Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reggie's Steak with Garlic Chive Butter

One of my responsibility as a hotel salesperson is to walk the lobby one day a week.  We each take turns stand in the lobby between 7 and 8:15am to greet guests and welcome them to the day.  Or to tell them where the restaurant and bathrooms are, which is what I do about 90% of the time.  It gets a bit monotonous.  My day is Fridays which is nice because I may start the day off earlier than normal but I get to leave early every Friday.  This particular Friday I was chatting with a coworker from another department and we got to talking about food, smokers, grilling, etc.  He claimed to be a "beast" on the grill and proceeded to tell me about his steak.  I'll try to be as descriptive as he was:

He starts with a steak thats 3/4 to an inch thick and seasons each side with salt and pepper.  3 times the normal amount, because most of it will roll off with the juices later on.  Turn the grill all the way up, as high as it'll go, get it good and hot, and pop the steaks on.  4 minutes on one side, 4 1/2 minutes on the other and remove.  Top with a small pat of butter, mixed with garlic & chives, and let sit for 2 minutes before serving.  Should be a perfect medium/ medium rare.  He told me it'll be so good Shawn's want to marry me twice.  I don't know about Shawn, but the decription left this lady absolutely salivating for steak.  Maybe its the pregnancy hormones (I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're aware of my current state) but I HAD to have steak and HAD to prepare it exactly as he said. 

So, here goes the crazy lady shopping for steak.  Anyone whos been pregnant, or lived with someone who has been, knows that we're very visual and just a little bit nuts about food.  I had an exact picture of what my steak would look like and went to 2 stores, looking at almost ever steak they had, before I selected 2 perfect steaks for Shawn and I.  They weren't even the same kind!   One was a ribeye, the other a NY strip.  But both met my specifically insane size/ fat/ marbling ratio and they came home with me for grilling.

Dinner itself took little time to put together.  I had taken some butter out earlier in the afternoon to soften and added a minced clove of garlic and some chopped chives.  We took the steaks out of the fridge, added salt and pepper, and let them sit at room temperature while the grill heated up.  Shawn took them outside about 10 minutes after the grill was turned on and followed the timing exactly.  I steamed up some asparagus, heated up some mashed potatoes, and made garlic toast with some of the extra butter.  He was back in the kitchen 8 1/2 minutes later with some gorgeous steaks.  I topped each with a little butter and let it sit while I pulled the rest together. 

Sorry for the lack of photos, but once we got going there was no stopping.  We started by cutting into the steaks to check the doneness and they were absolutely perfect.  Shawn was kind enough to share both steaks so that we (I) could try each type.  They were fantastic and exactly as I had dreamed.  There was no A1 or steak sauce needed for these bad boys!  Crispy edges, perfectly pink in the center, and just the right amount of spices.  Juicy and amazing.  I can't wait to thank Reggie for his recommendation! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thrown Together Noodle Soup- Jess's creation

I love vegetables.  I really do; and almost every kind, too.  I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn't like meat so much.  Shawn and John like them, too, but not at the level that I do.  So when I'm on my own for lunch or dinner, I rotate through about 4-5 chock-full-of-veggie dishes.  This is one of my favorites.  Shawn saw me eating some the other night and mentioned that I should put it out for you fine folks to enjoy. 

I start off with some homemade broth or a can of low sodium broth if I don't have any made at the time.  I bring about 2 cups worth to a boil and throw in a few chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of minced ginger (or a few dashs of dried if one or neither are on hand), and the tougher of my chosen veggies.  This time it was sliced celery, chopped carrots, and small florets of broccoli.  I let these boil up for a few minutes, adding in a few dashes of soy sauce and Sriracha hot sauce.  Next I add in the noodles.  Usually I use the noodles from a ramen noodle packet, tossing the flavor packet in the trash where I believe it belongs.  The noodles cook up quickly and are always delicious.  Tastes like college, but better.  I had some leftover whole wheat angel hair that I used instead.  I threw it in with some frozen spinach (baby spinach works here, too) and sliced mushrooms and let it all simmer for a few minutes.  If you want to add some cooked shredded chicken, pork, or tofu, this is the perfect time. 

