Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Jacked Up Grill on the Scene! Come Buy Our Food!

Come see me this Friday, April 26 from 5-9 at the Barracks Road Shopping center! We will have a tent set up by the fountain, and you will be able to get a taste of some Jacked Up classics while you shop! There will be a lot going on Friday, including the grand opening of the Peachmac store, so bring your friends & family.

One of the most exciting parts is our partnership with Steve & Monique from The Happy Cook. They are extremely cool people, and they are now offering Primo grills at their shop, which are he best ceramic grills out there. Plus, they're made in the USA. I'll be using one Friday night.

Come see us Friday and support local food, local business and general awesomeness.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Butter Poached Steak. No, This is Not a Dream.....

Moderation. The wet blanket of the gustatory world. However, if used responsibly, moderation can add to your happiness, or at least not detract from it all that much. Instead of taking out a massive loan for that Ferrari that will inevitably be forfeited to the bank, you can buy a 1991 Geo Prizm and look at pictures of Ferraris online. Instead of finding your way to the bottom of that bottle of Rumplemintz and ending up married to a hooker named Steve, get the bartender to put one of those little umbrellas and a cherry in your Diet Pepsi and use your turn signals all the way home. And if you want to wait six months to get a rezzie at The French Laundry, only to finally get one at 3:30pm on a Monday, where you will spend $300 on 8 courses of pretty food you can't pronounce, and won't remember the names of when your friends ask you what you had, use moderation instead. Make yourself a butter poached piece of beef at home. It's not settling. It's Transcending. 

Now if you know me, you might gather that moderation is hard for me. I deal more in extremes, just by my nature. However, in my advancing age, I realize the value of compromise. Restraint is an admirable quality, and not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Before you get all proud of me, know that I made my own doughnuts last night. I confess that so that you will know the boundlessness of my hypocrisy. 
Back on point, the point of moderation is that if you deny yourself the luxuries most of the time......er, some of the time?.......then you are allowed to really enjoy a little splurge here and there. Deny Yourself. Now that's a novel idea for Americans these days......

So, if you have been counting calories, pinching pennies, avoiding alcoholism, etc., and it's time for your reward, and you choose it in the form of a great meal, I've got one for you. Get a steak and poach that thing in butter. Trust me, you won't regret it. 

I heard of butter poached beef on our anniversary trip to Washington D.C. last year. We ate at Bourbon Steak, and the specialty of Chef Michael Mina is to poach the meat in clarified butter. The cost was offensive, and the steak was underseasoned, and the building was surrounded by homeless people, and my ensuing epiphany led to The Dinner to Fight Hunger. However, a seed was planted about the technique.....

I detest failure, so I have NOT been on a diet lately. However, I have been exploring the intricacies of moderation. Because Mrs. Jacked Up Grill and I had been so good,  I decided we had earned a steak. But the point of weeks of moderation is to relish in the glory of anti-moderation, so I thought, "I think I'll Butter Poach those bad boys the Jacked Up Grill Way!"

What the butter does is slowly bring the beef up to temperature, while infusing it with buttery goodness as well as whatever herbs and seasonings you have in the butter. The final product doesn't retain much actual butter, but the flavor accentuates the fat of the meat, and there is an unctuousness about it that reminds you that this dinner is truly a reward. So sit back. Pour yourself a glass of whatever you've been denying yourself. If you've been saving up for that SpotBot for your carpet, go to the bank and ask for three hundred dollars in pennies, then fill up your tub with them, then dive in like McScrooge*. Live a little, you've earned it. And try this steak. It's the best you'll ever have. 

Mrs. J.U.G referred to her steak as "amaze-balls." Ya, amaze-balls. 

*Do NOT dive into the tub of pennies. I tried it, and the Duck Tales intro is apparently just movie magic. 

