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Monday, February 27, 2017

Pork or Beef?

Image via Flickr by floodllama
(First of all, before I distract anyone with the actual topic of this post, where can I get this Lego set?)

To all the vegetarians and vegans out there, I respect your choices. But we're talking about meat.

I propose a character-revealing question. It's simple:

If for the rest of your life you could never eat pork or never eat beef, which would you give up?

Never again steak? Or never again ham? Abstain from either brisket or bacon?

You must choose.

I believe many people consider a T-bone or ribeye to be the king of meats. They would never consent to a life without beef.

I probably run against the grain of the average American man because...

...I say pork.

I'll pass on the filet mignon, tri-tip and the flank steak, begrudgingly. But I can't live without pork loin, spare ribs or prosciutto.

I like seafood, but the most common protein in my house is pork. I believe pork spare ribs to be the best of all ribs.

I want your opinion in one or more of the following ways:

You can leave a comment. 

You can tweet vehemently in the direction of @DragonKnuckleQ.

You can answer the poll at the top right.

I want to see where this goes.

Pork or Beef?

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Gorgeous Illustrator’s Chocolate-Covered Gluten-Free Gingerbread Bites

Ask any teacher our kids have ever had: "What's you favorite thing about having our kid in class?"

They'd all say it's the Chocolate-Covered Oreo Bites my wife gives them at the holidays and the end of the year.

Yeah, our kids are smart and obedient, but you know teachers are in it for the cookies.

But our oldest kid has a wheat allergy, so Oreos are out of the question.

You can't be a kid without cookies, so we had to think of something.

When you bake without gluten, it's nearly impossible getting things to rise and stay that way. Your bread ends up flat and chewy.

Fortunately, flat and chewy is not a bad thing for cookies.

We hunted around and found these:

A gingerbread cookie recipe that's ready for any cookie cutter you have. Decorating gingerbread cookies was one of my favorite holiday things growing up. Now I can still do it with my kids.

So what's in them?

  • 4 ½ cups rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 ½ cups shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs or 2 pureed apples
  • ⅔ cup of molasses
Did I mention he also has an egg allergy? Diagnosing food allergies in a baby is a nightmare, but that's a story for another post.

So instead of eggs, you can substitute an apple in the food processor. The xanthan gum adds structure, too.

I don't think there's a specific method to making these. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whip it into a batter.

Roll them out, cut them up and put them on a sheet lined with parchment paper.

350 degrees for 12 minutes. A little longer if you like them crisp. A little less if you like them chewy.

Then we had a light bulb moment.

What's better when dipped in chocolate? Everything.

We'd done versions of this with Oreos or peanut butter. But why not make gluten-free gingerbread ones?


So make the batter, roll them into balls and bake them up. Once cool, take a couple handfuls of dark chocolate pieces and melt them in the microwave.

Coat each ball in the chocolate. Melt some white chocolate and drizzle that over them too.

Feeling funky? I suppose some sprinkles could be nice too. Then put them on a parchment-lined tray in the fridge to solidify.

I like them with a little extra ginger for that contrast of sweet and spice. But I always tend to make things too spicy for the rest of the family.

It's your thing. Make some and send us pictures.

Or make some and send us some.

I guess I'm obliged to say you need to take them out of the oven with your Dragon Knuckle gloves, but you knew that already.

My Three Shadows of Flavor


Always a good thing. It's how things like Kalbi Beef Tacos and Chimichurri Halibut were invented.

Mixing ideas and cultures makes everyone stronger. Isn't the "Great Melting Pot" a food metaphor in the first place?

(Or is it a metallurgy thing? I like my idea better.)

Everyone's cooking style is the sum of all the influences they've had in their life.

My kitchen personality is rooted in my mom's home cooking. I'd describe her as a classic American home chef. Her most memorable dishes are things like apple pie and Thanksgiving turkey. Her thriftiness breeds creativity. She also makes a great casserole from leftovers in the fridge. We spent most every vacation fishing, so Northwest seafood like salmon and clams are close to my heart.

Take that base, add to it what I've done with my life and you have me. I've been in the restaurant business my whole life, exposing me to Mexican, oysters, Asian styles and barbecue. I've learned a lot from cooks I've worked with.

With that rambling introduction, I'll move on the the point: one of my personal favorite examples of fusion.

