Monday, May 28, 2012

Steak Fajita Baked Potatoes

When faced with leftovers I often seek to present them in a context other than that of the producing meal.  Tonight steak fajita leavin'z sat in my refrigerator (as they will for the next two days given the amount of steak I cooked yesterday) consisting of grilled skirt steak and grilled vegetables.  Having a few potatoes which I wanted to do something with as well, I decided to make a facsimile of twice baked potatoes, stuffed with the remains of the prior nights dinner.  Having no intention of putting creative energy into the name of the meal, I dubbed it "Steak Fajita Baked Potatoes" combining both the identity of the leftovers and the cooking technique for the potatoes.

The Potato

Over the years I've learned to be more patient with baked potatoes.  Early on I would give a potato 30 minutes in the oven before assuming I had already left it in far too long.  Years later I've found that 50-60 minutes at 400 degrees is adequate for baking a potato ... a potato which is ideally covered in olive oil and kosher salt.  Tonight I think the potatoes actually went over 60 minutes, because I finished Zelda while cooking and was unwilling to disrupt the ending with details such as baking time.

The Fajita

Some credit for the meal must be given to the prior night's efforts.  The steak fajitas were in and of themselves a most acceptable meal, and while I'm not writing about them specifically, I will speak of the steak and the vegetables.  Skirt steak is the type of steak I prefer for fajitas .... or tacos .... or anything of that ilk.  It cooks quickly and it takes a marinade nicely.  I let the steak sit in a gallon zip lock bag for 5 hours with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.  This I grilled up along with a compliment of vegetables consisting of red, yellow, and anaheim peppers, onions, and mushrooms, also covered in oil and apple cider vinegar.

The Combination

Last night the above were put together as they would normally be for fajitas.  Tonight, the cold leftovers were chopped into small pieces and mixed with the potato innards.  Innards which were extracted after cooking and cutting the potatoes in half.  Innards which were also mixed with sour cream, cheddar cheese, olive oil, and some more salt and pepper (if I had some green onions I probably would have put that in there too, but I didn't have any).  Innards which were then spooned back into the potato shells to be baked another 10 minutes.

Completed Steak Fajita Baked Potato
The result you can see above - and while not overly decorative (since I did not use any sort of piping equipment to put the filling back into the potato) the final product was greeted with rave reviews (from Laura) and also took a hot sauce admirably.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chili Part II - Chili Mac,

I have something of a habit of wanting to try every item on the menu of restaurants I enjoy.  This has landed me in a few unfortunate situations throughout my years but my introduction to Chili-Mac made any failed experimentation worth while.  

Steak-n-Shake was the first (and only) establishment at which I have ordered this dish (the reason for the 'only' qualifier being that I've never seen it offered elsewhere).  While I would normally have gotten a burger, in the interest of expanding my horizons, I ordered the disorderly looking dish.  In what way the combination of flavors makes the chili-mac such a masterpiece I could not tell you and as such those of you who have not partaken will have to take it on faith.  

The recipe itself is nothing challenging, so long as you have chili laying around, which I do.  And I must note - I never make chili-mac with fresh made chili.  The chili at that point has not aged enough and as such the flavors have not combined properly.  Such an unflavored chili would be an insult to the mac with which it would be coupled.  That said - given the chili - the recipe consists of spaghetti noodles, topped with ketchup, topped with chili, topped with fresh diced onion, topped with cheddar cheese (and, if you please, topped with more ketchup).  That is all, and yet, that cosmic concoction has only one descriptor, ambrosia. 

Not much to look at, but what it lacks in physical attractiveness it makes up for in culinary excellence
If you've never partaken before, I suggest ordering the dish at a Steak-n-Shake before venturing out on your own.

Another note - I mark this post as gluten-free simply, because I used gluten-free pasta.  If you do not have an aversion to gluten, I suggest wheat pasta.  Tonight's was rice.  My co-workers had suggested quinoa, however I was not able to find any at Whole Foods, though the reason for that may have been, because I thought it was spelled with a "K" until 2 minutes ago.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mostly Meat Chili

I do not make chili nearly as often as I ought, though the reason may be that I do not know how often that is. Seeing as how I received a new pot from my parents for Christmas perfect for chili preparation, I saw no excuse outside of laziness to not shut myself in on this snow covered day and prepare a pot of chili.
The weekend exposes a fine opportunity to make large quantities of freezable food, facilitating quick meals throughout the week. Chili sets me up especially well for chili-mac, a favorite of mine since our first encounter at Steak n Shake.  My chili however typically falls short of expectations leaving me continuously searching for innovations in the recipe. Today, my root recipe consisted largely of meat which was a departure from the norm as I am used to beans in my chili.  I have however heard rumor that proper chili goes without.