Butter Poached Filet of Beef, Red Wine Reduction
(Technique and recipe modified from Michael Mina's article in Esquire)

2 Steaks of your choosing**
1 pound unsalted, real butter
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 sprigs rosemary
1 shallot, thinly sliced

**Because you are adding fat from the butter, a leaner cut works great, even if you normally go ribeye. Try tenderloin if you're going all out, but NY strip or even sirloin will be elevated in flavor and suppleness by the butter poach. 

For Sauce
1 cup dry red wine 
1 shallot, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig time
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp butter (you can use the clarified butter from the poach)

First, clarify one pound (4 sticks) of butter. Melt it all gently, then spoon off the foam on top (milk proteins). The golden liquid in the middle is the clarified butter, but there are still milk solids on the bottom, so gently pour off the liquid and discard the white stuff on the bottom. 

To set up the poacher, we need a double boiler. Find a skillet or pot large enough to hold the butter and the steaks, and place it on top of another pot of water that is just barely smaller. Heat the water slowly until the butter reaches a temp of 140-160 degrees. It was a little hard for me to control, so my butter stayed at the higher end. Just adjust your cook time and keep checking the internal temp of your meat. Place the garlic, rosemary and shallot into the butter.

 Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and add to the butter.  Because this is a one and done thing for home cooks, you don't have to waste tons of butter by adding enough to submerge your steaks. I followed Mina's advice, and flipped the meat halfway through the cooking time, since there was only enough butter to get just past the halfway point on my steak. Cook for approximately 30 minutes per inch thickness of the meat. When the steak is about 10-15 degrees short of your desired temp (Medium Rare= 145, so 130-135), remove and shake free of excess butter. Season again with salt and pepper, and place in a scorching hot skillet for about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side just to get a little crust. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Prepare your tastebuds for nirvana. 

For the sauce, add 1 tbsp butter to a saucepan and add shallots and bell peppers. Season with salt and sweat until softened. Add wine and rosemary and thyme, and allow to reduce until about half the volume is evaporated. Stir in last tbsp of butter and simmer until syrupy. Remove rosemary and thyme before serving. Sauce can be strained, or served with the peppers and shallots. 

I added the steak on top of smashed purple potatoes, and the final product certainly felt like a victory over mediocrity, and it one-upped my over priced, under seasoned steak from DC. Boo-Ya , Moderation. Boo-friggin-Ya. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fried Homemade Mozzarella, Apple Chile Salad

For The Dinner to Fight Hunger, my theme for the menu was to take typical popular menu items from any given American restaurant, and then elevate them in some way. All of them were successful to some degree, so for posterity, I am laying down the recipes here. Please email me if you have questions, since a lot of this was made up on the fly, and is thus difficult to pin down in an actual repeatable recipe.

The first course was my interpretation of a fried mozzarella stick. Who doesn't love those? Literally one of the worst things you can put into your body, nutritionally, but DELICIOUS. My first step toward getting more out of a cheese stick was to make my own cheese. That sounded intimidating to me, too, but with a little internet research, a trip to the home brew store, and a gallon of milk, it was a piece of cake. My first attempt was an utter failure, but that was totally due to my inability to follow the perfectly clear and simple directions. Try #2 made perfectly delicious mozzarella. Try #3 made even better cheese, and more of it. It just takes a second to perfect your technique.

There are tons of options online that describe in detail how to do this. The one I had the most success with was this one. I used vegetable rennet solution instead of animal rennet tablets, so I just followed the dilution directions on the bottle. Also, this recipe doesn't go into detail about salting the cheese, but that was ok, since I knew I would be breading and seasoning it later on. I added about 2 teaspoonsful of cheese salt roward the end of the process, and it was just right.

Ingredients needed:
1 Gallon Milk                                    *I got the citric acid, rennet and cheese salt at 5th Season
1 1/2 tsp citric acid
1/8 tsp rennet
2 tsp cheese salt

Purists will say that what I made was not REAL mozzarella. Purists live sad, boring lives. Most Italian mozz is made from a specific breed of buffalo milk, and is made all on the stovetop, and pulled in a water bath. My cheese was made with a gallon of fresh Shenandoah Pride whole cow's milk. I finished it in the microwave and pulled it on my cutting board. Get over it.