My Three Culinary Shadows

Each one is a pantry staple, but I often use them together.

- Molasses: The dark, syrupy by-product of extracting sugar from the cane.  White sugar bores me.  I prefer turbinado sugar for my dry rub and molasses for wet applications.  Molasses brings sweetness, but also a savory rich darkness.

Umami. That fifth flavor, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. I like my ingredients to bring more than just one note to the song. 

- Soy Sauce: Fermented soy beans with roasted grain, salt and yeast. Aged then filtered and bottled. From wine and beer to salami, kim chi and bread, where would we be without fermentation?

For allergy reasons, we use the gluten-free stuff at our house. I often use soy sauce instead of salt. Together with molasses, it balances the sweet with salty while delivering ints own version of umami.

- Balsamic Vinegar: The boiled and aged pressings of Trebbiano grapes. Reduced over the years in casks of various woods. I'm not using the century old stuff here. $3 a bottle will work just fine.

The only thing this trio is missing is spice. That's up to you. I add some hot sauce to the mix. I typically have one from Louisiana, Vietnam and Mexico in the fridge at all times.

What can you do with the Three Shadows?

You can reduce them down to a potent syrup or glaze. Like barbecue, do this slow and low. Don't take your eyes off it or you'll be opening every window in the house.

Most commonly I use it as a marinade. Recently, I've used it for both pork and chicken.

Put six thick cut pork loin chops in a zip top bag. Add a cup each of the Three Shadows plus hot sauce to taste.

Leave it in the fridge for a day or two.

Generously season with Dragon Knuckle rub or whatever mix of salt/spice/sweet you have on hand.

Put these in a hot cast iron skillet. Turn them over when the bottom looks like this:

Transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven until you get an internal temperature of 145. Put on your favorite brand of heat-resistant gloves and pull the pan from the oven. I like to leave a glove over the handle of the pan just to remind everyone it's still hot.

Let these rest for about five minutes. Carry over will bring the temp up 5-10 degrees. Then eat them all.

I just did this with chicken leg quarters. The technique is similar, but I put them skin side up on an oiled sheet pan then put them right into the oven.

I cooked them for about an hour at 350 until the internal temp was 160. Then I let them rest for a bit, of course.

So please mess around with the Three Shadows. How does the combination work for you? 

(My new favorite color.)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fred and Kathe Frahm's Basque Leg of Lamb stuffed with Pork Loin

Submitted by Kathe Frahm. The woman famous for her “Seattle Seahawks and Old Women” posts from my Eighty Six the Poet blog.

My late husband was quite the star with this recipe. Of course, I spent days getting it all ready for him. He did build our patio rotisserie barbecue and added a cooking counter and cutting board.”

Kathe was kind enough to flash back to some great times when her husband was alive and their kids were young. Their landscaped back yard was the talk of the neighborhood “including a large free form rose garden in the back yard with all the latest hybrid tea roses.”

It was never hard getting a bunch of friends over for food, drinks and laughs.

The Basque Leg of Lamb was always a hit:

  • 3-4 lb boned leg of lamb with most of the fat removed
  • 1-2 lb pork loin
  • fresh lemon slices
  • several fresh rosemary sprigs
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
Image via Flickr by tedkerwin
Need to Learn how to Remove the Bone from a Leg of Lamb?

I asked her if she forgot to mention salt, pepper or other seasonings. She said no. The Worcestershire sauce added plenty of salt, spice and flavor. They never added anything else.

Now what? I'll let Kathe tell you:

Gently flatten the lamb, lay a few lemon slices on it, as well as the sprigs of rosemary. Pour ½ the Worcestershire sauce over the lamb. Lay the loin on top in the center. Roll together tightly and use steel skewers to pin the roast together.”

She said you could tie the lamb closed instead of using skewers, “as long as it is tied tightly and sinks into the meat so it won't burn off.”

Put a thermometer into the center of the pork loin. They cooked theirs over the rotisserie, but use the method you have. In the oven, be sure to turn the meat halfway to ensure even cooking. 140 and still pink in the middle is the temperature Kathe suggests.

Baste the roast with remaining Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. When desired temperature is reached, remove the meat from the grill and let sit for 10 or 20 minutes before pulling out the skewers or cutting twine. Put seam side down and slice to desired thickness. Garnish with rosemary.

