Monday, July 9, 2012

Ground beef + crescent roll dough = I dunno what to call it

So I get home from work, and my wife tells me that there is ground beef thawed for dinner. Okay. Very versatile ingredient - but what do I want to do with it? Anywho, one of the local grocery stores was having a one day sale, so we went there to pick up some stuff. While we were in the dairy section grabbing a gallon of milk, inspiration hit me, and I grabbed a couple of cans of the Pillsbury crescent roll recipe sheets. I then backtracked to produce and grabbed a bell pepper and an Anaheim pepper.

Back home, I diced up the bell pepper, minced the Anaheim, chopped some onion, and rough cut some carrots. Sauted all of that in the cast iron skillet with a little vegetable oil, seasoned with fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, garlic powder, Hungarian paprika and fresh rosemary from the garden.

Meanwhile, I put the two pounds of ground chuck in a bowl, added salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, dried thyme, ground marjoram, a beaten egg, and some whole wheat bread crumbs. My wife mixed it up for me. I then added the partially softened veggies to the meat mixture, along with some fresh chives from the garden. Wife mixed all that in, then i proceeded to fill the crescent roll sheets.

I unrolled the sheets, and then cut them in half. I spooned a healthy portion of the meat and veggie mix onto each piece, then closed them up and placed them on a buttered cookie sheet.

You'll notice the two on the right are larger than the two on the left. I hadn't refined my technique.

I spooned some melted chive butter over the tops of them, then sprinkled them with sesame seeds, stabbed them with a fork and stuck them in the oven at 350 for about 35 minutes.

After they were GBD and had come to temp, I sprinkled some shredded sharp cheddar over them and put them back in the oven for another five minutes or so to melt the cheese.

Turned out pretty tasty. The top was flaky and crispy, and the bottom was kinda soft and full of beef drippings.

I also made some imitation crab meat stuffed portabella mushrooms for my wife and daughter. (Faux crab cakes for me, but no pictures of those)

After Cheri cleaned the shrooms, I mixed up the filling: imitation crab meat, diced and some of it smashed with my fingers, garlic, salt, white pepper, cream cheese, Miracle Whip, shredded pepper jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced portabella stems. Stuffed the caps with the filling, then topped with some Panko mixed with melted butter and garlic powder. In the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, and they enjoyed. (Not me, I can't stand mushrooms. I can cook 'em, but I can't eat 'em.)

Before baking.

After baking.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweet & Savory Chicken Fingers

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back! My work schedule has been hectic for a while now, and I'm finally starting to get a handle on my schedule again. So, I thought I'd share this recipe for the super-delicious chicken fingers I made for dinner tonight. (Sorry, no pictures. The food didn't last long enough to get any.)

So, I wanted to use buttermilk, but I didn't have any. No worries. I just put three tablespoons of white vinegar into the 4-cup measuring cup, then added milk (1%) up to the 3-cup line. By the time the chicken is cut, presto-chango! Pseudo-buttermilk!

Anyway, I started with four pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast. I trimmed the fat and tendons, then cut it into strips. Threw it all into a bowl, then seasoned liberally with chicken bouillon powder, granulated garlic, Hungarian paprika, celery salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, hot sauce, and about a tablespoon of honey. I tossed the chicken around to coat it with the seasonings and honey, then poured in the pseudo-buttermilk.

I let that sit while I heated up the deep fryer (with peanut oil) and got my flour ready. I used just regular old all-purpose flour, which I seasoned with granulated garlic, onion powder, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, ground marjoram, ground thyme, chicken bouillon powder, and Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.

Once I had the flour sufficiently seasoned, I started the breading process. I fished pieces of chicken out of the bowl with a fork, and added them to the flour, which was in a large plastic storage bowl with a lid. After I'd added five or six pieces, I put the lid on, then shook the whole thing like mad. Repeated the process until all the chicken was in the bowl and well coated, then let it sit while the fryer finished heating up.

I dropped the pieces into the 350 degree peanut oil in batches of about six pieces, cooked them for three minutes (or until GBD - golden brown and delicious), let them drain for a few seconds in the fry basket, then transferred them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack and some paper towels. Once they were all cooked, the whole lot went into the warm oven while everything else was finishing up. My wife made microwave potatoes (thin sliced potatoes, cooked in the microwave then topped with melted butter, salt, pepper, and chives from the garden) and we cooked some frozen corn.

Good Lord, were those chicken fingers delicious! Savory, rich chicken flavor, with a slight pepper bite and just a hint of sweetness from the honey. No dip needed. YUM!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An apple a day...

