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Mark Sisson’s Definitive Guide to Sauces, Dressings and Toppings

Those who've been around these parts for a long time know of my affinity for dressing up good food with a good sauce (see here for definitive proof). Sauces are very versatile. You can use a little, a lot, spicy, savory, whatever you want—to transform even the mundane to spectacular. One time, someone in comments even wrote a short poem about my love of sauces. Above all else, I think it's what distinguished my brand of cooking Paleo / Primal from much of what was out there, especially a few years ago.

And it evolved. Truth is, I never really consulted recipes, just started futzing around. Initially, I was trying various things to thicken them—even nut flours—and now rarely do, because taking the time to reduce and concentrate them is far superior. The result after years of such, trying this and that, the classic red wine reduction is my most go-to sauce and I have it pretty damn well perfected—even got some in-person tips from chefs Heston Blumenthal and most recently, Michael Mina, when I was privileged to meet them.

But there's a whole saucy world out there, a lot of it too vast for me to explore in terms of coming up with new ideas, creating, improving, perfecting. I got a sense of this when I attended NovNat a couple of years back and the cook was daily making interesting fruit and veggie-based sauces in the VitaMix using vegan recipes. It's really wide open.

And so is Mark's latest addition to his growing library of publications in the paleo and primalsphere. As usual, Mark Sisson humbly under promises and over delivers. Since he has no real competition, he competes against himself to bring more and more.

So yea, he has a new cookbook. You don't need to scour his blog or this blog for ideas, or any others, and you can still make the best paleo /primal compliant sauces you might desire (gluten free too)—in every conceivable format, from apps to desserts. It's right there at your fingertips. It's all you'll need, right in one place.

...As usual, Mark is serious about everything he does. Remember when his first cookbook made the PCRM list for The Five Worst Cookbooks of 2010, in company with Gordon Ramsey? I never divulge the content of my personal conversations with Mark, but I feel safe in telling you that he was not too broken up about that. :)

To show you just how serious Mark is about this: in Tim Ferriss style, he's put together an impressive promotion that runs until December 12. It's a $1 Million promotion. Since this is FTA and as such, has a certain in-your-face acerbic readership—to mirror its acerbic in-your-face blogger—yes, OK, that's not $1 million out of pocket. Yes, all you accountant and business savvy smart guys: that's retail value. But even for digital stuff, he still has to fulfill, track, handle individual issues and complaints. So let's just acknowledge the simple reality up front: promotions are promoted in terms of retail value prices, paid for in terms of wholesale and overhead.

Mkay? Got that out of the way?

This is one book I'll keep in my library along with only a very few other Paleo cookbooks.

...And finally, for those interested, here's my 35-minute interview with Mark a couple of years ago, shortly after he published his first book: The Primal Blueprint. The focus is really more on Mark the entrepreneur than Mark the health nut, so it's different than you might expect. Between Vimeo where I fist uploaded it and more recently, on YouTube, it's been viewed almost 5,000 times.

Beef Brisket Low & Slow; Paleo BBQ Sauce

I once smoked a brisket years ago but otherwise had never cooked one. From what I gather, it's a rather tricky meat to cook as it doesn't have a lot in intramuscular fat, and it's a muscle meat that gets a lot of work, being as it is, the pectoral muscle of the cow.

We were having friends over for dinner Saturday. My original thought was sous vide pork belly, but then I see all the various recipes call for a soak of 18-36 hours. Too late. But I wanted to do something for a first. Brisket it was.

I headed over to a local market—Lunardi's—with the most extensive butcher counter around (it must be 50 yards long). They had one brisket under the glass, about 4 pounds, very nice and clean trimmed. I asked if he had one with more fat; he heads to the back and got one that had not been trimmed yet.

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7.5 Pounds of Brisket

On the backside, there was the nice layer of fat. You'll see that later when it's sliced up.

In terms of cooking method, I did a light dry rub using The Salt Lick, let it sit for an hour, wrapped it in foil, into a baking pan, and in the oven at 200 for six full hours. For the first 45 minutes and then the last 30 minutes, I kicked the temperature up to 350. Then I let it rest, still covered in foil, for a full hour.

The final step was to sear both sides on the gas grill, a few minutes per side, on high.

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Big Meat

During the afternoon, I also prepared fresh green beans with bacon & onion. It's about 5 handfulls of the beans, a whole onion, 4 strips of bacon sliced, fried, and the bacon fat is added to the pot along with 2 cups of chicken stock and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn to a medium low simmer, uncovered. Takes about 4 hours. Just let the liquid simmer off until it's very soupy with a deep flavor.