It is utterly unbelievable that four ingredients and 45 minutes can produce a perfectly perfect pound of fresh mozzarella cheese, but believe me, you'll never buy it at the store again.

I formed the cheese into 2 inch diameter rolls, and wrapped them in plastic and put them in the fridge. When ready to cook, I sliced the cheese into 1/2 inch thick discs, dredged them in flour, dunked them into a milk/egg wash, then breaded them in bread crumbs seasoned with salt and dried parsley. Chef Keevil recommended a second trip to the flour and then back to the breadcrumbs, and this made a much better crust, so I would do that for sure. We fried the cheese in oil for about 3 minutes until golden brown, then drained on a paper towel.

They were perfectly crispy on the outside and stretchy and gooey on the inside. Best mozzarella stick ever.

Rather than serving a marinara dipping sauce for dipping, I topped it with a salad variation from a fried halloumi cheese recipe I made when auditioning for Chopped. They never called me back, which I credit to them not wanting it to be unfair to the other competitors.

Apple Chile Salad
1 sweet apple, matchsticked
1 tart apple, matchsticked
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow pepper, julienned
1 hot chile, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all dressing ingredients except oil with a wisk. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking furiously until dressing is well emulsified.
Add all salad ingredients to a bowl, and toss with dressing until all is lightly coated. Try not to over dress so it doesn't get soggy.

Serve a small pile of salad on top of your piping hot cheese stick.

I was going to brag about this being a 100% vegetarian dish, but then I forgot that milk comes from animals. I really suck at vegetarianizing. Sorry guys.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Dinner to Fight Hunger

Ever witnessed something that started with a "What if we...." and ended up with "How the heck did that happen?" That's pretty much what happened with The Dinner to Fight Hunger.

The Dinner was basically a pop-up restaurant evening at Brookeville Restaurant where I (an amateur) prepared a five course tasting menu using local ingredients. We sold tickets to the public and used the money from the tickets as a donation to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. I won't bore you, loyal reader (singular), with the backstory, but the actual event itself was a seriously unique experience, not because of the food, but because of the people.

Cooking really started for me as a hobby, but it held my interest when it became about people, and about a community. I realized how great that community really is through putting on this event.

Going into the dinner, I expected it would be a flop. Why would perfect strangers pay their hard earned money for the cooking of a perfect stranger? Why would a critically acclaimed restaurant allow an unskilled goof into their kitchen, knowing there would be a fifty fifty chance I might burn it down? Excellent questions. The answer? The food community here is full of the best kind of people, and they all care about supporting hungry people in our area.

 I had never met Jennifer and Harrison Keevil, co-owners and chef (Harrison) of Brookeville, going into this, but they are passionate about food, and fully invested in giving back to this community. They never hesitated to welcome me into their place and spent tons of time and energy helping make The Dinner a success. They were there for any stupid question I had, they were a great resource in my search for local ingredients (no resto does that better in Cville), and one of the highlights of the whole thing for me was a lesson in Plating from Chef Harrison himself. These two have about a million things going on in their lives, but they took a ton of time (on their day off) to help us make this possible, and that is a rare thing. Go down there immediately and celebrate their benevolence with Chicken & Bacon Waffles.

I never really expected people I didn't know to pay for tickets to this thing. We offered 20 tickets, and I thought more than half of them might be tough sells. I was shocked to see that once the word got out, we sold out within a day and a half of the announcement. What-the-What? I can promise you it wasn't the legends of my good cooking that brought them in. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is doing powerful work to feed the hungry in our area, and good people here just jumped at the opportunity to pitch in. When we had cancellations along the way, someone would contact me out of the blue and snap up the empty seats. We were literally destined to reach our overall goal.

