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Test subject Bill asked for Bolognese sauce last week. It’s always nice to get a request…and then NAIL IT. This sauce was a thing of beauty. I recommend serving it over homemade pasta for best results! Note: a good Bolognese takes time. Don’t rush it, and you will be rewarded.

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KKF Bolognese Sauce

1 lb ground beef

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 cloves garlic

2 t curry powder

2 small bay leaves

1.5 cups red wine

14 oz tomato paste

Bunch thyme, tied together tightly with string

2 T olive oil

1.5-2c water

½ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Buzz your onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the food processor until you have a chunky paste. Warm the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the garlicky mirepoix. Hit it with a big pinch of salt. Cook gently for at least 20 minutes, letting the flavors develop. Add the ground beef (you’re using grass fed beef, right?) and give it a good strong stir, blending it well with the veggies. Let it cook, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for another few minutes, then add the wine. Bring the mixture to a light simmer and hold for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, then add about half a cup of the water. Add the curry powder, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer and give it some time, at least 15 minutes, stirring frequently, before adding another half cup of water. Monitor your sauce, adding water as necessary when it reduces, and tasting and adjusting salt and pepper as desired. The longer you can let it go the better it will be. Mine probably went in this phase for about two hours.

You want to end up with a fairly thick, uniform sauce with very, very small chunks of the ground beef. You don’t want to see big chunks of anything. Once you are happy with the consistency and flavor of your sauce you are almost done. Just one more finishing touch…

Slowly stir in half a cup of heavy cream and let it just heat through before serving. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese and a smile.

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I am lucky enough to have a wonderful friendly neighborhood farmer who occasionally offers to his inner circle fine items he makes from his pastured meats like bacon, bratwurst and sausage. Recently I got a few pounds of an amazing somewhat hot Italian sausage that he made. At the same time, I ended up in possession of a large number of red, orange and yellow bell peppers (Sprouts had a sale on not-so-perfect but organic peppers).

There was only one thing to do.

Of course if I was going to make sausage and peppers I needed something to display them on. It had to be a potato, and for the most eye pleasing plating, they needed to be turned into hash browns. Welcome to the most delicious sausage and peppers ever. It’s simple and it’s satisfying. You’re welcome.

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KKF Sausage & Peppers with Hash Browns

1 pound of the best quality sausage links you can get your hands on (raw)*

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

4 bell peppers (mix of red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced

4 T butter

2 T olive oil

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

2 t paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil and simmer the sausages for about 30 minutes. Shred the potatoes in your food processor. Move the spuds to a large bowl and stir in the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and a little salt and pepper (you can always add more later.) Melt 2 T of the butter in a cast iron pan over high heat and add the oil. Spread the potato mix over the fat and cover. Let it sit, undisturbed for about five minutes, then reduce heat to low and give it another 8-10 minutes until the potatoes are mostly soft. Cover and set aside.

In another cast iron pan melt another 2 T of butter. When it is nice and hot add the sausage and brown them up on all sides. I usually let them go about two minutes or so, then roll them until they are brown and crunchy looking all the way around. Move to a cutting board and let them cool. In the leftover butter and juices from the sausages, add your sliced peppers. (You can add more fat if needed but usually what’s left is sufficient.) Sauté the peppers with about a half a teaspoon of salt until they are just softened.

While your peppers are cooking and your sausages are cool enough to touch, slice them on the diagonal in about one inch slices. When the peppers are done, add the sausages back to the pan and heat through.

To serve, layer a serving of hash browns (crunchy side up if you please) on the plate and pile peppers and sausage medallions on top. Delicious!
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*This is the most important element of this recipe. Your sausage and peppers will only be as good as your sausages.

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So for all the recipes I try and food that I make at home, you would think that I’d done a brisket before.

Nope.

Not a single brisket had ever graced my freezer, refrigerator or oven…until today. Now all I can think about it how do I get me another one. I emailed my farmer and was like “Hey…yeah…how’s going? Brisket. Thanks for the beef last brisket. You have anything left in your brisket like maybe some brisket? HELP ME!”

I don’t even have a picture because it was gone in like 10 minutes. Moist, tender, savory, falling apart deliciousness. No sugar, too, which is awesome for low carbers! I used Tyler Florence’s recipe here. Only change I made is that I did not use carrots – celery and onion only – and I turned down the heat to about 300. The first time I basted it seemed too hot for me. So 300 for almost 4 hours was perfect.