Next was the BBQ sauce. There was a recipe I adapted by a guy who had a blog called Son of Grok, but it's no longer there. Luckily, someone had put it up in Mark Sisson's forum so I found it right away. Here's my version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 rounded tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 teaspoons black molasses

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except the tomato paste and molasses into the the 2 cups of beef stock and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for at least a half hour, so as to get the onion and garlic soft. Turn off the heat, let it cool for a while. Then put it all into a food processor or blender and liquify.
  2. Put it back in the pot, add your tomato paste and molasses and bring it back up to heat. Reduce as necessary to obtain the desired saucy consistency.

It's a very nice sauce with just the right balance of hot/spice, tang, and sweet. Per serving, the sugar load is minuscule compared to anything I can find at a BBQ specialty store. Even high end products typically have HFCS as one of the top ingredients, if not the very top.

Back to the brisket, it was time to slice. Click to open the high resolution.

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See the fat?

Our friend Julie prepared a salad with watermelon, onion, feta cheese crumbles and fresh mint leaves to go alongside. I also got some cole slaw from the Lunadi's deli counter.

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Here's a closeup on the mail plate.

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It tuned out to be an interesting experience because this was not your typical BBQ brisket that you pull apart, dip in sauce and eat. Far more like roast beef, but very moist, very tasty and with just enough "chew" so you know you're really eating meat. The BBQ sauce was a nice compliment to it.

The leftovers including all the fat scraps went into the crockpot Sunday morning and now I have enough shredded brisket for many meals this week, including probably a Fat Bread sandwich and at least a corn tortilla taco or two.

Real food, folks. Paleo? Close enough for me.

Peanut Butter in Sauce For a Burger?

First off, this might go better with chicken...but it was a spur of the moment idea, and I had burgers in the oven.

I'm not going to take the time to link, but I've been on the quest for the perfect burger—whether pan searing first, then finishing in the oven, baking first and finishing off in the pan, or grilling alone.

The latest attempt was to have relatively thin burgers, not pressed, but gently formed, in the oven at 275 for an hour.

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Burger & Satay Sauce

So after the oven, I got a lot of Kerygold butter going, then seared them, 30 seconds per side or so. Interestingly, the bottoms (where they we're in the oven) don't sear at all, but the tops, sear up nicely. Use lots of butter, get it hot but not smoking, then when you're searing the tops of the burgers (sear the bottoms first), roll the pan so as to get the hot butter rolling up on the sides. You'll figure it out.

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Perfectly Pink & Done

I think I'm probably going to be staying with the 275 for a hour and a thiner burger. This one was the mostly perfect by far. And just to reiterate, that is medium, not medium rare or rare. It's the slow cooking that retains the nice color of you know what.

Sauce: It was about 1/4 - 1/3 cup Kerrygold butter, in which the burgers were seared. Then they go to a plate, back in the oven which is turned off, so just absent heat. I add about 1/2 - 2/3 cup Kitchen Naturals Beef Stock intermittently over time (my favorite, and 5g protein per cup, gluten free) to deglaze and reduce, then a large tsp of creamy peanut butter, more stock, a few dabs of balsamic for sweetness, more stoke, a bit more peanut butter....reduce reduce, a bit more stock....reduce....taste, turn off and let reduce naturally for a few more minutes.

Dry Rub BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Paleo Sauce & Slaw

I was mightily inspired upon waking Saturday morning. I'm going to do me some back ribs. This was a super fun undertaking and I've got a lot of photos for you. And remember, click on the images for the high resolution versions.

First thing I did was head over to get some ribs (Costco, $30). Then it was over to a BBQ Galore outlet to inquire about various dry rubs. Yep, spicy, not sweet. Then The Salt Lick is the only option, I was told.

So first step was to dry rub the ribs, both sides. I was pleased to see that the membrane on the back had already been removed. That's a lotta ribs.

The Salt Lick Dry Rub
The Salt Lick Dry Rub

I let them sit for a good 30 minutes while I preheated the oven to 200F. Yep: low & slow. I then wrapped them individually in foil, set them back on the "cookie" sheets (their most superior use, nowadays) and tossed 'em in the oven for a four hour soak.

During that time I searched for paleo BBQ sauces and the Google Gods took me to Son of Grok's BBQ sauce. The recipe is all at that link. It's fun & easy to make. What I did differently was to use my Magic Bullet to puree the onion and garlic with 1/2 cup of the beef stock. At the end I did think it needed some slight touch of sweet, so I added first 1 tbsp molasses, then another. 32g of sugar for a 3-cup rendering. in most commercial sauces you have 16g of sugar for 2 tbsps. At 1/4 cup of my concoction, you'll only get 2-3g of sugar. Acceptable, in my book.

