Eat Evolved

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You are what you eat. Eat what you've evolved to eat.

Archive for March, 2011

Butter Baked Salmon

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

One of my favorite things is the salmon at CostCo in the prepared foods section. It’s an herbed salmon with lots of dill, topped with pats of butter mixed with even more herbs. The salmon essentially poaches in the melted herb butter as it bakes. It’s delicious, but the salmon isn’t wild-caught. I had some wild-caught salmon, some homemade butter, and not much time for dinner, so I thought I’d try to duplicate it.

Take four salmon filets, pat them dry, and put them skin-side down in an 11×7 baking dish, skin-side down. Sprinkle them with salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Slice a small lemon and put a lemon slice on top of each piece of fish. Add about a tablespoon of chopped herbs (I used basil and cilantro because that’s what I had, but I think the CostCo version does parsley and dill) to four tablespoons of salted butter. Divide the herbed butter into four equally-sized balls and place them on top of the lemon.
butter salmon

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a greens or a salad.
cooked salmon

Pho King Awesome

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Husband and I are huge fans of pho, a Vietnamese soup made of oxtail broth flavored with star anise and cinnamon. Normally it comes with a huge pile of very non-Primal rice noodles, but honestly, it’s just as good without. In restaurants, I tend to order it with no rice noodles and extra bean sprouts. I’ve only made it at home once, in my pre-Primal days.

A few days ago, Husband alerted me to a blog post from Latest In Paleo that had a recipe for pho. I followed the recipe precisely, except I replaced their spinach garnish with the more traditional bean sprouts (they’re sprouts, not beans, so they’re okay), and I’d also suggest adding a lime wedge and perhaps a squirt or two of Sriracha. What this recipe gets you is a broth so rich with collagen that it’s a solid mass of gelatin in the fridge, and even when hot appears to jiggle a bit. The mouthfeel is amazing, the meat falls apart (I even had a few bones get soft) but still retains flavor, and the seasoning in the broth is subtle but powerful.

Plus, it’s pretty.
pho

High-heat roast chicken

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I recently got a few whole chickens at a good price from Whole Foods. Whole roasted chicken is a food I have a love-hate relationship with. It takes forever, and it’s a pain to carve, but you can do so much with them–eat the meat plain or use it in things, and then you can use the carcass for stock later. But the one thing that’s just pure love about a roasted chicken is the skin. Crispy, melt-in-your-mouth fatty deliciousness. There’s nothing worse than a roasted chicken with flabby, rubbery skin. I tried making chicken in the pressure cooker once–never again. Ditto with the crock pot. Yeah, the meat might be moist and juicy, but that’s only half of the equation.

I have a standard recipe I like to use with chicken. It’s an old Weight Watchers recipe that I modify a bit (the recipe tells you to REMOVE the skin. Sacrilege!) in order to better fit a Primal diet, but I’m always looking for a better way to do it, especially since the skin doesn’t come out as crispy in that recipe as I’d like. I went to my friend Google to see if there was a better way to crisp up a roasted chicken. Cook’s Illustrated has an interesting technique that I’d like to try someday, but it would take an extra day of prep that I didn’t have. Instead, I decided to try high-heat roasting.

The only real requirement for this chicken is some salt, pepper, and melted butter, coconut oil, or bacon grease. Other than that, you’re free to season it as you wish. To season your chicken, take your desired herbs and spices, loosen the skin on top of the breast, and rub them into the meat, underneath the skin. Baste the bird, top and bottom, with your melted fat, then salt and pepper the skin. You can fill the cavity with aromatics if you like–my favorite is to use chopped garlic under the skin, then put a quartered lemon and onion in the cavity along with more garlic and some fresh “Poultry Blend” herbs.

Put the bird breast side DOWN at first in a roasting rack, and roast for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Then take it out of the oven and carefully flip it over. You’ll want to baste it with pan juices or more melted fat at this point, and put it back in the oven with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Keep it in the 450 degree oven, breast side UP this time, until the meat thermometer reads 135 degrees. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Then raise the oven temperature to 500 degrees and roast until the thermometer reads 160 degrees, 175 in the thigh. Probably another 10-15 minutes total.