The veggies were pretty dead by the end of the cooking time, so I just strained them out and chucked them. They were all they could be contributing to the sauce.

So get yourself a grass fed brisket and get on with it already! Don’t deprive yourself for years like I did. Take a lesson from KKF – neglecting brisket is a kung faux pas!!

 

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Eggplant Unrolled. Note the stylish 40 year old Corelle!

Well, it happened again. I set out to follow a recipe and end up doing my own thing. I may never know how an original recipe actually tastes.

Inspired by an Eggplant Roll recipe and this marinara recipe, I came up with the following Eggplant lasagna, or non- rollatini. Rolls would have been cool, but I felt my eggplant slices were too small and it would make it more work than it was worth. The resulting bake (I hate to use the word casserole) was absolutely delicious. Not to toot my own horn, but I seriously felt it was restaurant quality. This makes a HUGE amount, so this would be a good dish to make for a crowd.

KKF Eggplant: Unrolled!

For the unrolls:
3 large eggplant, sliced ¼ inch to 3/8 inch thick
1 head of garlic, smashed and removed from skins
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups of yogurt cheese (yogurt that has had most of the whey strained out. If you don’t have or don’t want this, you can use ricotta and have the same impact.)
1 cup of cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella plus some for topping the dish
A handful of minced fresh basil
1 pound ground pork
1 t salt
1 T Italian seasoning
Black pepper to taste

For the marinara:
3 T olive oil
6 cloves of the garlic used in the eggplant marinade, minced
26 oz canned diced tomatoes
16 oz can tomato sauce
7 oz can tomato paste
½ c diced mushrooms
¾ cup red wine
1 t salt
Pepper to taste

Steps:

Roasted eggplant slices

1. Toss eggplant rounds with smashed garlic cloves and the olive oil. Marinate for two hours, tossing half way through.
2. Cook the ground pork with the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Cool to room temperature.
3. Place eggplant rounds in a single layer on baking sheets and put in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
4. Sauté the garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil until the garlic starts to brown. Add all the other marinara ingredients and let simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, mix the cheeses, basil and seasoned ground pork.
6. Take a large casserole dish (I used a 9 x 11, deep dish) or two smaller dishes and put together the layers thusly: cover the bottom of the dish with marinara, then do a layer of eggplant. It’s ok if it doesn’t cover the whole bottom. Put a big dallop of the cheese/pork mix on top of each round, then press another eggplant round on top (not too hard, just flatten it out a bit). Repeat until you run out of rounds, with the cheese mix being the top layer.

Building the layers

7. Pour the rest of the marinara sauce all over the stacks of eggplant and top with the rest of the mozzarella.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly throughout.

Hot, bubbly and delicious!

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Pork belly. Also known as pork side or middlen. The most treasured part of any hog purchase because it is used to MAKE BACON.

But every now and then you have to try something new.

At a recent visit to Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta I had the fried pork belly appetizer with sorghum glaze. UH.MAZE.ING. I was initially going to share with the rest of my dinner companions but after I took a bite I told them to stick it. Restaurant Eugene is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant and we can’t wait to go back once we get done paying the last installment for our last meal, if you get my drift…

So that got me thinking. Of course bacon is a thing of beauty, but what if I could make a similar pork belly recipe? Hello, Google…and I found Dan Barber’s Pork Belly. You do have to plan in advance for this recipe because it needs to cure for three days before being slow cooked for 7 hours, but honestly the overall time investment was minimal, making this an easy and delcious recipe.

I followed the recipe almost exactly. For the cure mix, I forgot to buy star anise so I subbed dried basil because I smell anise in basil sometimes. (Don’t ask me for rational explanations.) I used ground white pepper instead of whole white peppercorns. I subbed celery seed for fennel seed. Also, I scaled back the sugar a little bit. Since I had a 3 pound pork belly and the recipe called for a six pounder, I halved the cure mix.

After blending the cure mix I rubbed it all over my partially thawed belly, then packed the cure around it, wrapped it up in wax paper then aluminum foil. It sat in the fridge for a little over three days. When it came time to cook, I rinsed as directed. Since I had failed to cut off the skin before curing (duh to me, I’ll take it off first next time) I cut the belly in half and ran it through my Chef’s Choice Electric Food Slicer to cut off the tough skin. I put the two pieces fat side down in a ceramic dish, poured two full quarts of chicken stock over it and covered with foil.

In it went for 7 hours.

