Category Archives: Starch

Baked Rice with Roasted Pepper Sauce

This sauce is a nice change from tomato sauce—actually, we hardly ever eat tomato sauce, but we’re not normal. The roasted pepper sauce is mild and sweet, but if your peppers are red, you might just fool your family into thinking it’s made with tomatoes. I had a bunch of roasted red and yellow peppers in the freezer, but you could make roasting a part of the process, or you could use roasted peppers in a jar (or 2 jars). Another option would be to use both sweet bell peppers and some hot peppers.

I used long grain brown rice and some browned ground beef to make it a complete meal, but the sauce is the star here, and you can probably think of other ways to use it. Usually, I like to bake a rice casserole with rice that is already cooked, but I took a chance baking it all at the same time, today, and it worked out well.

I almost forgot to snap a picture of the finished dish, but grabbed a quick one—poorly focused—before it was all gone.

Baked Rice with Roasted Pepper Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 2 quart casserole dish

1 large onion, chopped

5-6 roasted, peeled red, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers (about 2 cups chopped)

1-2 tablespoons grated garlic

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups beef or chicken stock, heated to a boil and set aside

1 cup long grain brown rice

1 lb ground beef

salt & pepper to taste

  1. Saute the onion and peppers in olive oil a large skillet over medium high heat until the vegetables soften and become translucent. Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook for a few minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Remove the peppers and onions to a blender and add about 1/2 cup of the stock. Puree the vegetables, adding more stock if necessary to make a thick and fairly smooth sauce. Add the rest of the stock to the puree.
  3. In the same skillet, brown the ground beef over medium high heat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and continue cooking and stirring until the rice has absorbed any liquid from the beef. This gives the rice a head start cooking.
  4. Pour the beef and rice into a buttered 2 quart casserole. Pour the pepper sauce with all the stock over the beef mixture. Let the sauce settle or lightly stir, keeping the rice and beef submerged in the sauce. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Check to see if the rice is done, adding more time, if needed. Mine looked pretty well done after 1 hour, but I am suspicious of baked rice and let it go another 15 mins.

I said 6-8 servings but then my husband ate it all—except my one serving

Dishing Out the Holiday Food

First, I have a hard time calling Memorial Day a holiday, having had a parent die in a war, but while it’s not all fireworks and getting drunk around here, I do make food like I would make for any seasonal celebration.

Since there are just the two of us here, I can’t justify making a feast like what a big gathering might have, so I’m making three good meals and spreading them out over the three days of the long weekend. Yesterday, we had potato salad—a big favorite around here—with a grilled venison backstrap. No dessert, because, well, we think of potato salad as dessert, itself!

Tomorrow, it will just be your typical grilled burgers with skewers of grilled summer squash, your choice of yesterday’s potato salad or today’s slaw, and a little leftover dessert from today.

Today, I’m grilling some baby back ribs, brined in an orange-Asian marinade and basted with a spicy orange-Asian glaze. Cole slaw for a side and for dessert, a blueberry clafoutis. The ribs are not going to be like the last ones, cooked low and slow with a charcoal snake, but cooked over an indirect higher heat, around 350°-400° for two hours, periodically basted with the glaze. They are more of a wet rib, but one that doesn’t require a thick drippy sauce. The glaze cooks down to a thick, sticky coating that complements the marinated pork.

Baby Back Ribs with Orange-Asian Glaze

  • Servings: 1 rack of ribs, about 3 lbs
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Overnight brine/marinade:
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 -2 tablespoons grated garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Combine all ingredients and pour over ribs in large glass dish or in sealable plastic bags. I cut my rack in half and put each half in a plastic bag, dividing the marinade between them. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, removing from refrigerator about 1/2 hour before cooking.

Orange-Asian Grilling Glaze:
  • 2 cups orange juice, reduced over medium-high heat to 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic sauce

After orange juice is reduced by half, remove to a measuring cup, then stir in other ingredients. Use to baste the ribs every 15 minutes on the grill.

Cooking the ribs:

1 three lb rack of pork back ribs, marinated overnight

Orange-Asian glaze

  1. Set up your grill for indirect cooking, so that you have enough coals for at least two hours. I started with 50 coals in the chimney starter, then dropped about ten more coals on the ash pile to make sure it would keep going.
  2. Place the marinated ribs opposite the heated side of the grill and close the cover. It should come up to about 400° and drop to around 350° by the end of the second hour. Keep in mind that the temperature drops every time you open the lid to baste the ribs.
  3. Set one timer for 1 1/2 hours and another timer for 15 minutes. Baste the ribs with the glaze every 15 minutes, resetting that timer. If after 1 1/2 hours, you think the ribs could go longer, try another half hour. I felt that the full two hours was good and that more time would not add anything significant to the recipe.

The ribs were moist and tender inside, sticky and spicy outside, without any added sugar, just the natural sugars in the orange juice.

Blueberry Clafoutis: See the recipe for Pear Clafoutis and substitute one pint of fresh blueberries for the pears.

