One of the more interesting things about brisket is the “Costco effect” – the bigger your go, the better the price. You see partial points in the grocery store, things that look about the size of a badass steak, but you pay literally twice as much per kilogram for that as you do when you but the whole shebang. This is what we call good value.
The downside, of course, is the ol’ “what the hell do I do with all this meat” problem. Generally you want to cook brisket whole to take advantage of the natural flavoring that comes out of the connective tissue, but unless you happen to have 38 of your closest friends and neighbours over for dinner, it can be a little overwhelming. So how about something to do with half of a brisket? You can slice a full slab in half, cook half now and either freeze the second half for a future project or grind it up for the World’s Best Burger Blend.
So here we go. A simplified take on a very traditional Mexican beef preparation called machaca. Big rich beefy goodness tempered with cinnamon and coffee and ancho chilies. This version takes minimal effort, packs huge flavour, and makes the best damn tacos on the planet. If you can find the time, make this either the morning of your meal or the day before so you can let the meat cool in the liquid before you shred and serve it. Now keep reading and get ready to make some magic.
This particular pico de gallo use to have a really sucky name. That was unfortunate. Now, however, it has an awesome name which is entirely fitting since it is an awesome flavour mix. The new name just sort of popped out – I was doing some Chrstmas baking and shouting random and generally wrong lyrics to the Brave Combo version of Must Be Santa and there it was. Ho ho ho.
So. This is an easy pico that makes any sort of roasted or grilled pork into a festival of summery brightness. There are just a handful of ingredients and the actual “putting it together” time is short. However, you will want to start making this about 2 hours before you plan to eat it – the watermelon needs to drain for a bit and you want to give some time at the end for the flavours to come together.
And a big special super thanks to Pippa at the Cheese Shoppe On Locke for information and advice about the feta!
The readers have spoken, and due to popular demand … Cookin’ Comix returns! Enjoy!
After my brief digression about the difference between “salsa” and “pico de gallo”, a couple of people wrote to ask if I had a quick recipe for actual salsa.
Darn tootin’ I do.
Actually, if we are going to be 100% accurate about this, I’ve already posted a recipe for salsa with the Sweet Habanero Splash. However, rather than just being my regular acerbic self and telling them to wake up and pay attention, I am going to get fully into the spirit of the holidays here and pony up a second salsa recipe. This one is amazingly simple, a lot less lethal than the habanero stuff, and is probably something you will want to keep in the fridge 365 days a year. You need a blender or food processor, just so you know. Keep reading for all the details.
Awesome George dropped me a line regarding the Mango Pico De Gallo:
Hey guy! I made your mango pico and it was pretty f’n good, but if you put a bit of habanero into it is AWESOME. Have you tried that? I used about an eighth of a pepper for a double batch of your stuff, it made for good heat while still being mostly mango.
Hey guy back! Thanks for the props, and for the idea. Veteran readers will remember that I have pimped the fruity sweetness of habanero peppers in recipes past. But I hadn’t gotten around to adding it to the mango pico. In fact, since I always keep a jar of Sweet Habanero Splash in the fridge, I’m going to experiment using that. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Did you know that the stuff most gringos call “salsa” is actually “pico de gallo”? It’s true! If it has pieces of stuff in it that you can pick up with your thumb and forefinger (like a rooster picking up something with his beak) then it is a pico de gallo. Which, not surprisingly, means “rooster’s beak” in spanish. Salsas are generally more of a sauce. Not a chunky mix. So stop calling your pico de gallo salsa.
And on that note, we have today’s simple offering. It’s called Mango Pico De Gallo because that is what it is. A pico made with mangoes. It goes stupendously well on any meat – chicken, pork, and especially beef. The only caveat here is that you need to make it about a half hour before you want to eat it to give the vinegar time to work on the mangoes. So bust out your favourite knife, a handful of ingredients, and lets get chopping.
I’ve been kicking around a few ideas on how to deal with quick food ideas that don’t really rate a full “recipe post” treatment. This is what I have come up with – if you like it, let me know and I will make it a regular feature. If you don’t like it, let me know that too, and I’ll deep-six the whole idea. Thanks!
Pro Tip: Click on the image for a full-sized view!
In the recent discussion of “spatchcocking” I reminded you to save the spine of your chicken for making stock. This goes for the rest of your trimmed and discarded parts any time you cook chicken – the spine, the wing tips, and even the carcass after you clean off all the meat and pack it away in the fridge.
Regardless of which recipe you use to make your stock, there is one crucial tip: DO NOT BOIL IT. Period. Boiling the stock will make it cloudy – some of the fat will emulsify and you will never get it out. Simmering the stock will leave it beautiful and clear after cooling and skimming.
Clear stock is good stock. So no boiling. Or else.
Having roasted or barbeque chicken in the fridge and ready to use for everything from paninis to pasta dishes to a quick quesadilla is a brilliant idea. It’s tasty, healthy, neutral enough that you can go in almost any direction, and versatile enough that you can come up with a whack of different fast and easy ways to eat it and never really get bored. Unfortunately, cooking the actual bird is intimidating for a lot of people – to the point where I have seen suggestions in everything from bad supermarket-checkout magazines (you know the kind, glossy women’s lifestyle mags with a “food” section aimed at idiots like this) to chef-hosted cooking shows that say you should forget about roasting your own chicken and just buy a pre-cooked bird at the deli or take-out section of the supermarket.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Buying and cooking your own bird is always going to be a superior choice. There is no need to be hesitant. Roasted or barbeque chicken – especially if you just want to put the meat away for future use and don’t care about niceties like stuffing or carving presentation – is actually close to foolproof. All you need to do is remember five simple steps:
Wait a minute. Um … spatchcock? What the hell is that?
That, my friend, is a time-honoured and (sadly) little-used way to cook a bird quickly and with almost any kind of heat source. And quickly is key – the faster you can cook a chicken, the moister and more flavourful the meat will be. Spatchcocking a bird is akin to butterflying, but instead of taking out both the spine and the sternum you just remove the spine. The sternum helps to protect the breast meat from drying out, giving you all sorts of options for the actual cook. No matter what kind of grill/oven/smoker/roaster you are packing, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a way to make this work.
Ready? Get yourself a really nice bird – forget the supermarket, get a fresh free-range hen from your farmer’s market – and let’s dig in.
Last week Hamilton played host to a gathering of food trucks from around Ontario. Ottawa Street was turned into a curbside festival of sights, sounds, and (best of all) tastes from the new street food movement. And while The Steel … Continue reading