When time was up, I pulled the dish out and took a look. Not terribly impressive looking. Kind of like a huge chunk of lame, pasty bacon. Good thing I wasn’t done yet!

I cut the two halves into 8 chunks each and fired up the cast iron skillet. Frying first on the fat side for 3-4 minutes until it got nice and dark and carmely and crunchy, then on each side for a minute or so until the entire small chunk was crunchy and brown.

CAUTION. DO NOT FRY THESE CHUNKS UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPLATTER SCREEN BIG ENOUGH TO COVER YOUR WHOLE SKILLET. It WILL splatter all over God’s green earth and burn you and your loved ones if you don’t cover it up.

Safety first!

While the pork belly goodness was frying I was also frying up some cubed red potatoes in butter with a few tablespoons of Mill Creek Spice’s Steak Seasoning. Man, is that some good stuff.

Anyway, so once you have your well-crisped chunks of pork belly, drain as you please and enjoy. This made me do a dance in the kitchen, just ask Test Subject Bill. Good luck eating more than two. They are SUPER rich but unbelievably tasty. I think it might be better than bacon.

But a word to the wise – make this for a crowd! This is way too much for two people and good enough to share with your best friends! Also, consider serving with something pickled or maybe a salad with vinaigrette just to cut the richness of the fat. It is a thing of beauty. Ah, pork belly euphoria!!

Pork belly and seasoned spuds!

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Test subject Bill loves pork, so I’m always looking for new ways to make pork. He also has a tough time swallowing ground beef because of the gristle/connective tissue that’s often a part of beef…but not so much with pork! So ground pork is the convenience food of choice in our house.

I was inspired by this recipe over at AllRecipes. White sugar is something I avoid so every time I see it in a recipe I’m always tweaking to see how to get out of it. This turned out fantastic. I don’t even have a picture because they are GONE.

KKF Sweet n Sour Pork Balls

1 1/2 lbs ground pork

16 oz. tomato sauce

1 cup water

1/4 c maple syrup

1 T sucanat (you could use white sugar if you want, or increase the maple syrup)

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1 t Italian seasoning

1 t chili powder

1 t apple cider vinegar

1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degress. Form the ground pork into balls and place in a glass baking dish. Stir together all the other ingredients in a saucepan and heat lightly. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Pour the sauce over the balls and bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on how big you made your pork balls.

We had this over rice with broccoli on the side. It was fantastic, used waaaay less sweetener than the original recipe, and was still pleasantly sweet.

When I make this again I’ll try to remember to take a picture so I can come back and post it!

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Grilled grass fed blade steak resting

In my opinion, grilling comes down to a) quality meats and b) proper technique. Although I still consider myself a real beginner at grilling, I am noticing that when I do the least I’m getting the best results. For example, the burgers I grilled today. Ground beef and a homemade rub. That’s it. Granted, the meat was super high quality, but preparation was quick and almost effortless. If you do it right, grilling should be easy.

Skewered chicken satay off the grill

Earlier this weekend I made steak and chicken satay on the grill. For the steak, it couldn’t have been easier. I took a dry aged blade steak from my local grass-based farmer and marinated it for 8-9 hours in plain old olive oil. Right before grilling, I salted and peppered. Then I threw it on my Egg at about a 450 degrees and closed the lid. A few minutes later, I opened and flipped it, and gave it another two minutes. I let it rest while I grilled my satay.

Steak, chicken satay with peanut sauce (even though it looks like ketchup in this pic...gross) and Italian green beans from the farmer's market

The chicken satay is a recipe I got from my Viking Cooking School Thai cooking class. Chicken breast strips are marinated in a coconut milk/garlic/cilantro mixture, then threaded onto skewers. I had them on a 450 degree egg for about 2-3 minutes per side and they came out soooo juicy, a real feat for chicken breast. The peanut sauce is a combination of coconut milk, red curry paste (use Mae Ploy brand), fish sauce, tamarind paste (make a visit to your local ethnic grocery store), garlic, a sweetner (I used sucanat), and of course, a few tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. So clearly, far more effort went into the sauce than the meat itself! It was worth it though…quite delicious.

The steak’s flavor was incredible for as little as I did to it. I’ve noticed that with quality meats. Portions of it were chewy and other portions were very tender. Lucky for me I like to pick up meat and gnaw on it so I got every part, chewy or tender 🙂 I think next time I may marinade it even longer and see how that works out.

Hope everyone had a blessed and safe 4th of July holiday!

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