Browning in the new pot
The recipe started with ground beef and sausage, two and one pounds respectively.  Both browned and set aside.  Next a white onion, finely chopped, was also browned to an extent. Interestingly it was not long ago that I was rather timid about my browning. Fearing overcooking I would stir too often and pull food from the heat before the fruits of the act could ripen. It was not until I saw an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef concerning the subject that I realized the loss of flavor I had brought upon myself.

Once the onions were done, all other ingredients were added. This included a bottle of beer, a cup of water, beef bouillon, four cloves of garlic, an 8oz can tomato sauce, half a can of tomato paste, 3T chili powder, 2T cumin, 2t paprika, 2t oregano, 2t sugar, 1t coriander, 1t unsweetened cocoa, and a few spritzes of Louisiana hot sauce.

Tonight's beer of choice
Cooking sealed over low heat I checked in on things every thirty minutes to make sure matters were not progressing too rapidly while ensuring they were in fact progressing at all.  Two hours in I removed the lid and added a water, cornmeal, and flour (gluten free flour) mixture to thicken things up.  I'm not sure if this was necessary and I've never added a thickener like this to chili before, but the root recipe called for it and I figured I would see what difference it made, though, not having made this recipe without the addition I do not have a basis for comparison.

Regardless, another 30 minutes of cooking uncovered resulted in an incredibly rich and flavorful dish.  The meat, when originally served, was still in chunks larger than I like to see in a bowl of chili.  This I remedied with a potato masher.  Normally when making chili I add spice throughout the process (a trick I learned watching some chili cookoffs on Food Network) however this time I am glad I didn't, because the heat and spice rendered quite adequately.  All in all, reasonable success, though I'm still convinced I could do better.  We will see how it fairs in the context of mac later this week.

The finished product


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Linguini alla Carbonara Attempt 1

I do not believe I have had pasta alla Carbonara in any sort of restaurant setting, or ever for that matter, and as such I have no idea how it is supposed to taste.  What I made certainly tasted good, but I can not speak to whether it tasted proper.  Regardless the recipe is an interesting one which breaks some of the safety norms my Mother and Father instilled in me at an early age.

The preparation of linguini Carbonara shown in a recently watched Diners Driveins and Dives episode inspired me to try this dish out for myself.  I have very little to say about the recipe itself which is not already said on the Food Network site since I followed it fairly closely.  For those like myself who are accustom to cooking our eggs before eating them out of fear of salmonella, dropping raw eggs into the pasta after it is off the heat was rather counter-intuitive.  Doing so however leads to a very rich velvety texture and taste.  It's definitely a heavy dish however and I would not advise having it along side a meat course (or if you do, have a very limited amount).

I am definitely no food photographer.  Not the most colorful plate either.  If you are going for presentation value I'd suggest getting some greens to sprinkle on the dish.  If you're going for taste, it doesn't matter as much.

Also, if you are making it for your wife, I advise waiting until after she has eaten it to tell her that it contains raw egg.  If I had told Laura before hand I question whether she would have had it in her to actually consume the dish.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Dates

This week I was inspired by my last meet up with my co-author Stefan to cook come bacon wrapped dates.  We attempted to cook some at his house some time ago while making pulled-pork monte cristos (something I may or may not write about in the future), however, since we were slow cooking pork butt in the same oven (temperature was too low to cook the bacon properly) and since we had both had too much Bourbon (we weren't paying that much attention), I do not think they turned out as well as they could have.  Determined to one-up the prior experience, I added a ricotta stuffing to my dates prior to cooking.