This is from a few days ago, but it's been a busy week or so, what with the youngest kid's birthday and work and all. Speaking of, here's his birthday cake, made and decorated by my lovely wife, Cheri. The design is all hers. She also made the platforms and the slingshot (homemade pretzels). My contribution? Finding the figures (pencil toppers) and thinking of Jordan almonds for the eggs.

Anyway, here's the food. First, the cast of characters:

We had thawed some center cut pork chops, but didn't want to do the same old thing (barbecue seasoning and bake, or Southern style breaded and fried). I was wandering around the kitchen, opening cabinets, staring into the fridge, trying to figure something out, when I caught sight of the jug of apple cider I'd bought weeks before and forgot about. Apple and pork goes together....eureka!

First, marinate the chops in the cider, along with some kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic, cinnamon, clove, and freshly grated nutmeg, for about an hour.

Meanwhile, I shredded some Russets on the mandoline for potato pancakes. Once the chops had sufficiently marinated, I heated up the big cast iron skillet, added half a stick of butter, and started cooking them. I poured the cider from the marinade into a sauce pan and brought it to a boil for a few minutes, then added some more cider and the can of apple sauce I fortified it with some more nutmeg, cinnamon and clove, and also added a little brown sugar. I let that simmer while the chops cooked.

Isn't the steam awesome, or is it just me?

All that processing, I turned my attention to the taters. To the shredded russets, I added a large egg, a splash of milk, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic, Spanish paprika, and some flour. Mixed all that up, buttered up the griddle, and formed out the mixture by generous tablespoonfuls.

When the chops were done, I transferred them to a wire rack on a cookie sheet in the warm oven, then added the rest of the stick of butter to the skillet. Added enough flour to make a roux, then poured in the cider/applesauce mixture. Mixed in some more cider, fortified the spices, and voila! Apple gravy.

Flip the potato pancakes, pop a steamer bag of green beans into the microwave, and it's time for dinner.

Plating: one pancake, a little pile of green beans, one chop. Ladle some of the gravy over the chop, and sprinkle on some shredded colby-jack cheese (sharp chedder would've been better, but you gotta go with what you've got).

Hungry yet?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Late night kitchen improv

So here's photographic evidence of one of my late-night, what-the-hell-do-I-want-to-eat adventures.

I'm a retail supervisor, and I was on the closing shift tonight. I go in at 2, and have to take my meal break no later than 4:30, so I can be back before the day shift management leaves at 5. So by the time I get home around 10, I'm hungry again. I usually have whatever my wife cooked for her and the kids, but on Saturdays, the kids are at grandma's house, so she just eats leftovers for dinner. I got home tonight and needed something to eat, and I felt like cooking something. The only non-frozen meat in the house is a couple of pounds of stew meat (I'm gonna make beef stew tomorrow). I requisitioned a good handful of the meat, tossed it with some tenderizer and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, I tossed it with some fresh ground black pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, and smoked paprika and let it sit for another couple of minutes.

I heated up the little cast iron skillet, then added some leftover bacon grease from this morning's breakfast. I tossed the seasoned beef chunks in some flour, then fried them in the bacon grease.

Once they were GBD (golden, brown and delicious - thanks, Alton Brown), I transferred them to a paper towel lined cooling rack to drain, then sauted half a yellow onion in the remaining grease. Meanwhile, I turned on the griddle to toast a couple of hamburger buns.

Took the onions out to drain, and added some flour to the grease in the skillet to make a nice roux. Hit that with about 2/3 of a can of beef broth and some granulated garlic, fresh ground black pepper and onion powder (the broth has plenty of salt).

I like the steam and gravy bubbles in that shot.

As the gravy was cooking, I buttered the buns and toasted them on the griddle.

Assembled a couple of sandwiches like so: bottom bun, beef nuggets (good a name as any), sauted onions, gravy, top bun. Pretty tasty. (And that's saying something, considering the cold I have - I can barely taste anything.)

Try to ignore the fingers in this shot. There were no surfaces in the kitchen to set the plate and take a picture, so I held it at arm's length. Only problem was that the bottom of the plate was too hot to rest on my arm, so I was stuck holding it rather awkwardly with the fingers and the base of my palm.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Enchiladas - Day 2

First, by special request, a photo of the pile of shredded beef:

So, today when I got home from work, I took the shredded beef out of the fridge and microwaved it at half power for about five minutes, just to take the chill off.

For the sauce, I started out by sweating half a yellow onion and 1.5 tablespoons of minced garlic in a little oil, then added some kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and chili powder.

