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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homestyle Taco Meat

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The key to a really great taco is the meat. Simmered low and slow with a lot of bold flavors can take a taco to the next level. Don’t stop there, pick your choice of a vessel to serve your tacos, also important. Finally, finish by using your favorite ingredients full of bright colors and textures to fill your tacos. Eye candy, is the best phrase I’d use to describe these tacos.

This is my recipe for Homestyle Taco Meat.

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Oregano

I’m using two fresh herbs for my tacos. Oregano from my Hanging Herb Garden and fresh cilantro.

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Stuffing (2)

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Olive Oil

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Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice With Black Beans

If you want my recipe for Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice With Black Beans, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

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You can choose between using plum tomatoes or grape tomatoes for your Pico de Gallo.

Pico de gallo

If you’d like my recipe for Pico de Gallo, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

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If you’d like my recipe for Chunky-Style Guacamole, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

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How about these Tex-Mex-Style Baguette Pizzas? Buy a jar of your favorite taco sauce to smear over grilled baguettes, top with shredded cheese. Place them under the broiler until the cheese becomes lightly golden brown and bubbly. Top with my Homestyle Taco Meat and fresh Pico de Gallo.

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Red Onion

Diced Red Onion (2)

Cilantro

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings (12 tacos)
Equipment: 6-quart Dutch oven, chef’s knife, 3 large mixing bowls

Note: A variety of fresh salsas and Pico de gallo are now available in the refrigerated section of the produce department in most grocery stores. Take advantage of these products to use as ingredients for taco meat, even guacamole.

Ingredients For Taco Meat:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 pounds of ground pork (substitute ground chicken, lean ground sirloin, or turkey)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced (substitute jalapeno)
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons of taco seasoning
1 lime, juiced
4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups of beef stock, unsalted
3/4 cup of store-bought fresh salsa (cantina-style)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup of sliced green onions, reserve green tops for garnish, thinly slice the tops on the bias

Ingredients For Taco Seasoning:
1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

Note: Recipe yields approx. 1/4 cup of taco seasoning.
Note: 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning per pound of ground meat.

Directions For Taco Seasoning:
Add all the ingredients for the taco seasoning into a medium-size mixing bowl. Mix to combine.

Tip: Store taco seasoning, in an airtight container, in a dry cool place.

Options For Tacos:
2 boxes of crunchy taco shells (substitute soft corn tortillas)
2 (8-ounce) packages of Mexican blend shredded cheese
limes
Arugula
Avocados
Red onion, finely diced
Cilantro for garnish
Green onion tops for garnish

Directions For Taco Meat:
Set the pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and the diced onions. Stir and cook until the onions begin to soften and become translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ground pork, 4 tablespoons of the taco seasoning, diced green onions (the white parts), minced Fresno chili, minced garlic, dried oregano, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper into the pan.

Using a wooden spoon break up the meat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is no longer pink, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste and fresh Pico de gallo, stir to combine. Next, add the Worcestershire sauce, fresh lime juice, and beef stock. Bring everything up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, simmer, stirring occasionally, uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes.

At this point, all the liquid and seasonings have absorbed into the meat giving you a deep beefy flavor. Turn the heat off and add in the sliced green onion tops and cilantro leaves, mix to combine.  Transfer to a large serving bowl. It’s Taco Night!

To serve. I prefer the crunchy taco shells but really it’s totally up to you! This is my HomestyleTacos Meat.

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice With Black Beans

Chunky-Style Guacamole

My Hanging Herb Garden And Summertime Flowers

Pico de Gallo

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Scalloped Potato Gratin

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Making a Scalloped Potato Gratin is so easy and so incredibly delicious that you’ll want to make them all the time. The flavor options are endless. One of my favorite gratin potato dishes is to add roasted Poblano peppers. They give the dish a slightly smokey flavor.