Take it out and let it sit for 20 minutes before carving. This is a good time to do a high-heat roasted vegetable side dish–I find that green beans roasted for about 20 minutes at 450 turn out quite delicious–nice and browned and yummy. Asparagus will take about 10 minutes to roast, because it’s not good when it’s nice and tender like the beans. I did parsnips and turnips, which take about 25 minutes–I put them in for 15 minutes at 450 when the chicken was in there, then put them in for the last 10-15 while the chicken was resting.
roast chicken
Look at that skin! It tasted as good as it looks.

A happy accident

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Just in case you think that everything I cook turns out awesome, I should let you know that I occasionally have some epic failures. Tonight was one of those nights–Husband put some cube steaks out to thaw, and I decided I’d try to make some Primal country fried steak. The steak itself turned out okay, I guess, but enough of the almond breading fell off that I couldn’t make the gravy in the pan without it being all chunky and gross. I’ll use the steak for steak and eggs this weekend–we went out and got some Thai food instead, and we just ate it without rice.

I ended up with a leftover can of coconut milk that I didn’t use for the gravy, and no immediate use for it. And I had just had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, so I decided I wanted one of the Paleo Brownies I made last weekend. And then I noticed the open can of coconut milk, which had an abundance of the really thick creamy part and not much of the actual liquid. So I took the more solid part of the coconut milk off the top, and had spoonfuls of it with bites of brownie.

It tasted JUST like a Hostess Snowball. Had I sprinkled it with a little bit of dried coconut, I’d have even gotten the mouthfeel right. All it was missing was the marshmallow, and really, whose favorite part of a Snowball is the marshmallow? Honestly, this dessert made me feel as if I had at least somewhat redeemed the bad day–not the eating of it, but the successful creation of it.

The world’s best pork chops

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

First off, I would be remiss if I didn’t give major props to my source for pork chops, Caw Caw Creek. Emile raises wonderful piggies, and one of my favorite things is a juicy, tender, well-marbled pork chop from one of them. His bacon and sausages and Boston butts are also top notch (and you’ve never had wonderful until you’ve made cracklins from the skin that he leaves on those butts), but the pork chops are divine. Take one of those, well-prepared, and it’s better than almost any steak you can get. I used to love just slathering them in the Green Stuff and grilling them, until I found a perfect recipe for pan-searing.

You’ll want two large center cut chops, at least an inch thick. I have also done this with Emile’s regular bone-in chops, but those are thicker so you’ll have to extend the cooking time a bit. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over high heat. Yeah, high. You’ll have to be careful that the butter and olive oil don’t smoke, but if they do it’s not the end of the world. Salt and pepper your chops. Use a lot of salt on this one–I’ve been known to use three quarters of a teaspoon on one large chop, but I love my salt. Put the chops in the skillet, and sear for two minutes. Flip, and sear for two minutes more. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for four more minutes, then flip and cook another five. Remove them from the pan and put them on a plate.

While the pork is cooking, mince two shallots and a clove of garlic. When the chops are done, remove all but a tablespoon of the fat remaining in the pan. If it got too browned, just remove it all and start over with a half-tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Add the shallot and cook for two minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Then pour in a quarter-cup of dry vermouth. Scrape up all those lovely golden brown bits that were left behind from the pork. Add a half-cup of chicken stock and the juices that have accumulated in the pork plate, increase the heat, and reduce it to a thin syrup. Lower the heat to medium again and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of cold butter. When the butter has melted, pour the sauce over the pork.

This is an ugly picture, because a) the side is leftover cabbage, b) my peach kitchen, and c) half the pork chop is gone because we hacked off some bits to serve to Toddler. But just look at the color on those chops. And that sauce? I dare you to go without licking your plate like some sort of uncivilized heathen.
pork chops

Chicken Oscar-ish

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

This isn’t exactly Chicken Oscar. Technically, Oscar-style contains crabmeat, but we had these frozen langostinos we had to use up, so I used those instead. This recipe is definitely greater than the sum of its parts!

The beginning is easy. Take however many boneless, skinless chicken breasts you need, liberally salt and pepper them, and saute them until they’re golden brown and cooked through. This usually takes about 8 minutes per side.

