Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Duck Breast

First time cooking duck, ever, and must say "this is amazing"!

Just by watching cooking shows, got some basic knowledge for doing this recipe and honestly, came out pretty good.


Two duck breasts, skin on
Black pepper

How simpler can this list be?

Got a whole duck from Costco, frozen, kept in freezer for few weeks until time for cooking. Defrost in cold water overnight and here's the breasts, clean, skin on. It is very important to keep the skin!

Then salt to taste and some black pepper also, both sides. Heat skillet to medium high and add the breasts, skin down. Add no oil, nothing. Cook until skin is crispy, turn over.

Sear the meat side for few minutes, then into 400F oven for 5min.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5min.
Remember to not grab the skillet with bare hands, like I did. I know, very stupid but it happens. Holding an ice bag right now as I type :-(
The meat should be cooked to medium. This first attempt was a little overcooked I think.

Seriously, this tastes great, a mix of beef and pork. The skin gives an amazing flavor.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Slow roasted lamb


- 1 fore shank of lamb
- 5 small red potatoes
- 1 cup chardonnay
- 1 cup water
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 onion
- 1 TBS olive oil

For the dry rub, grind together:
- 1 TBS each of black pepper, rock salt, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
- 1 tsp each of anise seeds and coriander
- 4 bay leaves

For the meat, here's the leg, untrimmed.

Remove connective tissues, tendons and fat and cut into two pieces following the joint, as shown above.

Rub the ground spices and leave overnight in a ziplock bag in the fridge.

Next day, take the meat off the fridge and let it set to room temperature. Prepare a cast iron pot, like the one below, add olive oil and set heat to high.

Sear the meat for 2 minutes each side. Reduce heat as necessary to avoid burning the spices.
While the meat sears, chop the onion in large pieces. When meat is seared, add the onions and let is caramelize for a minute or two.
Add the wine, water, potatoes, garlic cloves and let boil for 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Meanwhile, heat oven to 300F.
Close the pot and move to the oven, roast for 3h, checking every hour to make sure liquid is still present, add 1/2 cup of water if necessary.
After 3h, it is melting and should have a good amount of sauce, seen below.

Possible platting with white rice and polenta, shown below.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Here's a good recipe for muffins, yields about 25 muffins.

-6 cups all purpose flour
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-4 eggs, lightly beaten
-2-1/2 cups milk
-2 cups sugar
-2 cups raisins or dried blueberries or dried cranberries or any dried fruit you like. You can combine different fruits also.
-2 cups chopped almonds to give it a little crunch and texture.
-1 cup unsalted butter

Mix all dry ingredients. Beat eggs and add milk to it, mix a bit.
Chop cold butter in 1/4in cubes.
Add all together and fold slowly to combine so the butter stays whole.

Pour into muffin baking cups about 1/2 full and bake at 400F for 18min.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Here's the basics of a brazilian style "Picanha", very popular in Brazil, although very simple, has it tricks to get it perfect.
Starting with the correct cut selection, known in Brazil as "Picanha", not very easy to spot in US meat market.
After couple years in US I finally identified the correct cut, which is called "Top Sirloin cap". Most markets sell top sirloin steak which includes the top sirloin (known in Brazil as "alcatra") and the top sirloin cap (picanha), both attached. Some other markets separate the cap of the sirloin but trim off all the fat (no good). So what you want is just the top sirloin cap (or the cap of the sirloin), untrimmed.
Just FYI, another cut that is commonly confused with "picanha" is the tri-tip. Tri-tip is not picanha. I believe it compares to the brazilian cut called "maminha".
Anyways, the real "picanha" should not weight more than 2.5lb, usually 2lb or less.
Here's an example, about 2-1/4lb cut. 

Another example with about 1-1/2lb.
Ass seem on the first photo of this post, one side of the "picanha" should have about 1/4 to 1/2in fat and the other side should be clean, all connective tissue and silver skin removed.
The second and only ingredient/spice of a traditional brazilian "picanha" is rock salt, no pepper, no marinates, just rock salt, seen below. I have used rock salt for ice cream making from my local grocery store with success, although I prefer the brazilian style shown. Look at your local brazilian market if you have one available.

Here's the "picanha" ready to cut.

Another tricky thing is to properly cut the steaks. The photo below shows the cut and indicates the direction of the muscle fibers. You supposed to cut the steaks perpendicular to the fibers, as shown.

Here's the other cut.
 And the cutting.

You want to cut steaks about 1-1/2in thick.

Meanwhile, setup the fire.

Now we are going to have a deep discussion about charcoal x gas grills. :-)
Back in Brazil, charcoal is the only way of barbecue ( At least 99%. More correctly translated to "grilling" since brazilian style doesn't include smoking, traditional of american barbecue, but a high heat grilling). That been said, if one wishes to reproduce the brazilian style 100%, it should be done with natural charcoal (lump charcoal).
Now few notes that I have learned over the years:

- Is charcoal better than gas?
I think it is. I think that charcoal generates higher temperatures and produce better flavors. This is a huge controversy. Gas grills are so popular in US and so much easier for the day-to-day use that even brazilians (all my friends in US) use it instead of charcoal.
The flavor differences between charcoal and gas are questionable. For instance ( I regret for that) I was attending a "churrasco" (brazilian name for barbecue) party at a friend's place and he had both charcoal and gas grills. We were using the charcoal grill and I suggested that we fired up also the gas grill to do a blind test. I took the lead to grill steaks using both charcoal and gas grills. We had about 10 brazilians tasting the results and after the blind test was done (I wans't part of the taste test) there wasn't any preference or definition on what was cooked on charcoal or gas. This was a big blow to me but I'm sticking to natural charcoal.

- Is natural charcoal better than brikets?
I think it is.

- Would I use a gas grill?
Yes, if I want to make hot dogs

- How to fire a charcoal grill?
Never use lighting fluids. I use Weber Lighter cubes.

 Once the starter is done, spread and cover with fresh charcoal.

Here are the 1-1/2 thick steaks.

As the charcoal get's hot, add salt to a pot and roll the steaks to fully cover. Do not let the steaks sit for too long on salt. From 5 to 15min is ideal, depending on your taste for salt. More than that it may dry out and get too salty.

A good side dish with "picanha" is Portobello mushrooms, just add black pepper, salt and olive oil.

I added a little of "herbs from provence" for extra flavor.

Charcoal is freaking hot, adding some oil to the grill. 

Steaks and mushroom on to the grill.

Flames are expected as the fat melts and drips onto the carcoal (this is a good thing. Smoke=flavor). Control it by moving the steaks around or lowering the charcoal tray, if possible.

Few minutes later and once the steak is completely sealed, turn it over.

Let it grill for few minutes more until the desired pinkness.

I like to set then upright, as seen below, to crisp the fat side (skills required). Once done, beat the steaks against the grill to knock of the salt.

Here's the "picanha". Let is rest for 5min.


Can't beat this!