Venison Chili on the Grill

Long ago, I posted my traditional method of making chili, whether with venison, beef, or a combination of the two. I use two pots on the stove, cooking beans using a quick soak method in one pot, and cooking the meat in another pot. Between the pots, I share the flavoring base of reconstituted ancho chiles, onions, garlic, and spices, and then I combine the pots into one for the last hour of cooking. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and I just do it all from habit. Actually, I consider it a really easy dish to make. Of course, I usually made too much for the two of us, and I’m paring down the ingredients in lots of my old recipes, like this one.

Recently, I tried to adapt the recipe to my new slow cooker, first soaking the beans overnight, which I never do with the quick-soak method. It turned out okay, but it seemed too wet, too soupy, and beyond using more water than needed, I’m not sure why that happens in the slow cooker. I’ll probably fool with the recipe in the winter to see if I can make it work out right. Or I’ll just go back to the two pot method on the stove.

It’s almost too warm for chili, now, but I thought I’d try it out in my cast iron Dutch oven on the grill, since after all, it’s the traditional cowboy chuck wagon meal to cook over a fire. Now I can see why it’s such a beloved campfire dish.

This might be the best chili of all time, really thick and rich with a deep red color that I never get on the stove.

I have a Weber® Master Touch® grill which has a removable insert in the grate for using cooking pieces, like the chicken cooker or griddle, or like today, a cast iron Dutch oven. To make indirect heat around the center, I made a 2 x 2 charcoal snake, one that usually last 6-8 hours, not knowing how much time I would need. As it turned out, 3 hours was enough, and as you can see in the images, I only needed half the snake. I simply separated the two halves at the end, saving the unburned half for the next day’s grilling.

Venison Chili on the Grill

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: time consuming
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1/2 lb dried pinto beans

2 lbs venison, in both cubes and ground, or the same in beef/pork

1 large onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

5 dried ancho peppers, reconstituted with 2 cups water, pureed, and strained (see below)

  1. Soak 1/2 lb dried pinto beans overnight in water to cover by 3 inches. Drain and rinse when ready to use.
  2. Brown 1 lb venison cubes and 1 lb ground venison in 2-4 tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil, or bacon fat in large cast iron dutch oven.
  3. In a skillet, saute onions and garlic in oil until translucent, then stir in spices, stirring until fragrant.
  4. Combine browned venison, strained beans, and onion mixture in dutch oven.
  5. Pour in ancho pepper puree and stir to combine. You may need to add more water to cover, because the beans still need to cook, but you don’t need to cover by more than 1/2 inch. I added about 1 cup more water, so that with the puree, I had a total of 3 cups liquid.
  6. Cover and cook with slow indirect heat, about 225°-250°, for about 3 hours.If you don’t have a grate like mine, you can set the dutch oven directly on the coal grate and build the snake around it, but not touching the sides or the pot.
  7. I imagine you could cook it in a slow oven, too, and I will be trying that out in the winter.

Once you get it on the grill, you have 3 hours to do nothing, or I guess you could make some cornbread.

Reconstituted Dried Ancho Chiles
  1. Rinse 5 dried chiles, removing stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces and place in small container or bowl
  3. Cover with 2 cups boiling water; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for about 45 minutes
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with part of the liquid, adding the rest a little at a time to make a purée about the consistency of thick tomato sauce
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove pieces of skin—just keep stirring the mixture in the strainer until only the skin pulp remains (maybe 10 minutes)

Refried Beans, Not Refried

So-called refried beans are not fried twice nor even once, although many do the last step of mashing them in a hot skillet, which is kind of like frying. I guess. But it’s not necessary, especially with the availability of a food processor. I like the food-processor beans, which are creamy but still with a noticeable texture, to serve as a dip or spread, as well as a side dish, the basis of a burrito, or whatever you can think of. Even in the food processor, you can control the chunkiness to some extent by leaving out some mashed beans to stir in to the smoother processed beans.

You can make refried beans with just beans and salt, or elevate them with an endless number of additions. I would say you must use some fat—bacon fat or lard or oil—but everything else is negotiable:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • spices, like cumin, ancho, or chipotle powders
  • salsa
  • cheese
  • tomatoes

I’m just adding garlic, bacon fat, and lots of salt. We ate them as a side with chile relleno (not fried) burritos and mashed avocado. That’s two things that could have been fried, but were not.

Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
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Make the beans:

1/2 lb dried pinto beans

3 cups water

2 cloves garlic

  1. Rinse the beans well and sort to look for any small stones. Combine with the 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and turn off heat, allowing beans to soak for 1 hour.
  3. Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. During the last half hour, toss in the garlic cloves so they cook some before finishing the dish.

Make the refried beans:

1/2 lb cooked pinto beans

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat

2 teaspoons coarse salt—or to taste

1/4-1/2 cup bean liquor

  1. Drain the bean liquor into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the drained beans, salt, and bacon fat into a food processor.
  3. Process with 1/4 cup bean liquor, adding more to reach your desired consistency. I used 1/2 cup to reach a consistency like creamy mashed potatoes. They might dry out or thicken upon standing, so it’s a good idea to save the remaining bean liquor to stir in, if you need it. Or you could add it to other dishes.