Today, I’m making them with thinly sliced onions. Let me show you a few simple steps to making a Scalloped Potato Gratin.

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Onions

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

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Chives (2)

Chives (2)

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Mac & Cheese (2)

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Off the heat, I add in some fresh chopped chives and freshly grated cheese to the sauce. Here I’m adding a mixture of grated white cheddar and some yellow cheddar for color. I’m saving some back for the top. this way the potato gratin will have a nice golden crust. I make sure to add the cheese in slowly to the sauce, mixing it with a wooden spoon, until all the cheese has melted.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes (includes the parboiling the potatoes)
Cook Time: 1 hour, uncovered
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 1 (6-quart) saucepot, 2 (3-quart) saucepans, 1 (9 x 9) 2-quart baking dish, box grater, Mandolin, Microplane

Ingredients:
5 cups (2-pound) bag of baby Yukon gold potatoes, parboiled and sliced 1/8-inch thick, 5 cups
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons of butter, unsalted, 3 tablespoons to grease the baking dish
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole milk, warm
1 cup of half-and-half, warm
1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 cup of white cheddar, (Cabot) freshly grated
1/4 cup of Colby Jack cheese (Cabot) freshly grated, reserve 1/2 cup for topping
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated for topping
2 tablespoons of fresh chives, minced
1/4 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
First, generously butter the casserole dish.
Second, slice one large onion using a Mandolin and grate the cheese.
Third, parboil the Yukon gold potatoes until just fork tender.

Start by placing the potatoes into a large saucepot. Cover the potatoes with cold water. Over medium heat, bring the potatoes up to a boil. Once they are boiling, add 1 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher salt and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Take a paring knife and stick it into the center of one of the largest potatoes. If there is still some resistance removing the knife, that’s fine, turn the heat off. Drain and allow the potatoes to cool before slicing, around 10 minutes.

Note: Time may vary depending on the size of the potatoes.

Once the potatoes have cooled down enough to handle, use a Mandolin to slice the potatoes. Transfer the sliced potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat add half-and-half, whole milk, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Bring the liquid to the *scalding point. Turn the heat off.

In another saucepan over medium-low heat melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Once that’s melted, add the flour, Whisk the flour into the butter until paste-like and smooth. Add the warm milk mixture. The liquid will take on a pink hue from the cayenne and paprika. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t rush the process, you’ll know when the sauce has reached the perfect thickness when it coats the back of a spoon. Add the minced chives. Stir to combine.

Place a layer of the potatoes topped with half of the sliced onions. Pour half the milk sauce over the potatoes then top with half the cheese mixture. Repeat doing a second layer the same way, finishing with the remaining sauce and grated cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top with freshly grated Parmesan. Finally, add finely chopped flat-leaf parsley over the top. Bake for 1 hour until bubbly and golden brown. Allow the Scalloped Potato Gratin to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

*Scalded Milk is milk heated to a near boil. Small bubbles will start to appear around the rim of the pot.

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Sweet And Smokey Ribs With Caramelized Onions

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It was touch and go for a while there, but, I was finally able to retrieve my last set of pictures for this recipe. It’s funny, you get so used to your computer, like a comfortable shoe. This one has been with me a long time so I have to make this post the last one that I will ever type on”old Betsy” before I put her to pasture.

Anyway enough will all that let me tell you about my Sweet And Smokey Ribs With Caramelized Onions #sweetandsmokeyribs.

First, I’m going to show you how to turn your oven into a make-shift smoker.

Second, you need to know, that when you buy ribs, there is some preparation that you need to do before you can begin to spice up your ribs.

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Applewood Chips

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours to overnight
Cook Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, foil, 2 large mixing bowls, 3-quart saucepot

Ingredients:
2 racks of St, Louis Ribs, each rack 1 1/2 to 2-pounds
2 large sweet onions, thick slices
1 bag of Applewood chips, 3 cups for this recipe
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground chipotle powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoon ground mustard
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 28-ounce bottle of barbecue sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s
2 to 3 dashes of liquid smoke
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup apricot jam

Directions:
First, turn the rack over and on the underside remove the silver skin. You need to remove this because it will help your spices penetrate through the meat, and this piece of silver skin is not appetizing at all.

