Tuesday, June 29, 2010

pork and veg stirfry

Thanks to Amy for the inspiration on this. I was musing about what to do with thin-cut boneless pork chops and she pointed out that she usually uses them in stir-fry. I thought sounded like a great idea, and this is how it came out:

I made a quick marinade for the pork out of 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 2 TBSP brown sugar, 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil and 3 big cloves of garlic, grated (I grate them rather than mince them...WAY easier). I sliced the pork into strips and threw it into the marinade, then sliced up a red pepper, an onion, two summer squash, and a head of broccoli. I stir-fried the meat first, then added the veggies and stir-fried until tender. I added about a cup of chicken stock with 1 TBSP of cornstarch stirred in and let it boil away for a couple minutes until thickened. It could have used some rice to soak up the sauce but we don't generally eat rice so we skipped it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

barbecue chicken burritos

I fully intended to make chicken fajitas tonight, but on the way home from work I started hankering for something different. This...is my story. (cue Law and Order bum-BUM sound)

I took 3 chicken breast halves, cut them into 3rds, and put them in a pot with water to cover. I let that simmer for about 15 minutes while I cut a green and a yellow pepper into strips and sliced an onion into strips. When the chicken was no longer pink in the middle when cut, I took it off the heat. I put the onions and peppers in a frying pan with some olive oil on medium and let them cook, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, I drained the poached chicken pieces and quickly shredded them with two forks. The shredded chicken went back into the bowl and mixed with about half a cup of Sticky Fingers BBQ Sauce (seriously, if you haven't tried it, get some. Best stuff EVER). By then my onions and peppers were softened but still fairly crisp...just the way we like them! I spread out a couple tortillas on two plates, scooped some of the barbecue chicken onto each one, sprinkled a layer of the pre-shredded cheddar-jack cheese on, and piled on a bunch of the onion and pepper mixture. I served them with a little extra barbecue sauce and some plain yogurt (rather than sour cream) for dipping.

Quick, relatively healthy, and also pretty cheap. And most importantly...YUMMY!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

broccoli chicken "carbonara"

It's not really carbonara, but it was still pretty good. It was also pretty easy and quick...and only used one pot! I boiled the linguine first and threw a bunch of broccoli florets in about 3 minutes before the pasta was done. When the pasta finished, I dumped it and the broccoli into the colander and let it drain while I did the rest. I chopped up 4 slices of bacon and cooked it down in the bottom of the pot that I cooked the pasta in. When it was crisp and the fat was all rendered, I scooped it out to drain and dumped all but 1 Tbsp of the fat. I put the pot back on the burner and tossed in 3 cut up chicken breast halves. Those cooked in the bacon fat until no longer pink (about 4 minutes), then they came out to drain while I wiped the fat out of the pot. Next, I put in a cup of chicken stock and 3 cloves of minced garlic. I let the garlic simmer in the chicken stock for about a minute while I whisked a tablespoon of flour into a cup of milk. The milk mixture went into the garlic and chicken stock and I let it simmer, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes until it thickened up a little. To that I added the crumbled bacon, 1 Tbsp of butter, 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese, and the chicken. It took a bit of stirring to get everything to melt and blend into sauce consistency but once it got there, I dumped the broccoli and pasta back into the pot and tossed to coat.

It was decent, though if I did it again, I would use more garlic and Parmesan, I think. It was just a little...bland.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

super quick supper: angel hair pasta with peas and bacon

Just like it says on the tin, basically. While the pasta water boiled, I cut up and cooked off the bacon, drained all but a tablespoon of the fat, then sauteed some garlic in the fat (OMG best smell EVER, just for the record), threw in two cups of frozen peas, and a cup of half and half. I let that cook down while I drained the pasta, then added the sauce to the pasta. I used a wee bit of pasta cooking water to thin the sauce as I mixed it in, then split it between the serving plates and topped with the crispy cooked bacon.

It was pretty good, though I think I'll try it with broccoli next time instead. Frozen peas always seem a little chalky to me. All in all, it was a nice quick cheap supper, though.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

beef bulgogi

Flipping through one of my cookbooks this afternoon, I came across a recipe for Beef Bulgogi. A light turned on in my head and I remembered the beef bulgogi I had at a little Korean place several times during pilgrimages to Northampton, MA, with friends. It looked so simple. I HAD to try it.

The recipe called for rib eye steak. I used chuck instead because it was WAY cheaper and because I like the taste of it better. I used two big red onions, a green pepper, and I made a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger and garlic. The meat and veggies both sit in the marinade (separately!) for 20 min or so, then you stir-fry and serve either with rice or in lettuce "cups". Easy peasy...and I'm telling you, SO GOOD!! The sesame oil combined with the fat in the beef creates an amazing nutty buttery-ness. I just wanted to keep eating it and eating it. And really, aside from the fact that it's red meat, it's actually really healthy. It was a little too juicy to be easily eaten just wrapped in the lettuce, but I can tweak it a little to fix that. This could be my new favorite quick week-night dinner. I don't think I can sell Mark on kimchi to go with it, though...;)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

brownie night at my house!

