Tag Archives: coarse black pepper

Slow Cooker Pastrami, Sort Of

How to make corned beef reminiscent of pastrami—and really tasty—in a slow cooker

This probably doesn’t compare to the pastrami at your favorite deli, but I was looking for something different to do with a corned beef brisket flat. The whole boiled dinner with cabbage and potatoes doesn’t do it for me, even though I am significantly Irish in my ancestry. Options for what else to do with corned beef are slim on the web. Surprisingly, a lot of people try to make it into pastrami, most with drawn out processes of wrapping in multiple layers of foil and slow cooking in the oven, refrigerating, and then broiling for browning—way more work than I had in mind—and that doesn’t even include smoking, which is a necessary step for authentic pastrami. But it’s December. It’s snowy and overcast. I just want to use the slow cooker.

So, I would say that what I made is reminiscent of pastrami. I ground up the spice packet that came with the corned beef and added those spices (whatever they are) to others that are common to most pastrami recipes—smoked paprika, garlic, lots and lots of black pepper, white pepper, ground mustard, and chipotle powder (for a little more smoke). Mixed with olive oil, the resulting wet rub is brushed over all sides of the corned beef, and then the whole thing is cooked on high in the slow cooker (probably around 250°) for 6 hours. I did that early enough to be able to refrigerate it for a while before trying to slice it.

We did eat it in sandwiches, but I’m not going to say how we ate it, because I don’t want to offend you finicky purists who would banish me to deli hell for not using rye bread and mustard. Why would I try to please some mythical deli owner instead of our own palates, anyway? I would eat the traditional sandwich, but my husband would never touch rye bread nor mustard if he were starving. I consider it a great success that I trained him to eat sauerkraut on New Year’s Day and like it.

Fabulous change of pace for the old corned beef brisket. Tomorrow, I think I’m going to eat some in flat bread with roasted peppers.

Slow Cooker Pastrami, Sort Of

  • Servings: makes 4 lbs
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 lbs corned beef brisket flat with spice packet (I guess you could use the point as well)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic or garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper (really)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
  1. Rinse corned beef and pat dry. Place in slow cooker.
  2. Grind contents of spice packet that came with the corned beef in a spice grinder or blender. Surprisingly, the contents of that packet were not listed on the package. Here are some ideas of what could be in the packet.
  3. Add the ground spice packet to the rest of the ingredients. Brush or rub the wet rub all over the corned beef in the slow cooker. Make sure the fat side is up when you are done.
  4. Close the cooker and cook on high for 6 hours. Remove the meat to a platter and cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
  5. Slice thinly or however you prefer.

Even if it’s not authentic pastrami, the flavor is there and it’s a nice change from corned beef.

Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé

We like butternut squash roasted in chunks until they brown on the edges, or mashed with butter and salt, and especially in butternut squash risotto. Today I figured it was time for something else, and I wondered how difficult it would be to get the heavy mashed pulp to rise in a soufflé. I haven’t made a soufflé for eons, but I remember the high hat that puffs out of the dish before it falls a little, and the airy texture of the soufflé in your mouth. Surely this one will be different, still with a lighter texture than simple mashed squash, but not like  a squash custard.

“Soufflés have the same kind of life as the ‘breath’ for which they are named. . . .”

My old Joy of Cooking (1967) has a whole section on soufflés—the one with eggplant looks yummy—but I have only ever made the traditional cheese soufflé. It starts with a thick white sauce, but that wouldn’t be necessary when you start with a thick mashed vegetable like squash or sweet potatoes. In the eggplant soufflé, there are breadcrumbs and chopped nuts mixed with the eggplant pulp, but a little milk is only recommended if the mixture seems “stiff.” It’s that point before you fold in the beaten egg whites that determines whether you need more moisture. The sweet potato soufflé uses a little applesauce for that moisture. If I need it, I will use a little milk, but I think I will try to infuse both moisture and lightness with eggs alone—4 eggs in total.

I’ll be mixing the squash, seasonings, and egg yolks in a food processor to a smooth puree, and then folding in the beaten egg whites by hand in a large bowl, but you could make it all by hand or with a hand mixer up to the egg white stage.

Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé

  • Servings: about 4
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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Recipe Timing: Timing this recipe depends on your method of cooking the squash. If you roast it in the oven, whole or peeled and in chunks, that will take time, but it could be done the day before, especially since it should cool before mixing with eggs. I cooked mine, whole, in the microwave for 10-16 minutes, so that expedited the process. With cooked squash, the rest of the recipe goes quickly, even with separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites.

Baking dish tips: Butter a 1 1/2 qt baking dish with high sides. Dust the bottom and sides of the dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese or flour. A dish with a smaller round  circumference and higher sides works better than a low-sided larger dish, such as an 8 or 9 inch square baker.