Fred would bristle if someone asked for mint jelly to go with the lamb. We grilled vegetables, crusty bread and (served large) quantities of Spanish red wine. We had our ice cream churner wired up and running for watermelon granita.”

Decades later, I can smell this recipe. I want to eat this now. Lamb is on my list of favorite things somehow I never cook.

I need to change that.

Thanks, Kathe. What a great recipe and great memories.

And this is a true Dragon Knuckle dish. How do you improve a leg of lamb? Stuff it with pork loin. Yeah.

Keep it roasting.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Dragon Knuckle Beef Jerky Recipe

Don't you hate long blog posts?

Well, I like to write them, just not to read them so I chose to cut the last one short before delivering the punchline.

Yes, I'm on a Beef Jerky Diet. And here's the recipe.

Let's get another thing straight: I don't really believe in recipes. I believe in techniques. Learn how someone else makes something then make it your own.

And I'm still messing with this one. It's getting better and I'm getting smarter. But here are the basic steps.

1. Get a chunk of bottom round. You can make jerky with about any meat and I will work on that theory, but for now I'm using bottom round.

Yeah, that's the stuff.

2. Slice it thin. It works better if it's a bit frozen. So either put it in the freezer for a few hours or, if it's already in there, put it in the fridge for a few. Then get your biggest sharpest knife and make it look like this:

And trim the excess fat:

3. Season it. Oops, I haven't given you the Dragon Knuckle BBQ Rub recipe yet. Actually, it says on the right column that you need to drop me an email to get it. Anyway, use a blend of salt, sugar and spices. Get a good amount on every piece and layer them in a sealable plastic container. 

How much rub? Up to you and your crew. I have to be careful because the rest of my family can't handle the spice I can.

Make it look like this:

4. Liquid. This next step is optional and experimental. I've stopped at step 3. I've added some soy sauce. Last time I added 3 parts Apple Juice and 1 part Apple Cider Vinegar.

Looked like this:

The result was almost too tender. Maybe it was the acid in the vinegar. I like my jerky with some tooth to it.

It's up to you.

5. Wait. Leave it in the fridge overnight at least. A day or two is good. Then you're ready for a little bit of heat.

If you have a dehydrator, sweet. I don't and can't advise you here, but it can't be rocket surgery.

If you have a wire rack that fits in a sheet pan, also sweet. Lay your beef out on that.

I don't have one of those either. (When's my birthday?) But necessity is a mother of an invention. I just take out my oven rack and wrap the bottom in aluminum foil. It catches the drips and works just fine.

I forgot to take a picture of that.

6. If you're using the oven, set it as low as it goes. My lowest setting is 170. Leave the meat in there for at least 6 hours. Probably 8 depending on how thin you cut it. Nibble on your thinnest piece to see how it's going.

Halfway through it will look like this:

7. Eventually it will look like this:

You can cut it into strips and store it in an air-tight container. If you dry it out completely and properly it will last a long time.

How long? I have no idea. My family eats half of it while it's still warm.

Lean meat and lots of vegetables. That's my Beef Jerky Diet.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Dragon Knuckle Beef Jerky Diet

Let's get this out of the way right now: I'm not a dietician.

But I'm over forty and overweight. Not too much. I could stand to drop 10 or 20 pounds. I work out and am a vigorous dude, but I'd like to be a little leaner.

My Gorgeous Illustrator would agree.

So recently I looked into changing my diet. I needed to find something I could live with. Because fat and happy is better than slim and miserable, right?


After some reading and research, I realize carbs are the enemy. The good news about a Low Carb/Paleo/Keto diet (or whatever you want to call it) is meat is not a problem.

Lean is better but meat is not bad.

We can do this.

I've seen Low Carb diet lists that include cheese, bacon, pork rinds (pork rinds!) and beef jerky. I don't believe the pork rinds are a healthy choice and think most store-bought jerky must contain some artificial crap.

So, Meat and Vegetables Right?

That I can handle. Eat eggs in the morning rather than cereal. Ditch pasta, rice and potatoes in favor of more vegetables.

But keep the meat.

Entirely possible.

So when I get home from the gym and need something easy to chomp on, I reach for homemade beef jerky.

How do I make it?