Just like the last big dinner, gathering the ingredients was one of my favorite parts.We were about 85% locally sourced this time, and the quality of the results definitely benefitted from it.  Getting to know the food producers around here is a ton of fun, and they are all really terrific people. They were all very excited about the opportunity to help out for this Event. Watching them sneak in a discount or add a few more potatoes to the bag after they weighed it was just more evidence that people care about people.

Every time help was needed, someone gave it. Austin and Jessi were my loyal sous chefs/servers/dish washers, and they were ON FIRE. Not literally. Figuratively. It would have all screeched to a halt without their work, and they were 100% volunteer. Except for the free beer. And meatballs. Kevin, one of our diners, volunteered to help me prep vegetables, and he came out to the house on Saturday and chopped onions like a champ! Who does that? It turns out he has some experience cooking for causes, and we are already talking about collaborating on future events. Wendy Edwards, a local radio talk show host and DJ, offered her help for the evening  and did a phenomenal job hosting and speaking on behalf of the Food Bank and how donation dollars go to help our hungry neighbors.

By the time the doors actually opened, I was riding on a super high of positive energy from all the people who had gotten involved to get us to that point. It could have been awkward to put a bunch of strangers at a farm style table for five courses, but everyone there was ridiculously friendly, and I really believe that they came in as diners and left as friends. It was a really fun room to be in.

There are great people here, and I am glad to know them. It was my priviledge to put a few plates on the table, but 21 of our neighbors provided money that will make its way through the BRAFB's system and provide meals for literally thousands of hungry people.
Ba-Bam! That just happened!

The Dinner To Fight Hunger
First Course:
Fried Cheese Stick
Homemade Mozzarella Cheese, Apple, Red Pepper, Chile, Honey
Wild Wolf Ginger Lager
Soup and Half Sandwich
Double Buffalo Slider. Bison Patty, Smoked Buffalo Shrimp, Appalachian Cheese
Potato Cheese Beer Soup Shooter
Devil's Backbone Striped Bass Pale Ale
BBQ Special
Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meatball, Fall Slaw, Pickled Vegetables, Habanero Pear BBQ sauce
Brew Ridge Trail Black Tripel Ale
Pot Roast & Mashed Potatoes
Beer Braised Short Rib, Smashed Sweet Chipotle Sweet Potato, Bacon, Hickory Syrup
Blue Mountain Dark Hollow Ale
Chocolate Pie
Dark Chocolate Ancho Chile Tart, Raspberry Lime sauce
Devil's Backbone Skull Crushing Ape Lager

I'd like to give a special thanks to all the local food producers and distributors who contributed to the dinner. I will list them here in no particular order. Please go out right this minute and buy food from these people. It will positively make your dishes taste better.
Appalachia Star Farm
Timber Creek Organics
BBQ Exchange
Albemarle Baking Company
Gardens of Khmet
Planet Earth Diversified
Mountain View Orchard
The Organic Butcher
The Spice Diva
Radical Roots Farm
Brookeville Restaurant
Devil's Backbone Brewery
Wild Wolf Brewery
Blue Mountain Brewery

Recipes for all menu items will be coming very soon!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Dinner to Fight Hunger Recap...teaser anyways

Full story to come later. Hey, I have to go to my REAL job, do get off me. I'll have the full Monty by tomorrow

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fake Asian From a Real American: Burger Grilling Gone Global

I want you to try two experiments this week. Just two. This week only. Day One is tomorrow (Monday), and Day 7 is Sunday. It shouldn't be hard. If you are thinking about not doing it, you need to reevaluate your priorities.

Experiment #1:  Don't Say "Amazing."

Pretty simple. You know you can't do it. When asked a question that requires a positive response, even though you know there are thousands of English words that would do, but you blurt out "Amazing," because you have been infected with the Orwellian double-speakish need to conform.
STOP DOING IT. Just stop. If I see "amazing" in your facebook posts or comments, you WILL be getting a visit from the White Tiger. Consider yourself forewarned.