I had a bunch of baking chocolate and cocoa I wanted to use up, because letting them sit on the shelf all summer long doesn't do them any favors. I decided that brownies were the way to go.

To use up the cocoa I made Alton Brown's brownie recipe, which starts with beating the bejeezis out of 4 eggs, then adding both white and brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and a whole lot of melted butter. They're good, but not quite as fudgey as I'd have liked. I used cake flour, and I think that might have had something to do with it.

The second batch I made was to use up the baking chocolate. I decided to do mint brownies, because both my husband and my mom really like mint and I figured that was a good way to get rid of them so that I wouldn't eat them...;) This recipe was basically the same in the brownie part, except it called for melted chocolate mixed into the beaten eggs, rather than cocoa...and it had less sugar by about half! The fun part was the layer of minty frosting (made from butter, powdered sugar, milk, and mint extract). The frosting was spread on the mostly-cooled brownies, then the pan was put in the fridge for an hour to firm up. The final layer was unsweetened chocolate melted with butter, left to cool a little, then spread across the top of the minty layer and allowed to set in the fridge. I really liked this recipe. The unsweetened chocolate on top helped cut the sweetness of the mint frosting, and the cake flour didn't seem to make these brownies as crumbly as the other ones.

Friday, June 11, 2010

buttermilk baked chicken with carrot cumin slaw

Another simple and yummy chicken supper. I took chicken thighs and drumsticks and dipped them in cultured buttermilk mixed with salt, pepper, and some Tabasco...then dredged them in breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan and a dried Herbs de Provence mixture. I put the chicken on an oiled baking sheet and cooked at 425 for about 40 minutes, until nicely golden and crispy.

The slaw is made of one quarter of a head of cabbage and 3 shredded carrots, and one medium bunch of parsley, chopped. It's dressed very simply with olive oil, the juice of one lime, a little bit of salt, and 1/2 tsp of ground cumin. I was kind of if iffy about the slaw while I was making it, but I really liked it a lot and I'll definitely make it again. The chicken was great. The skin was nicely crispy, and the buttermilk keeps the meat moist while it's in the oven.

chicken parmigiana

Very simple and so yummy! I took boneless chicken breasts, split them horizontally to make cutlets, dipped them in a beaten egg and dredged them in some bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese. I pan-fried them in some olive oil in my cast iron pan, then put them on paper towels to drain. For the sauce, I used two 28-oz cans of diced tomatoes, a chopped onion, a chopped green pepper, and several cloves of chopped garlic. I sauteed it all for 10 min or so, then spread it in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, put the pieces of chicken on top, topped it with slices of mozzarella cheese, and stuck it under the broiler. While that was broiling, I cooked some linguine and drained it. When the cheese on the chicken was melted and brown, I took it out of the oven and scooped sauce and chicken onto the pasta. Ta-da! NOM!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

greek-ish pizza

I've been hankering for some more eggplant since the batch I did on the grill a couple weeks ago. I found a description in a cooking magazine for a "quickest dinner ever" idea that amounted to eggplant slices, olives and goat cheese on a pre-cooked pizza crust. I'm not a fan of pre-cooked crusts...they always come out rubbery and cardboard-tasting, but the idea of the pizza sounded awesome so I figured I'd try it.

I used a really gorgeous eggplant I got at the farmer's market on Sunday. It was perfect...deep purple, and so shiny I could see my reflection in it when I picked it up. The blurb that I originally read didn't mention anything about salting the eggplant and letting it drain, but I've learned that lesson the hard way, so I did it anyway. I only let it sit about 20 minutes, but it was enough. I pressed out my pizza crust onto two oiled pans and brushed them with olive oil. I rinsed and dried the eggplant, cut the slices up and distributed them onto the crusts along with some kalamata olives and quartered cherry tomatoes. I cut up a small log of goat cheese into chunks and spread them over the top of the pizzas, then topped them both with some judicious sprinkles of dried oregano. They went into a 450 degree oven for about 18 minutes, and this was the result:

It was SO. GOOD. Seriously. I'd happily eat this 3 times a week. Next time I'll cut the eggplant a little thinner, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. My husband, however, commented that while it tasted nice it "lacked a certain je ne sais...MEAT!" I wonder if a little seasoned ground lamb cooked up and sprinkled on top would go well with the Greek vibe and fill the meat void for him. Hmmm.