Preheat oven to 350°

1 medium-large butternut squash, cooked—about 2 cups

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

  1. In bowl of food processor, combine squash, bacon fat, and seasonings to a puree. Taste for seasoning before adding egg yolks. Add egg yolks and pulse to blend.
  2. Transfer squash puree to large bowl. Fold in beaten egg whites with large spatula—a silicone spatula with a large paddle works better than a small one. Mine measures 5″ and is curved to fit the sides of bowls. Mine is blue, but you can see it in red here: http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Silicone-Mixer-Spatula-Red/dp/B0095PC75C
  3. Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then check to make sure the center has risen to the same height as the edges. If it is sunken in the middle, let it go for another 10 minutes.
  4. It does rise in the baking dish, but if you want a photo, take it quickly, because the whole thing sinks about an inch in a few minutes. I forgot to get one until it was too late.

The texture is lighter and airier than a squash custard (such as a pumpkin pie) but a little heavier than the traditional cheese soufflé made with white sauce. The edges/sides—if you dust the dish with grated cheese—have a nicely browned crust. A soufflé is a nice change for a traditional vegetable side dish. Think of all the ways you can work vegetables into one.

Sour Cream Oven-Fried Chicken

I’m still hooked on my oven-fried chicken, but for a change, I thought I’d add the extra step of marinating it beforehand, and that was a good idea. It’s not uncommon to marinate chicken before frying, especially with buttermilk, a method I often use if frying small pieces of boneless chicken or other birds, like the mountain of pheasant we had in the freezer last season. I didn’t have any buttermilk and really didn’t want to venture out in yesterday’s interminable downpour, so I figured sour cream would work in a similar fashion. I looked around the web and wasn’t wrong about that.

I decided on Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe, because of its simplicity and because her final flour coating is almost identical to the one I use without the marinating. I just stopped at the point where she fries the chicken and used my oven method to finish it off. Like a buttermilk marinade, another wet and thick marinade, this one sticks to the chicken and makes little clumps in the final seasoned flour coating that become wonderfully crispy bits, especially on the skin. Crispy fried chicken skin—it’s the bacon of chicken.

The chicken fried up in the oven as it always does, and my husband declared these the best chicken thighs ever, for both flavor and crispiness. I guess I’ll be using this extra step a lot.

Sour Cream Oven-Fried Chicken

  • Servings: makes at least 1 whole chicken or more
  • Difficulty: easy
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Marinating the Chicken

1/2 cup whole milk or cream (I used cream, just because I had some on hand)

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground

8-10 pieces of chicken, bone-in, skin-on—I used thighs

  1. Mix together first 5 ingredients.
  2. Pour mixture over chicken in large dish or plastic zipper bag.
  3. Marinate covered in refrigerator for 2-4 hours or overnight, removing 30 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.

Cooking the Chicken

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons paprika—I used smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons solid shortening

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a large oven-proof dish—my large Pyrex dish is 10″ x 15″—melt butter and shortening in the oven while coating the chicken. Watch to make sure the butter does not start to burn. Swirl the fats together before adding chicken.
  3. Mix together the first four ingredients in a large bowl. I find that coating wet pieces in a bowl prevents a lot of flying flour from coating everything else in the kitchen.
  4. One piece at a time, coat marinated chicken in the flour mixture, patting the flour on. Shake off excess and place coated pieces on paper towels or parchment paper. Notice that I breaded my fingers on one hand nicely, but I couldn’t think of a way to cook that.
  5. Place coated chicken pieces in hot dish, skin side down.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece and bake for 30 more minutes.
  7. Remove hot chicken to a serving dish or cooling rack. Briefly blot each piece with a paper towel, if necessary, before placing on serving dish.

Don’t burn yourself picking up those missed fried bits in the pan.


Gilding Your Store-Bought Food with Cream Gravy

I over-purchased food for my little granddaughter’s visit and never got around to the frozen things we thought she might want, the breaded chicken tenders and the frozen waffles, so I decided to put them together and have a chicken and waffles dinner. Of course, it would have been better to be making both from scratch, but I figured I could add some homemade cream gravy to pump it up a little. I mean, really, gravy makes just about anything better. The best I could do with the frozen waffles was to use real butter and real maple syrup—or the chicken and gravy could have gone over the waffles in more of an Amish chicken and waffles.


Cream Gravy

  • Servings: makes 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Cream gravy is so, so easy, but you do have to stand there and stir it until thickened to prevent lumps, so choose a time to make it when your hands are not needed elsewhere.

4 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter or vegetable oil)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk (I used 1 1/2 cups half and half and 1/2 cup milk)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper—you have to see the black flecks of pepper in this sauce

  1. Heat the bacon fat until melted in a saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the flour, stirring until all the lumps are gone. Keep stirring for a few minutes to cook out the rawness of the flour. If you are using butter or oil, you want the roux to turn a light golden color without burning. My bacon fat had been strained before storing, so there were no bits of bacon left in it, but that would have been okay.
  2. Slowly stir in the milk, stirring continuously. I do not scald my milk first unless I’m using butter, but some people like to do that. Continue slowly stirring for a few more minutes with a large spoon or whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
  3. Remove from heat and pour over just about any dinner food, from meat to vegetables to rice or potatoes. Or I guess you could eat it with that large spoon.