherwise, the fire will rear up at you and rush at you like a wild banshee if you open the lid with abandon.

The Big Green Egg
My kids then learned how to put a nice sear on meat by placing the 1 1/2 inch strips of a 3 lb. chuck roast I had cut for the sauce and rotating them when appropriate. The grill was HOT and little red sparks were floating in the air, but they persevered and succeeded in turning out some beautifully charred meat.

"Why do we brown the meat before we add it to the sauce if it's just going to cook in the sauce for a long time?" I asked.

Lizzy said, "To add flavor."

My smart girls.

I then added the grilled pieces to the sauce, put the ceramic plate into the Big Green Egg to turn it into a convection oven, and slow-cooked the meat in the dutch oven at 350 degrees.

Grilled pieces of chuck roast are added to the tomato sauce and begin their long soak in tomato sauce on the Big Green Egg.

And now I wait for the alchemy of heat and time to work its magic.

***

And magic it was. Smoky, beefy, concentrated, and hearty, with a little cream and parmesan cheese to soften and round out the flavors. A perfect ending to a lovely weekend and the end of summer, at home with my family.

Ragu alla Bolognese on the Big Green Egg
(Can also be done on a regular grill or in the oven)

6 oz. pancetta, diced
Olive oil or butter as necessary

2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 1/2 cups of red wine
1 1/2 cups of beef broth
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes

3 lbs. chuck roast, dried off with paper towels, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips and salted and peppered

1/2 and 1/2 or cream
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
Parmigiana reggiano, freshly grated

Heat up the Big Green Egg or your grill to 500 degrees or more. If you're going to use your oven, heat it to 350 degrees.

Cook pancetta in a dutch oven over medium heat, slowly rendering fat and crisping up the pancetta. When the pancetta is crispy, remove from the dutch oven and set aside.

Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the rendered fat, adding butter or oil if necessary, and cook over medium heat until lightly browned and translucent, about 7-10 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the minced garlic, italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Add beef broth, red wine, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes to the sauteed vegetables. Add back the pancetta to the sauce. Turn heat to low.

If you're going to use the oven to slow cook your sauce, heat up a saute pan over medium high heat. If you're using the BGE or your grill, check if it's hot. When you're preferred method of cooking is ready, please the chuck roast strips on the grill or saute pan, and sear on all sides.

When the meat is seared on all sides, place in tomato sauce. For the Big Green Egg, put in the placesetter (legs up) and adjust the heat to 350 degrees. For a regular grill, put the middle burner (if you have one) on indirect heat and adjust to 350 degrees. If you're using the oven, it should be preheated by now.

Put the dutch oven in your grill or oven and cook for one hour, uncovered, and then covered until the meat shreds with a fork (a few hours). Stir occasionally while it's cooking.

When the sauce is done, shred the meat with two forks and add parsley and additional water to the sauce is the sauce is too thick. If you're going to eat all the sauce, add cream or half and half to taste. If you're going to freeze some of it, place the sauce you're going to freeze in containers and add a little half and half or cream to the sauce you are going to eat and freeze the rest. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with a short pasta such as rotini or penne and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!