Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stupid easy food for a (small) crowd

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • whole-grain tortilla chips w/bottled salsa
  • coleslaw
Hey, so tomorrow is my birthday and today we had my parents over to celebrate. Which presented a TINY conundrum -- I don't really feel like I should HAVE to cook on my birthday, but throwing that duty to DH kind of stresses him out since he only cooks dinner maybe three times a year. (Which is fine; we divide our labor this way ON PURPOSE because I like to cook. Just not on my birthday.)

So, I wanted to feed everyone, but I didn't want to go to any real TROUBLE about it, you know? Which is why this particular thrown-together dinner was perfect! Ten minutes of work early in the day, and then all I had to do was slice the meat and throw a bunch of stuff on the table. Yay!

For the brisket, I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dry mustard. Just dump and stir -- way easy. I rubbed this all over both sides of the brisket, then put it fat-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan. I filled the bottom of the pan with water, covered it tightly with heavy-duty foil, and stuck it in the oven at around 10:00 a.m., while my coffee was brewing. It cooked unattended at 200 degrees F for about 7 hours, then I uncovered it and boosted the heat up to 400 for about 15 minutes to crisp up the fat. Sliced thinly across the grain, it was fork tender and delicious!

The coleslaw was the usual -- shredded cabbage tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar and celery seeds. I made this earlier in the day, too, and just stuck it in the fridge. Easy!

Here's the timeline for this incredibly easy meal:
  • At least 6 hours before serving time, prepare the brisket w/rub and stick it in the oven.
  • Make coleslaw and stick that in the fridge.
  • Welcome birthday party guests, open presents, play a couple of cutthroat games of In A Pickle and Skip-Bo. (Assuming it's your birthday, that is.)
  • 20 minutes before dinnertime, uncover the brisket and turn up the heat for 15 minutes.
  • Take brisket out of oven and let rest.
  • Break out the coleslaw, chips and salsa.
  • Slice the brisket thinly across the grain and serve.
  • Follow up with birthday cake, if you can manage it!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back in the saddle again

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless lamb leg steaks
  • couscous
  • green salad "bar"
Oh, people. I am very sorry for not posting much at all this summer. It was brutally hot here (SIXTY EIGHT days with temperatures over 100 degrees F)(and the other days it was like 99 or 98 degrees) and I just felt so uninspired the whole time. Now that the seasons are changing, I can feel my cooking mojo returning ever so slowly. The sun is moving south, the back patio (where my grill is located) is once again in full shade during dinnertime, cool breezes are blowing in the evening, and I'm getting excited about cooking some fall food!

Er, not that there was anything particularly fall-ish about this dinner. I'm just sayin'.

Okay, so these were boneless lamb leg steaks. Think like a ham steak, but with lamb. And no bone. Am I overexplaining this? Probably so. Anyway, I put them in a plastic zipper bag, pressed a couple of smashed garlic cloves (not smashed to smithereens, just sort of flattened/squashed and peeled) and a sprig of fresh rosemary up against both sides of the meat, then drizzled in a little olive oil and smooshed it all around before sealing the bag and sticking it in the fridge for a few hours. Before grilling, I sprinkled each side of the steaks with some coarse sea salt. Then I just grilled them over high heat for about four minutes per side. They came out medium, which is how the boys like their steaks, but when I make this again with steaks this thick (about 3/4 inch) I'd only cook one of them for maybe 3 minutes per side and then rest it longer. I like mine a little more pink, yo. Anyway, they were really tender and super delicious! DH thought they tasted just like a really good cut of beef.

The couscous was boring and plain. Just 1.25 cups of water brought to the boil with some butter and salt, then dump in 1 cup of dry couscous, cover and take off the heat. Leave it for at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork, adjust the seasonings and serve. BORING. But I can make a salad or something out of the leftovers.

The salad bar tonight was chopped romaine with little bowls containing shredded carrots, sliced cucumber and tomato wedges. Also boring, but everyone likes it.

Here's the timeline:
  • Earlier in the day, prepare the meat (with the garlic and whatnot) and stick it in the fridge. You can do this the night before if you prefer.
  • About 30 minutes before serving time, take the meat out of the fridge and prepare the salad.
  • About 20 minutes before serving time, preheat the grill (this is for a gas grill; adjust accordingly if you're using wood or charcoal).
  • Make the couscous, cover and remove it from the heat.
  • Put the meat on the grill (about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness).
  • Take meat off grill and tent with foil to rest.
  • Fluff couscous, season and dump into serving dish.
  • Carve meat into serving-size pieces (I did two steaks for four people) and ring the dinner bell!