Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhubarb Bitters

A good friend of mine had an abundance of rhubarb this year, as she does every year, and therefore I had an abundance of rhubarb too (thank you Erin K.). As rhubarb is often heralded as the "Harbinger of Spring" I thought it only fair to treat this tasty, bitter treat with the utmost respect - which means to drink it. 

I had already made rhubarb-cherry crisp, strawberry-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb-strawberry compote, and I froze a few bags of chopped rhubarb for a later date. But inspiration for rhubarb bitters came from an article I read in my new favorite magazine, Imbibe. What follows is a slightly adapted recipe for Rhubarb Bitters, which is part of their recipe for a Charmane's Star (May/June 2011). 

I still have a few days before the bitters are fully matured, but I'll be breaking them out for a big weekend BBQ, which will feature a "Bacon Explosion"! More details and photos to come on that, but in the meantime just Google it. 

Rhubarb Bitters
3/4 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks (sliced into 1-inch pieces)
1 cinnamon stick (for a less "earthy" flavor try a Vietnamese cinnamon stick)
Zest of one medium orange
Zest of 1/2 grapefruit (preferably a Ruby Red)
375 ml. Everclear
6 oz. distilled water
1 oz. agave nectar or 1 1/4 ounces of raw sugar
(optional: 5 cloves or one juniper berry, 3-inch tamarind pod with seeds and three coriander seeds)

Combine the rhubarb pieces, cinnamon stick, orange zest, grapefruit zest and Everclear (plus the optional ingredients if using) in a clean quart-size Mason jar and cover. Shake daily for two weeks. Strain and then filter liquid into a new jar and add water and agave nectar or raw sugar. Will keep for up to one year, but you'll probably drink it all before then.

Tip: I really like this zest tool from OXO. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Coffee-Rubbed Smoky Elk Roast - A Tribute to Food Network's 'Chopped'

This last weekend I introduced my wife's friend to elk. She was visiting from DC. She is one of the most well-traveled people I know, and six years ago my wife, mother and I visited her when she lived in Berlin. This, however, was her first trip to Montana. It was filled with adventure, beer and meat.

Two nights before she left, we also introduced her to Food Network's "Chopped," which is a staple in our household. For the dinner round, contestants were faced with elk, hard cider, jews mallow and canned cheese. Sans the jews mallow and canned cheese, I was inspired to prepare an elk roast for our guest before she left. I do have my own (award-winning) hard cider, but I saved that for a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp.

Our friend is also a dedicated coffee devotee. We had already been making cups of fresh pour-over coffee in the mornings, made lovingly with my Hario Coffee Drip Kettle and Dripper. So I had to find just the right combination of coffee + meat, and I think I came pretty close with this dry rub recipe. Feel free to tweak as needed, but it's certainly a good start.

Coffee-Rubbed Smoky Elk Roast
2 lbs. elk roast (silver skin trimmed)
1/4 c. coffee grounds (the finer the better)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 Tbl. Chili powder
2 T. Smoked paprika
1 tsp. Ground sage
1 tsp. Onion powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne
1 Tbl. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbls. Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Tenderize the elk roast and then coat with Worcestershire sauce. Apply dry rub evenly and generously on all sides of elk roast. Let marinate in fridge for up to an hour before cooking.

Place elk roast on a tin foil-lined baking sheet and place in oven to cook until internal temp is at least 130 degrees (I use a digital thermometer). Let stand five minutes before cutting. Serve with hard cider!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fiery Fried Catfish

It was just over a couple years ago I traveled to see my in-laws in Lawrence, Kansas. The waters were warming enough that the catfish were getting hungry, so my father-in-law and I decided to make a night of it. What you see above is one of our spoils from that trip. And since it was late when this photo was snapped, you're witness to a slightly crazed look in my eyes. But the fishing and the company were great. 

Catfish has a taste you never forget. Growing up in the south, we ate buckets of fried catfish fillets every summer. A solid fighter to reel in, catfish, to me, are as fun to prepare and eat as they are to fish for. What I present today is a "fired up" fried catfish recipe that is quick, easy and will get you back on the water looking for more "cats" on the double. Enjoy!

Fiery Fried Catfish
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbls. chili powder
  • 1 Tbls. Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning
  • 3 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 c. beer (darker the better + a second bottle for drinking!)
  • 3/4 c. stone-ground mustard
  • 2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbl. granulated garlic
  • 1 Tbl. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. catfish fillets (skinless, cut in four pieces)
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Tip: larger catfish, like the one in the photo, may have a dark streak along their sides. If you can, cut this part out of your fillets before cooking as it can give your catfish a "murky" taste.

  • Directions:
  • Heat 1 c. of oil in a heavy pan or cast iron skillet. In three separate shallow dishes: mix together flour, chili powder, Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning and 1 tsp. of black pepper in the first dish; mix stone-ground mustard and beer in the second dish; and place the panko bread crumbs in the last dish.

  • In this order, dredge the fish fillets in flour mixture, mustard/beer mixture and then the panko crumbs. If you have a lot of fish fillets, refrigerate the dredged fillets until ready to use or fry them immediately. 

  • When ready, fry the fish in the oil until golden brown, or roughly 2-3 minutes. Remove to a rack to drain. If you prefer to skip the oil-frying, you can also bake the dredged fillets on a sheet pan with a baking rack in an oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, then finishing both sides of the fillets under a broiler for a couple minutes total to give them a crispier coating. 

  • Serve with fresh lemon squeeze on top and with your favorite summer side dishes, such as coleslaw and hushpuppies