During the first 8 minutes, prep your asparagus. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the bottom couple of inches off your asparagus. Put it on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. After you flip the chicken, put the sheet in the oven. Take it out with 4 minutes left on the chicken timer to turn them, then put it back in.

With your last 4 minutes, make the Hollandaise. You can do this in a blender, or with a stick blender or food processor. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave, then let it sit on the counter while you gather the other ingredients. You’ll need two egg yolks, topped with the juice of half a lemon. Put them in your blender or food processor cup, then turn it on. Drizzle the melted butter into the blending egg and lemon in a thin stream and blend until all the butter is incorporated. Voila, you have Hollandaise, and it didn’t even require a double boiler!

Hey, the chicken’s done! Put it on the serving plates. Take your crabmeat or langostinos and heat it up in the skillet about 1-2 minutes. Remove it from the heat. Take the asparagus out of the oven. Top the chicken with the crabmeat, and either put the asparagus on the side or cut it up and put it on top of the chicken and crab. Top the whole thing with Hollandaise.

oscar

Toddler went absolutely crazy over this one. She even ate some of the asparagus, which is impressive given her general distaste for all things green.

Crock Pots are for wussies.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I know, I know. A crock pot is a great way to set it and forget it–you leave at 8:00 and come back at 6:00 to a lovely home-cooked meal. It never turns out that way, though, does it? You end up with mushy vegetables and meat and everything tastes the same and has the same texture. Plus, your average crock-pot recipe is a mine of canned Cream-of-Whatever soups and processed foods. Bleh.

Give me a pressure cooker any day. I was afraid of them for a long time. Then I found an electric one at Costco, and it was like a whole world opened up. Incredible, fork-tender meats, in about 1/3 of the time of your standard braise. A pressure cooker is a must-have in any kitchen, unless you feel like waiting all day for meat that won’t be nearly as good.

Tonight’s pressure-cooker feast was corned beef, thanks to St. Patrick’s day. I had one from Whole Foods in the freezer. It’s nitrate/nitrite free, so it doesn’t have that fake pink color, but it’s still amazing. Put your corned beef in the pressure cooker. Pour in a beer. We have beer around the house that I’m trying to get rid of, and you won’t actually be drinking the liquid, but if you’re sensitive to such things, use beef stock instead. Add enough water to just barely come up to the top of the beef. Close the lid and cook on high pressure (this is 15 psi, for those of you who go analog) for 60 minutes. Allow for the pressure to release naturally.

In the meantime, buy a giant mutated head of cabbage.
cabbage
Okay, so it doesn’t have to be that big, but still. Get some cabbage. Cut it coarsely, however you choose (I like strips). Heat up some bacon grease and some butter (you DID just make some, right?) in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Put in your cabbage, add about a teaspoon of salt, stir it around a bit, then put the lid on it and let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir it, making sure to get the browned cabbage to the top and the rawer stuff near the bottom. Keep an eye on it every ten minutes until all of the cabbage is fork-tender and some of it is nicely browning. Serve it on the bottom of the plate, with the corned beef on top. Look at that stuff–I couldn’t even slice it with a knife. It just fell apart.
corned beef and cabbage

Egg Cups

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The best thing about this recipe is its complete and total versatility. If you don’t like what we put in them, put something else in them. The recipe I’ve been using is based on a version done by Food Renegade, but I’ve made versions with peppers and onions and ham with cheddar, or even flaked hot-smoked salmon, goat cheese, and red onion. Spinach, feta, and red pepper? Italian sausage and mushrooms? Your only limit is your imagination.

Start with a dozen eggs and 1/3 of a cup of milk or cream. I already used all my cream on the butter, so I used whole milk.
eggs
As you’re beating the eggs, fry a pound of breakfast sausage in a skillet, breaking it up as you go. The original Food Renegade recipe called for 10 ounces of meat, but it’s easier to just do a full pound, especially if you like meat. When the sausage is mostly cooked, add some sliced sun-dried tomatoes. Get the kind packed in oil; they’re easier to work with. I sliced mine with a pair of kitchen shears right over the pan. You’ll want about 3/4 of a cup, give or take. Let those warm up with the sausage, then turn the heat off.
sausage and tomatoes
While your sausage cools a bit, grate some cheese into your eggs. The recipe called for Asiago, but I used raw Jack cheese.
eggs and cheese
Then add your sausage mixture, whisking after each spoonful to make sure that the eggs don’t cook from the heat of the sausage. Add about a half-teaspoonful of salt and a teaspoon and a half of Italian seasoning, and stir well. Ladle the eggs into greased muffin tins, and bake at 325 degrees for 25-35 minutes. My muffin tins are a bit larger, so mine take toward the end of the allotted time to cook.
egg muffins
These are great for a grab-and-go breakfast. We keep them in freezer bags and nuke them from frozen for a quick, yummy hot breakfast on the road. Two of these will keep you full until lunch, no problem.