Experiment #2:  Don't Buy Anything "Made in China"

If you sew your mouth shut, you can conceivably accomplish Experiment #1 (though you'll think it, even if you don't say it). However, if you buy anything this week, you will find it very difficult to accomplish Experiment #2. I remember when I was a kid, GI Joe action figures were $.88 each. That got you a little guy with poseable arms, legs and waist, a couple plastic choking hazard guns or accessories, and another soldier for your army. Even as a child, I recognized that these toys were each stamped with the logo "Made in Taiwan." It was odd to me that the toy bought at my local K-Mart was put together on the other side of the world. Buy hey, it was a global economy, even back in the 1980's. Ten different toys were probably made in ten different countries. None were made in the U.S., but at least there was some diversity. Those days are over. Even if you don't care anything about geopolitics, you should find it remarkable that EVERYTHING is made in China. Those dudes are just on fire these days, and unlike us, they are cool with paying little kids a dollar a month to make your GI Joes. If you need a kitchen gadget this week, just forget experiment #2. You will FAIL. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Rules for Experiment #2.
1. If you buy it, and it's made in the USA, you get 10 points.
2. If you buy it, and it's made anywhere other than China, you get 1 point.
3. If you buy it, and it's made in China, you lose 1,000 points, and you renounce your citizenship.

Simple. Let's see what you've got.

All that being said, I have been craving Asian flavors lately. I think soy sauce must have LSD in it. Also, I'm pretty sure what I think are "Asian" flavors are really probably so Americanized that they don't even closely resemble what is actually eaten in China. So let me revise my statement. I have been seriously craving fake Asian flavors lately.

Today is Grandparents' Day. We wanted to have Amy's parents over for dinner, and I thought I would go Fake Asian. I picked a recipe for Chinese Pickled Cabbage from one of my go-to cookbooks, and thought that would make a great burger topping for a fake-Asian flavored burger. I added some fake-Asian Lo Mein noodles with a fake-Asian sauce, and it made for a wicked good fake-Asian dinner. Made by a giant sized full blown American dude. I even grated the ginger and garlic with my Micro Plane, whose blade is made in America. Get some of that, China.

Unforch, I forgot to take pictures of any of this, so you'll just have to visualize.

Fake-Asian Burgers with Chinese Pickled Cabbage and Grilled Pineapple
Serves 5-6

2 pounds ground beef (80/20)
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp black pepper
6 slices pineapple rings

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup pineapple juice (from can rings came out of)
1tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp chopped scallion

Chinese Pickled Cabbage (from Best of the Best Cookbooks vol. 11)
(From My China by Kylie Kwong)
1 medium (1 1/2 pound) Chinese or Napa cabbage, cut into 1 inch squares
3 tbsp sea salt (if you use kosher salt, use 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns ( I didn't have any, so I used Pink Peppercorns)
6 small dried red chiles ( I used Chile De Arbol)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 large red chile, finely sliced ( I used a small red cayenne from my garden and a green jalapeno)

Start with the cabbage. Add the salt and sugar in a bowl with the cabbage and toss well. Leave out at room temp for about 2 hours. Heat the dried chiles and peppercorns in the oil for about 5 minutes until the chiles darken, and then strain into a bowl. discard the peppers and peppercorns and let the oil cool.
Drain the cabbage (tons of water should have sweated out), and squeeze dry. Toss the cabbage with the flavored oil and then add the chopped chiles and vinegar. (hint: I chopped the deadly jalapenos finely, but the milder cayenne I ran over the thinnest setting on my mandolin, and the best bites were the ones with the little discs of red chile)

For the glaze, mix all ingredients well until sugar dissolves.

For the burgers, gently combine the ginger, garlic, soy and vinegar with the beef, being careful not to overwork. Form the meat into six thick patties, and salt and pepper the outside. Place on a medium hot grill for about 5 minutes per side. After grilling one side, paint the top with the glaze. Also, place the pineapple rings on the grill and turn until caramelized on both sides.