Son of Groks BBQ Sauce
Son of Groks BBQ Sauce

At 3:45 I kicked it up to 250F and then shut off the oven at the four hour mark, and without opening the door, let them rest for an additional 30 minutes while I fired up the grill.

Finished to Finger Licking Perfection
Finished to Finger Licking Perfection

The grill was on low. I also saved the drippings from the foil wraps and using a brush I basted, turned, covered, based, turned, covered...letting them go about 5 minutes per side, about 3 cycles or so. For the final step I kicked it on hi, basted the tops heavily and browned them as you see.

Dig In
Dig In

And now for the meal. The slaw was courtesy of our loft neighbors, Robert & Julie. It's an asian, ginger sort of affair; very little sugar as well (she said less than 1/4 of what the recipe called for). Update: see the comments for the slaw recipe Robert has now posted.

Baby Back Ribs Slaw
Baby Back Ribs Slaw

Finally, they were perfect in the sense that they don't fall apart so you can actually finish them on the grill, but yet you can suck the meat right off the bone. No teeth required.

Dead Soldiers
Dead Soldiers

As far as I'm concerned, the Salt Lick dry rub is by far and away the very best I have ever used. I see no reason to ever use anything else. I love it when life gets really simple like that.

Chicken Sous Vide with Tarragon Rosemary Sauce

Last night's dinner using the Sous Vide Supreme. Chicken was brined in a weak solution (5 tbsp per quart of water) for an hour, sealed up with a pinch of sea salt & pat of butter, like here, then cooked at 146F for two hours. Click for the high quality version.

Chicken Sous Vide
Chicken Sous Vide

The sauce was a quart of a quality low-sodium, organic, free range chicken broth reduced by about half, along with a pinch or two of a poultry dry rub mix, about 1/2 cup of chopped fresh tarragon, a small sprig of fresh rosemary and two good tbsp of butter. Then it was strained and thickened with a slurry of 1 tsp potato starch. Save a half cup of the cold broth to make your slurry (if it's not cold it will lump up).

Once the chicken came out I saved the butter-chicken juice from the bag, laid the chicken out on a cookie sheet, brushed it with the juice and fired under the broiler for a short time -- then finished it off with the kitchen torch. Tasted the juice and it was very rich, yummy, buttery so I stirred it into the sauce and it made it even better than it was.

The mash was a standard semi-lumpy mix of potatoes, butter & heavy cream. Heat the butter & cream on the stove first so it doesn't cool off the potatoes. Also, that was just the right amount starch, or, there was so much fat in the meal that it blunted any kind of blood glucose crash. We were all drinking wine and easily stayed up until 1am playing cards, nobody showing any signs of drowsiness.

Dinner for six. Huge hit, especially the sauce. I'm gonna have to start bottling some of my concoctions...

Filet Sous Vide; Sauce Blue Cheese & Celery Root Puree

I don't know how I missed posting this one. This was a dinner I prepared for six people, sous vide, the night before leaving town for the holidays. Sous vide makes cooking for a dinner party so much easier. I did the standard 134 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, I think, as these were pretty thick. Sure nice to have every single filet come out perfectly medium rare. Then it was into a hot cast iron skillet with ghee to sear on both sides. As always, click for the high quality image.

Filet Sous Vide
Filet Sous Vide

The other great thing is that I can take extra care for the sauce. Essentially, it's my bone stock reduced only enough to get rid of the watery flavor. Then for six servings, I added about 1 cube of butter, 6 teaspoons of crumbled blue cheese, and about 2/3 of a tub of crème fraîche to desired sauciness. You might want to do the cheese a bit at a time to make sure you don't overdo it. Don't salt until done, if at all, and especially if you choose to use roquefort cheese.

The mash was two large celery root bulbs and a single russet potato. Those, you boil in whole milk, strain, then blend in the food processor with butter and cream until you get the consistency you want. Celery root is so fibrous that there's no way other than a food processor to get it right, so learn from my previous #FAIL.

This is sort of my own version of a French classic: tournedos au roquefort.

Meatballs in Blue Cheese Sauce

Nope, I can't get enough of this sauce (the 2nd one), and neither will you if you try it. Any sort of beef will do, and it's easy as can be.

Here's a kinda "recipe" for a pound of ground beef, which in my case was La Cense grassfed. But first, here's what it ends up looking like, flash enabled.