Making bacon wrapped dates is remarkably simple.  The hardest part, in my opinion, is finding the dates.  I was able to find some pitted dates by the prunes and raisins at my local Dominics.  After finding the dates, the next complex part is the stuffing.  I used store bot ricotta, spooned into a zip-lock bag.  I then cut out a small corner of the bag to create a make-shift piping bag and used that to squeeze the ricotta into the whole left from the pitting process.

The components involved in the process - sans toothpick (not to minimize the contribution of the toothpick)

Then comes the bacon wrapping.  The size of the dates I had was not overly large so I was able to use a quarter strip of bacon to wrap them (cut the bacon in half length wise and width wise).  The package is held together by a toothpick (tip: don't forget to soak your toothpicks in water so they don't burn) and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet.  For myself and Laura I made 10 dates since they are very rich and I did not want either of us to be too full since I was making carbonara later (maybe another post).

After all that, 450 degree oven - 15 minutes.

End result - delicious.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Fried Chicken Revisited

Tonight I revisited my Fried Chicken post.  Since the initial post I've found some reasonable gluten free flour so now I toss the legs in a flour spice mix.  To date however I've been working primarily with rosemary and thyme.  Today I wanted to take a stab at the "11 herbs and spices" variation on fried chicken and thus used a little more than the two spices. 

I was actually going to count out 11, but around 6 I forgot to continue counting, because I was yelling about something ridiculous happening on The Bachelor in the other room.  Some of the spice highlights are:
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
The chicken did not turn out tasting like KFC, but it did turn out quite nice.  

I've read that many chickens are rushed to market, a scant 20-some days after hatching, which evidently is too short a time for them to develop full flavor.  This being said I have no idea how to find more mature chickens, but if I do find out I would love to do a side-by-side comparison.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chicken Scaloppine W/ White Wine Sauce

Chicken or Veal Scaloppine w/ a White Wine Sauce is what I would consider one of my staple recipes.  However since learning that my wife has celiac making it has become problematic. After searching for some time I was finally able to find a grocer who carried rice flour as a fungible commodity.  Said grocer also had a wide variety of rice pasta, though this I had previously acquired at other establishments.

The basic recipe is extremely simple and is essentially the same whether you are cooking chicken or veal (though for veal I shorten cooking times).  The first step is to get the water on to boil.  I've found that making this the first step is of particular import when cooking with an electric oven.  Back in the day when I had a gas stove to work with, heating up water still took time, but not nearly as much... man I miss that stove.  Next you have to get your chicken / veal into scaloppine form.  A scaloppine is actually a thin cut of meat.  For some reason, probably based on the Olive Garden menu, people have formed the notion that chicken or veal scaloppine refers to a particular recipe.  This is actually not the case, it only refers to the size and thickness of the cut of meat.  If you are working with veal you want to find veal that's already prepared as scaloppine.  If working with chicken you can either do the same or just buy (take out of the freezer) some chicken breasts (skinless & boneless).  Take these and pound the heck out of them until you're working with a 1/3 - 1/4 " thick piece.

Once you've pounded the chicken thin enough, slice it up into little scaloppine.  The actual size of the scaloppine doesn't matter as much as the thickness.  I like mine slightly larger than a silver dollar but heck, you can just cook up the whole breast thin if you want.

Dredge the scaloppine in flour (rice flour in this instance due to the gluten free requirement) salt and pepper.  Heat over high heat a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons EVOO.  Once that's slightly brown and smelling fantastic throw some chicken in there (as all the cook books say, don't crowd the pan).  Normally I pre-heat the oven to something in the 200 range, because I normally have to cook at least two batches in the frying pan (now would be a good time to mention that you want to cook the chicken in a frying pan).  About a minute per side is what I do for chicken, a shorter time frame is used for veal.

With cooked chicken removed from the pan and sitting in the heated oven I dump some dry white wine (pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc) into the pan to deglaze it... scraping up all the "brown bits" as every cooking show will mention.  I add to that diced mushrooms and drained capers and let that simmer for 5 minutes (I threw in some thyme as well though I don't always do that).  To this I add salt, pepper, chopped fresh Italian parsley, and the chicken.

And that's it.  Stir that all together and throw it on some angle hair pasta with a lemon wedge and a glass of the same wine used for deglazing and you have yourself a meal fit for a hungry person.

Sorry, no pic this time.  I was too hungry to artistically present the dish.