Paleo Brownies

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Husband asked me to make a treat for him–he’s been having bad chocolate cravings. I went with a recipe that’s on just about every Crossfit blog in the entire country, for Paleo Brownies. I will post this with the caveat that while every ingredient in these is, indeed, Paleo-friendly, they are a bit carb heavy (about 15 per brownie if you cut the pan into 24), so indulge in moderation. If moderation isn’t your strong suit, especially with something that tastes exactly like brownies, then you probably shouldn’t make them at all.

You’ll need to start with a 16-ounce jar of salted almond butter. If it’s not salted, add two teaspoons of salt at the end instead of a half-teaspoon. The first step is to blend it with an electric mixer until it’s smooth–almond butter typically has a layer of oil on top of it and gets thicker as you get toward the bottom. Here’s how you fix that. A couple of hours before you plan on making these, turn the jar of almond butter upside down. It will be much more smooth when you go to use it, and you won’t need a mixer at all–I stirred mine with a rubber scraper.
almond butter

At this point, add two beaten eggs, and mix until smooth. Then add a cup of agave nectar or raw honey and a tablespoon of vanilla. When that’s smooth, stir in a half-cup of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of baking soda, and a half-teaspoon of salt (or two teaspoons if you couldn’t find salted almond butter). Pour it into a greased 13×9″ pan, and marvel at how much it looks like real brownie batter.
Brownie batter
Put it in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. I have found that 32 minutes is about perfect. They look just like real brownies, and taste even better than they look!
finished brownies

Churn the butter! Churn the butter!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

One of the tenets of Primal eating is that whenever possible, animal products should be either wild-caught (in the case of seafood) or grass-fed if it’s a land-dweller. Corn and soy feed ends up negatively affecting the fats in the meat. This study has some details about that, in case you’re curious.

This extends to things like milk and butter and cheese. It’s best if these things come from grassfed cows. A neat trick is knowing that anything from Ireland involves grassfed cows, due to Irish laws and regulations. The most widely available brand is Kerrygold, so you can buy that one with confidence. But if you can find a source of local grassfed dairy, making your own butter is actually a snap. We get our milk and cream from Snowville Creamery, a wonderful local dairy with grassfed cows. The milk is pasteurized at the lowest temperature possible by law, and it gets from cow to store within 48 hours. Fantastic stuff.

To make butter, all you need is a good source of cream, and a blender or food processor. Put your cream in there, and turn it on. It’ll first make whipped cream. You may want to stop your blender at that point and put a few dollops of the cream on some blueberries or strawberries. Your Toddler will thank you for the mid-morning snack. After you get to the whipped cream, point, keep going. Eventually, after about 4-5 minutes, you will notice the whipped cream start to separate into butter and liquid. Let it go for about 30 seconds more, until the butter starts to clump, and then turn off your blender. Pour the butter into a colander over a large bowl, and repeat if you have a large amount of cream–Snowville only comes in half-gallons, so I did this twice. This is what the butter looks like out of the blender.
undrained butter
Technically you could eat it like this, but to get it to keep longer, you’ll want to rinse it. Run cold water in your sink and massage the butter under it until the liquid coming out of it runs clear. This gets all the remaining liquid milk out of the butter. At this point, you can put it into a storage container and stir some salt into it if you want it salted–otherwise, just leave it be. Our half-gallon of cream made a little over a pound and a half of butter. Would have been more, were it not for me stopping for whipped cream, and then sneaking bites now and then as I worked.
finished butter
Easy, delicious, and no churn involved!