Monday, June 7, 2010

steak quesadillas - a tale of leftovers

There was a piece of chuck steak in the fridge that needed to be used up, as well as some tortillas. My friend Amy had been talking about quesadillas earlier in the day, so I had them on the mind. I got my cast iron pan ripping hot, salted and peppered both sides of the steak, and tossed it in the pan for 3 minutes per side (yes, I like it pretty much raw...still tasting of cow and all that). The steak then came out to rest on a plate while I chopped up some leftover green bell pepper and used a vegetable peeler to make paper-thin slices of the beautiful purple radishes I got at the farmer's market. I re-oiled the cast iron pan and put in a tortilla, a handful of sharp cheddar (another leftover!), some green pepper, some radish, and a few thin slices of the now-rested steak. I folded the tortilla over on top of the filling, pressed it down a little, and voila...toasty crisp outside with a combination of crispness and softness inside. Cut in half and served with a dollop of sour cream and a nice big pile of additional paper-thin radish for some heat (the ones cooked in the quesadillas mellow and turn sweet and nutty...no heat left to them). Yay for leftovers!

crock-pot pulled pork, and what to do with it

Mmm, pork! I love it, any which way it's prepared. This is one of my favorites - BBQ-flavored, loaded with onions and garlic, smothered in sticky sauce. It doesn't necessarily look pretty but the smell while it's cooking will drive you nuts, and it tastes like...like...well hell, it tastes like BBQ pork...what's better than that?!

To make pulled pork, I use my crock-pot. I know it's not technically barbecue as such, and I don't claim that it tastes quite the same as real smoked pork shoulder (excuse me, I'm drooling at the thought), but it's super easy and nearly entirely hands-off. I use pork tenderloin because it's leaner, but you can just as easily do this with pretty much any type of pork roast. Boneless is easier to shred later on, but bone-in will give you a little more porky porkness. Oink!

I threw 2 tenderloins in the crockpot, then pretty finely chopped one large yellow onion and threw that on top. Next came 6 cloves of garlic, chopped. I took half a bottle of prepared barbecue sauce and slowly whisked in 1 12oz bottle of Long Trail Double-Bag beer. I like the Double Bag because it has a bitterness to it that cuts through the sweet of the barbecue sauce nicely. To the sauce / beer mixture, I added 3 TBSP of brown sugar, 3 TBSP cider vinegar, and a dash of cayenne pepper. I whisked that till it was combined, then dumped over the meat, onions and garlic, and shook the crock a little to coat everything. The lid went on, I put it on high for 4 hours (though you can put it on low and leave it for as long as 8-10 hours with absolutely no problem...in fact it will likely taste better if you leave it that long), and I walked away.

Four hours later, I opened it up and pulled out the chunks of pork. It was falling apart every which way, and that's perfect. I shredded the meat with two forks and put it aside in a bowl. I wanted as much of the onion and garlic out of the sauce as possible, so I placed a mesh strainer over a pot and dumped the sauce through it. All the strained out onions and garlic went directly back into the shredded meat, while the pot of sauce was set on medium-high to reduce down for about 10-15 minutes (and for the love of all that's holy, make sure you use a big enough pot because if that stuff boils over you're going to have the mess to end all messes. Just sayin'!).

Once the sauce was to my liking, I took it off the heat and added a few ladles of it into the shredded meat and onion mixture. I mixed thoroughly, and kept adding more sauce, a little at a time, till I got the consistency I was looking for (shown in picture above, of course).

I decided as I was finishing the pork that I wanted to make tacos with it. I laid out some tortillas, smeared them with a little sour cream, plonked a few spoon fulls of the pork onto them, then added strips of green pepper, some roughly chopped cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of extra sharp cheddar. It could have used some chopped avocado, but I didn't have any.

I served these with nice cold bottled of Double-Bag. YUM!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

another turkey burger variation

One of the things I love most about cooking is being able to open the fridge, pull out some seemingly useless bits of stuff, and make something tasty out of them. Burgers are endlessly versatile, and thus work very well for for me on those use-up-the-random-bits nights.

Tonight I had ground turkey, some mushrooms, onions and a little bit of chopped fresh parsley that I wanted to use up. I sliced up the mushrooms and half of the onion and tossed them into a pan with some olive oil. While those cooked down, I grated the rest of the onion and mixed it into the ground turkey along with the chopped parsley and a dash of cayenne pepper. By the time my onion and mushroom was done cooking down, I had the burgers made. I scooped out the onions and mushrooms, added a little more oil, and put the patties into the hot pan to cook. When they were done, I topped them with a slice of cheese and the hot onions and mushrooms.

The broccoli was just stir-fried with a few cloves of garlic, and the oven fries were my standard Yukon Gold wedges tossed with sea salt, olive oil and some dried chives.

The only thing I'd do differently next time would be to use Swiss cheese instead of American...other than that, I thought they came out great.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

barbecue venison sausage pizza

Once upon a time (last night), I had a brick of frozen venison sausage, and a craving for pizza. This was the result:

Yep. Venison sausage. My dad and all my uncles are hunters, so I grew up eating venison and I love it. This batch came from a family friend and is pretty mild. It takes almost no time to cook because it has very little fat added to it.

For the pizza, I cheated and used packaged crust mix (I know, it's really no less work than just making my own, but I didn't feel like it). I used barbecue sauce instead of pizza sauce, extra-sharp cheddar cheese, vidalia onion and baby portabella mushrooms. It came out pretty good, though I think next time I might try blue cheese rather than cheddar.