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