Remove the patties, top with a pineapple slice and a heaping pile of pickled cabbage, slap that motha on a nice kaiser roll (fake-Chinese meets fake-German? Wormhole time), and you've got yourself one tasty flavored burger. I'm not gonna lie, this was a good one. I ate it four hours ago, and I want another one now. And yes, I know that pineapple is not a typical Chinese ingredient, but what part of fake-Asian don't you understand?

For the side, we cooked Lo Mein noodles just like any other pasta, while sauteing some onion, garlic and thinly sliced celery. When the noodles were done, I tossed them into the saute pan and added the remaining fake-Asian glaze. Toss until the noodles are coated with the sauce.

This whole thing can be whipped up in about 30 minutes, and I'm telling you, it's worth it. So the next time you need your MSG fix, go this route instead. But buy your crap made in America. It may be a little harder to find and a little more expensive, but it will maybe help keep a factory here open, so it's worth it.

GO 'Merica!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fried Cheese Stick That is Going to Get Me Onto Chopped

So. I tried out for Chopped..... I can visualize the producers sitting in their dark screening room watching audition tapes now......(doodley doo! doodley doo! doodley doo!)......(that was the sound effect from Wayne's World when they would do a dream sequence).........(just forget it)

Justin on Tape: "And that is why I think I will be the Chopped: Amateuer champion."

Producer #1: "We could take this guy if we could find a demographic he would do well with."

Producer #2: "Hmmmm....How big is our Assisted-Living Home viewer group?"

Temp: "Not big."

Producer #1: "Maybe we can pick up some viewers among  Female 45-50Year Old Owners of 15 or  More Cats?"

Producer #2: "Nope, his dishes have too many vegetables. I've got it! Criminally Insane, Vision Impaired Alien Abductees?"

Producer #1: "Genius. Get us Justin from The Jacked Up Grill!"

Doodley Doo! Doodley Doo! Doodley Doo!

Seriously, I REALLY want them to pick me. Chopped on Food Network gets a stupid amount of airtime at our house, and I have always wanted in on that action. Their Amateur episode is coming up, and I put my name in the hat. I'm sure about a jillion other people did, too but a guy can dream....

In the DIY audition video, they wanted you to talk about food, so I cooked a few dishes to put on camera, and they turned out pretty fantastic. Hopefully my food will woo them more than my massive head.

My dishes included Flat Iron Steak Chimichurri, Fennel Salad and a new one, fried halloumi cheese with orange.

Recipe for the cheese is at the end.

One question on the audition was "Tell us about any thwarted culinary dreams."
My answer, honestly, was that my culinary dreams are coming true these days. I am getting better and better in the kitchen, I am cooking more refined dishes for more people, I have a following (2 people) online, A recipe of mine was featured in a blog I really respect (Beyond the Flavor), and my cooking is going to raise some money for a great cause (Blue Ridge Area Food Bank), AND I get to cook in a real restaurant in October.

So no matter what happens with Chopped, my cooking career, er, hobby is looking really good, especially with the crazy, blind alien abductee crowd.

Pan Fried Halloumi Cheese with Orange Salad
makes 4 servings

8 slices halloumi cheese 1/4 inch thick
1 ripe orange, cut into supremes (supremes means the meat is cut out with no white membrane)
1 jalapeno pepper finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
panko bread crumbs

For the dressing, mix the onion, jalapeno, honey and lime juice until it's pretty runny. This works best when done earlier in the day, so that the honey can really soak up the heat from the peppers.

Halloumi is a very firm cheese that has some weird chemistry that keeps it from melting like normal cheese when it gets hot. This stuff can even be placed on the grill, and it will keep its shape. It is important to cook it long enough for the heat to get all the way through, though, because it can be rubbery if it's raw.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Press the cheese on both sides into the bread crumbs, and then gently place into the oil. Don't mess with it for at least 2-3 minutes, so the crumbs get golden brown and crispy. Gently flip and do the other side for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel.
Place the cheese on the plate. Stack a few of the orange slices on top, and drizzle with the honey dressing. Getchyo fork ready!