Thursday, August 21, 2014

Burrito Casserole

I've been enjoying meal planning.  I like writing up a chalkboard menu every week.  I'm a big fan of organization and lists.  I have been cooking pretty much every night of the week for the past few months we've been in our new home.

One of the problems with wanting to cook something different every night is that the leftovers seem to pile up faster than we can eat them.  This right here is a lesson in leftover re-purposing. 

Tuesday on the chalkboard menu is taco night.  Taco Tuesday came around this week, but *gasp* last week's taco Tuesday leftovers were still in the fridge! 

Solution? Burrito casserole!  I'm not going to write out a recipe here because I think that defeats the purpose of this post.  

I cooked up some nontraditional taco vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, to add to the leftovers. All the vegetables got seasoned with cumin, garlic, salt and pepper.  I mixed in the leftover rice at the end, after re-heating it in the microwave first.

I was able to make 4 layers with my leftovers: tortilla, filling, tortilla, filling topped cheese.

Behold the cheesy melty goodness!

Top it all with a nice dollop of fresh guacamole and voila, leftovers look brand new and tasty too!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Glazed Pork Chops

I'm on a mission right now to make use of the cookbooks I own as much as possible.  That means staying away from the time-sucking world of Pinterest, which is not always an easy task.

On to the glazed pork chops!  Yet another great recipe from America's Test Kitchen.  I promise they are not handing me any cash or prizes to promote their cookbooks and recipes...not that there's anything wrong with that. *wink*wink America's Test Kitchen...

I did some ingredient substitutions in the glaze, to use what I had available to me at the time.  I also used boneless center cut pork chops, which take less time to cook.

Glazed Pork Chops
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
5 center cut pork chops

1. Combine vinegar, sugar, orange juice, mustard, and soy sauce in a bowl, mix thoroughly.
2. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until smoking.  Brown pork chops on one side, flip chops and cook 1 minute more. Transfer chops to a plate and pour off any extra oil in the skillet. Return chops to skillet, browned side up, add glaze mixture. Cook until chops reach 145 degrees in the center.
3. Remove chops from skillet and move to a plate, tent with foil.  Cook glaze on high heat, whisking frequently, until glaze thickens, 2-6 minutes. Coat chops with glaze on both sides, plate and pour remaining sauce on top.

I served some roasted brussel's sprouts and cous cous alongside the glazed pork chops.  This meal, along with the chilly summer weather, has me ready for fall flavors in the middle of August.  Bring on the sage and pumpkin!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

World's Greatest Meatballs

This post title might be unofficial, but these meatballs are so damn good.  Unsurprisingly America's Test Kitchen strikes again with a fantastic recipe for meatballs.  One of the best parts about this recipe is that they bake right in the oven!  No more standing over that frying pan attempting to cook all sides of a round ball of meat.

On of the secrets is cooking the onions and the garlic first.  It adds a major flavor boost.

Oven Baked Meatballs
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
2 1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt

1. Heat oil in a skillet.  Add onions and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, and pepper.  Cook until fragrant.  Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 475.  In a large bowl, mix beef, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, salt, and cooled onion mixture.  Form into 2 1/2 inch balls. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.  Meatballs will be well browned.

They get nice and crisp in the super hot oven, just like if they were fried.

I had been unsatisfied with my previous meatball attempts, but no longer will I be longing for a better meatball!  This is the recipe I will use from now on.  Try it out!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chicken Wings

This weekend I said farewell to a TV series that I have spent the past year watching: Cheers. Completing 11 seasons of a show definitely calls for some fanfare.  How to honor a show that takes place in a bar? Bar food of course!

Deep Fried Chicken Wings

2 lb chicken wings
3/4 cup flour
1 tbsp paprika
1 cup hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Heat deep fryer to 375*.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
2. Mix flour and paprika in a pie plate, coat chicken wings in mixture.
3. Heat hot sauce and garlic in a small sauce pan, keep warm while cooking chicken.
4. Cook chicken at 375 for 10 minutes.  Drain on paper towels, toss into hot sauce mixture and serve.