Next, I dumped in a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, sauted them for a few minutes, then added a big can of tomato puree. Let that heat for a few minutes, then used the immersion blender to chop up the peppers. Let it simmer for a few minutes and tasted. Too spicy. Added a tablespoon of sugar and two tablespoons of vinegar. Simmered another few minutes, still too spicy. Added another two tablespoons of sugar and a little salt. Still too spicy. Added a regular size can of tomato sauce. Still a little on the spicy side, but good enough with sour cream and cheese and lettuce and tortilla and all that. Next time, I'll either use half a can of the peppers, or just strain them out instead of blending everything together. Live and learn.

I mixed a little of the sauce into the meat.

Rolled a good portio of the meat into the tortillas (flour, I don't like the texture of store bought corn tortillas and don't have the proper equipment to make my own), then topped them with sauce.

Baked them for about 15 minutes at 350, then topped them with 2 cups of shredded Mexican cheese blend (cheddar, Monterey jack, queso blanco, and asadero). Back in the oven for about 8 minutes, and this is the result:

Topped each serving with some shredded lettuce and sour cream, and some refried beans on the side (canned, but doctored up with the addition of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, chili powder, and a couple of tablespoons of salsa).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Enchiladas - Day 1

Well, here's a first: a dish that takes two days to prepare. (I did season the Spanish pork tenderloin the day before, but this actually involves cooking on two days.)

Today was prep day for the filling: shredded beef.

I dumped a can of chipotle chilis in adobo into the blender, added in half a yellow onion, five cloves of garlic, about a tablespoon of lime juice, a little clump of fresh cilantro, a few drops of hot sauce, and a cup of water. Blended all that, then seasoned the meat.

I used a 4-ish pound rump roast. Seasoned it on every side with fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt, then rubbed everything in. Back to the sauce mixture - I poured about half of it into the bottom of the crock pot, then put the roast in and rolled it around to cover it. I then poured the rest over the top of the roast, then measured three cups of water in the blender pitcher to get all the remants and poured that around the roast and mixed it in. Set the cooker to low, and let it go. I started it around 11 in the morning, and Cheri turned it off around 7 pm.

That's the roast at 11 this morning. I got off work at 9:30, then had to go to Wal Mart (bleh) for a headlight bulb for the car, so by the time I got home a little after10, it had cooled down enough to shred by hand (I wore gloves). So that's in a bag in the fridge, waiting for tomorrow.

Stay tuned. I'll try to post the follow-up tomorrow night. That post will include my first attempt at enchilada sauce from scratch.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Surf & Turf

So, after a loooong hiatus, I'm back to posting! Why the absence? Well, I'm a supervisor at a local Toys R Us, so I've been very busy since my last post, and on my one day off per week during the Christmas rush, I was too tired to do any fun, creative cooking. But now I've recovered, and I think I'm back in the swing of things. Plus, Santa brought us some new kitchen toys to play with - a mandolin, an electric griddle, a mini food processor and a set of glass casseroles.

(I also remembered to take pictures this time.)

Don't look for exact measurements this time. I just threw stuff together and hoped for the best. It turned out pretty good, if I say so myself.

Main dish: top sirloin steak. Before I did anything else, I took the steaks out of the fridge and cut them down to the serving sizes for everyone. I then sprinkled them on each side with some fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt and let them come to room temperature. Meanwhile, I got the charcoal started and came back inside to peel some potatoes. (Yes, I cooked on the grill in Iowa in January.)

I peeled several white potatoes then used the thin julienne blade on the mandolin to shred them. I also shredded a medium yellow onion. After squeezing most of the liquid out of the potatoes, I handed it off to my wife to mix while I added a little granulated garlic to the steaks and put them on the grill. Back inside, I added some fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, and smoked paprika to the potato and onion mixture, then mixed in a beaten egg and some self-rising flour. I had turned on the griddle before I took the steaks out, so it was ready. I buttered it, and my wife shaped out some pancakes and put them on the griddle. (Her hands were still messy from mixing.) I browned them on each side then transferred them to a paper towel lined rack over a cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven to finish cooking all the way through and stay warm.

Sometime in there, I flipped the steaks and took this picture:

After the potato pancakes were done, I unplugged the griddle and plugged in the deep fryer. We bought some frozen stuffed crabs yesterday and made use of them tonight. I also cooked some fries for the youngest and some clam strips for me and the wife.

Steaks were coming off as the reached the proper doneness level, and we popped a steamer bag of corn into the microwave. After I brought my steak in, I topped it with a little compound butter I keep on hand (it has pepper, garlic, Worchestershire and parsley).

Here's my platter:

Don't worry, I ate light the rest of the day.