Take your fingers at one corner of the backside and start to separate it from the ribs, kind of like you’re starting a piece of tape on a new role you want to get started. Once you grab ahold of it, it should peel right off for you, as you can see in the picture above.

Next, trim off a couple of the end rib pieces. This rectangle style that St. Louis ribs are known to have will ensure for even cooking. Now, if you like those end pieces, you can, by all means, leave them on. It’s also a good idea to trim off some of that extra meat that’s on the backside, as seen in the above picture. I like the ribs to be neatly trimmed of any excess fat as possible. The picture on the left side showing the rack of ribs (without the spice rub) is an example of how I like my ribs to look.

Preheat oven to 275-degrees F.

To make my oven into a makeshift smoker. Add 3 cups of applewood chips to a large bowl. Add enough water to cover the wood chips and let soak for a minimun of 1 hour.

While that’s happening you want to get the spice rub ready for the dry rub. In a bowl, add garlic powder, ground Chipotle powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, ground mustard, Kosher salt. cayenne pepper, Ancho chili powder, dried oregano (optional), dark brown sugar, sweet paprika, and fresh ground black pepper.

I know that’s a lot of spices but remember it’s for 2 racks of ribs. Whisk all the spices together then rub them all over both sides of the ribs. Place the ribs on the pans and refrigerate for 2 hours, overnight is even better.

Note: All of this can be done in advance.

On each of the baking sheets lay another piece of foil twice the length of the baking sheet. Spread out 1 of the sliced onions on each of the pans. The onions will act as a bed to set the ribs on so the heat can transfer easily around them.

In the pictures following, you can see to fold the extra foil over the ribs and fold up all the sides around the rack to trap in the heat. This will allow the ribs to steam for 1 1/2 hours. Low and slow.

Adjust oven temperature to 230-degrees F.

Next, uncover the ribs, place the wood chips in an oven-safe vessel, and place the wood chips on the lowest rack in the oven and ribs set on the center rack. Continue to smoke the ribs for an additional 3 hours.

I like my ribs to be tender but not to the point where they will fall apart when you cut them. This means they are overcooked. If after the 2 1/2 hours you see the ends of the rib bones are exposed on one end, they are done. If not, continue smoking.

Using an instant-read thermometer check the ribs for an internal temperature of 180-degrees F. With the point of a paring knife stick it between the bones, if the knife comes out easily they’re done.

There’re so many variables when cooking ribs, it just takes some practice. Getting to know your oven is important. The goal is to get the internal temperature of the meat to 180-185 degrees because the barbecue sauce stage is next.

You can see in this picture above shows the rib bones are exposed, and the ribs are still intact. Remove the foil pouches. Transfer the cooked onions to the bottom of the sheet pan and again place the ribs on top.

I’m not making barbecue sauce from scratch but I am adding a few ingredients to my favorite bottled sauce.

In a large mixing bowl, add a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce. To the sauce, add real maple syrup, liquid smoke for some smokey flavor, and apricot jam. In a saucepot over low heat, simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. This allows the flavors to marry.

Remove the ribs from the oven. Brush this delicious sauce all over the ribs on both sides. Remove the wood chips, they’ve done their job. Set the oven on broil and put both racks back in but I leave the oven door cracked. The reason for this is so that the sugar in the sauce will burn really quickly so it’s important to keep an eye on them, it doesn’t take long maybe 10 minutes. Take the ribs out of the oven because they’re ready!

These Sweet And Smokey Ribs With Caramelized Onions are ready. Serve with some of that awesome barbecue sauce in case you want some extra to dip your ribs in. Talk about finger-licking’ good!

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