*You can surely cook this in a large heavy pot with lots of oil, but I don't know how much oil you would need to submerge the wings entirely.

I made a Gorgonzola dip to serve with the wings by mixing the cheese and sour cream. There will be extra hot sauce and you can serve that on the side also for some extra spice.

We also had various other bar food staples: french fries, beer nuts, and pretzels. Carrots and celery were also consumed to allow us to feel better about this being dinner.

These wings were perfection.  Cooking them quickly and eating them right after being sauced kept the coating crisp, not soggy.

In case you were wondering, the ending of Cheers really did bring a tear to my eye.  It's a great show, available on Netflix, and comes highly recommended by me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chicken Cutlets

This recipe comes my one of my current cookbook love affairs: America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook.  It's filled with step by step pictures and plenty of tips for each recipe.  It's a great book for learning every cooking technique you will ever need in your home kitchen.

Chicken Cutlets
From America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook

4 slices of white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut off tenderloin and slice breasts in half (this will make 4 thin pieces of chicken and 2 tenderloin pieces)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place bread in a food processor and pulse until evenly fine texture.
3. Set up your coating stations: flour, egg, bread crumbs with parmesan cheese, each in a separate plate.
4. Coat chicken pieces in this order: flour, egg, breading.  Place on a wire rack and let sit for 5 minutes.
5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering.  Cook chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.  Don't crowd the pan, cook in batches if necessary.
6. Place cutlets on a paper towel lined plate to drain off excess oil.  Eat up!

My food processor is a self propelling mechanism, so it doesn't always do the finest job.  That is why my bread crumbs are a little chunky.

Allowing the coating to sit for a few minutes before frying helps it stick to the chicken.

The oil should reach about halfway up each piece of chicken.  Check out that nice golden brown coating all crisped up!

I served some pesto pasta salad on the side.  These were some damn good cutlets if I do say so myself.  I was excited to successfully make my own bread crumbs for the first time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dry Aged Beef

I saw this video from America's Test Kitchen and was inspired to dry age my own steak at home.  It's super easy and only requires a few pieces of equipment, most of which you probably have on hand.  The only catch is you need to decide four days in advance that you will be eating steak on a particular evening.

All you need is cheese cloth, a wire rack, and a baking sheet.  The video uses a rib eye steak, but I had a London broil on hand so that is what I used.

I put it in the back of the fridge for four days as instructed and when it was finished the steak was rock hard.  I was concerned that I did something terribly wrong, but once the meat rested on the counter for a bit it softened up.

I seasoned both sides with salt and pepper and cooked in on a gas grill.

I will say, I have never had a dry aged steak before.  This steak was delicious, but I couldn't tell any difference between this steak and the one I cooked a week prior.

I'm not sure if I used a different cut of beef or if I tasted a dry aged and non-dry aged piece side by side, the outcome would have been more dramatic.

Not that the steak didn't taste good, it was delicious.  I'm just not sure if it's worth the 4 day fridge session.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Baked French Toast

This recipe has been a part of my family for ages, but I have never tackled it myself.  It is great as an impressive holiday or company visit breakfast.  The best part about it is most of the work is done the night before.  The morning of you sprinkle on the topping and pop it in the oven.  

I used frozen mixed berries, but you can use a cup of any berry you wish, fresh or frozen.

Baked French Toast

1 loaf French bread, sliced into half inch slices, no butts allowed
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp softened butter
1 cup berries, fresh or frozen

1. Place bread slices, cut-side up, in a 13x9 inch pan.  In a bowl, preferably with a spout, mix eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Pour over bread.  Flip bread over, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Mix flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl until mixture is crumbly.  This step can be made ahead, just cover and refrigerate.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Flip bread slices again, top with brown sugar flour mixture and berries.  Bake for 45 minutes. 

Feel free to serve it up with your favorite syrup, but I don't think it needs anything else.