Meatballs Blue Cheese Sauce
Meatballs & Blue Cheese Sauce

OK, we'll presume you know how to make balls out of ground beef. Get your cast iron or equivalent online & fatted up with tallow, lard, or bacon drippings (I used the later, about 2 heaping tbsp -- don't be shy). Fry up your meatballs, but on low to medium low heat. Be patient, they have to cook through. You're not merely browning them.

When done, move to a plate in the oven on warm. Now comes the fun.

1/4 cup of any red wine will do to deglaze the pan using a spatula. Then, in goes two soup ladles of beef stock (whatever you have and obviously, this will effect quality). I used my own beef stock and the last batch was particularly rich. Bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer, add three pats of butter and then three heaping tbsp of crumbled blue cheese. Let it simmer a while until smooth and reintroduce the meatballs.

1 tbsp at a time, stir in crème fraîche, sour cream, or even yogurt until smoother, tasting after each addition. I think it came out to 2 tbsp for me (of crème fraîche). Here's a view without the flash.

Same without the flash
Same without the flash

Chicken & Tarragon Sauce; Steak & Blue Cheese Sauce

I'm pressed for time, with a court trial (business related; contract dispute) in which my company is the defendant begins tomorrow morning. We have an excellent case -- otherwise I'd have easily settled long time ago -- but you can never predict an outcome. So, I'm...preoccupied. Perhaps I'll briefly tell you about it later, but no guarantee.

So, here's two meals of recent preparation that I'll just toss up without a lot of hullabaloo.

The first is a Chicken I grilled and prepared a sauce of chicken stock reduction, butter, crème fraîche, and tarragon.

Taragon Chicken
Tarragon Chicken

Next up is a grilled grassfed New York from La Cense, pan grilled, deglazed with some red wine, then add in melted butter (lots), then crumbled blue cheese (rounded tsp+ per serving), get the butter & cheese melted, slightly browning (be very careful & quick), then enough crème fraîche to get it creamy.

Steak Blue Cheese Sauce
Steak & Blue Cheese Sauce

Stuffed, Grilled, Sauced Pork Loin

Here's one thing I cooked this weekend. Lets begin with the grilling (you can click on the images for the full versions).

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That's a pork loin on the barbie. The foil is for capturing the juices (i.e., fat) as well as for indirect heating. What you don't see, as it's obscured by meat and onion, is the four slots in each loin, wherein I have stuffed garlic cloves and fresh rosemary.

In the meantime, let's prep the sauce. In goes two (there's only one showing, but it was two eventually) cubes of my bone stock, a T each of duck fat, leaf lard, and butter.

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Can you take a wild guess at what I thickened it with? Of course, the fat juices from the cooked loin went in as well.

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How about paprika (about 2T) and a dash of cayenne?

So, here's the final result, sliced up, plattered, and sauced. You can see the garlic and rosemary if you look close.

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For me, is was one of the more satisfying dishes I've made recently. This, salad, and some watermelon was enough. Well, not entirely. My friend's wife was away, along with mine, for the weekend and we finished off all but about four pieces of this. I believe I finished off those last four around midnight.

Tri-Tip, Sauce, Sweet Potato and Primal Cheescake

My cousin, Adam, has been following my Paleo ways for some time and occasionally comments on this blog. His wife, 'Z', does too, and this weekend they were visiting us up at our cabin where we cooked up various storms. At one point, Z was remarking how just a year ago, she couldn't imagine not having her cereals for breakfast and then being ravenously hungry by 10 a.m. Now, she usually doesn't even eat until lunch and it's meat, salad, nuts...things like that. Of course, her chubby co-workers think she's a lean nutcase. Here's Adam & Z at work last night.

Adamz

Here's Adam slicing up my low & slow tri-tip.

Adam

Now, back up to a few years back, Adam & I playing corn toss on a camping trip.

Adamr

He wasn't what you'd call "fat" by any means, but you can certainly see -- especially by the face -- how terrifically he's leaned out. The Paleo / Primal / Evolutionary / Animal life way works for everyone, every time, to deliver lean bodies, health, and vitality.

So, here's dinner.

Tritip

The sauce is coconut milk, beef bullion, a bit of red wine and a bunch of crushed blueberries. On the side was mashed sweet potato with a cheese melt, and here's what they did with the skins.

Skins

Fried on medium low heat in lots of butter, then as soon as they come out, lightly sprinkled with cinnamon. Unbelievable.

Finally, desert was a great cheesecake. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the plated version with sliced strawberries on top.

Cheesecake

While I don't have the complete recipe (yet -- and maybe Adam can put it in the comments), the crust is hazelnut meal, coconut flour and butter. The filling is cream cheese, pureed strawberries, and eggs (I think). No sweetener, and it was quite good without.