Once its all ready, I turn off the flame and let the soup sit for a few minutes to cool.  Its HOT- trust me.  I usually taste the broth at this point to see if it needs anything- more salt is sometimes needed.  A touch of curry paste can be nice, too.  I serve it in a huge bowl and eat it with a spoon and a fork.  I like to put my face over it a bit while I eat it to clear my sinuses, too. 

So there you have it.  Jess's homemade noodle soup.  Healthy, delicious, one pot, goodness. 

Noodle Soup
2 cups broth
chopped vegetables (any combination of celery, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, cabbage, or whatever you like and/or have available)
garlic (fresh is better, but dried works)
ginger (fresh is better, but dried works)
soy sauce
hot sauce
ramen noodles or leftover spaghetti
Shredded cooked meat or diced tofu (optional)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Love You Pancakes for my boy on his birthday

Today is John's 4th birthday!  The kid loves pancakes and I promised that we'd make a batch to start his day off right.  I had some leftover buttermilk and flipped around my cookbooks quickly to find a good recipe.  The single girl cookbook came to the rescue again.  Its slightly odd that I keep making these potential "morning after" recipes for my kid, but they always sound easy and promising.  I got the dry ingredients together the night before, knowing that John would be up bright and early and ready to great the day with high levels of energy.  I mixed up 2 cups of flour, 1 Tbsp of sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1 Tbsp of baking soda.  Unfortunately, the recipe first says to use 1 Tbsp of baking powder unless you're using buttermilk- then you use baking soda and only 1/2 tsp.  Of course, I read that part after I added 1 Tbsp of baking soda already.  This is one of my peeves with baking.  If I were cooking I could simply skim out the extra ingredient or add a touch more of everything else to balance it.  But baking is chemistry, not art, and exact measurements are a necessity.  So, I chucked the batch and started again. 

John was up at 7am on the dot and immediately started asking for his pancakes.  We washed our hands, pulled up his step stool, and got started.  I cracked the first egg and John begged to do one.  I tried to help, but it was a bit of a mess.  We were able to salvage it, but had some egg on both of our hands.  Yuck!  As some of you may know, eggs are my least favorite food.  I don't mind it in baked goods, but the raw stuff still skeeves me out a bit.  We added 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, stirred, and combined it with the flour mixture. It was pretty thick.  The recipe said that you could add a little more milk, but not buttermilk, to thin it out which I did.  Then I let it sit the suggested 10 minutes before cooking. 

The recipe also called for the skillet to be moderately low, which seemed odd to me.  I wouldn't have normally followed this step on my own but in my attempt to follow the recipe for blogging and learning purposes, I went with it.  I kept my double burner skillet (love that thing) over moderate heat for about 3 minutes and then added a few touches of butter in the spots where I would be cooking.  The recipe suggested hockey puck sized pancakes, and they were stille pretty thick when I put them on the stove.  They took way longer than usual to get bubbles on them, and even longer for those bubbles to pop.  For anyone whos never made pancakes- that's usually the key.  Once the bubbles pop you can flip the pancakes and finish up the other side.  These pancakes, when all was said and done, were about an inch thick.  I knew I had cooked them enough, but I was worried.  I was right to be worried.  They were pretty terrible.  The flavor was good, but they were really rubbery and tough.  I ate one, and so did John, and I chucked the rest.  I'll stick to regular pancakes next time and save my buttermilk for biscuits. 

On a positive note, I did change up my method for cooking bacon after a tip was given to me earlier in the week.  I put the raw, thick-cut bacon on a baking sheet (not a cookie sheet for obvious reasons) and placed it in the oven at 350 for 40 minutes.  I'll never make bacon on the stove again!  It cooked it all up at once with little mess.  And the bacon was fantastic!  Crisp and delicious.  Shame on me, too, because I've watched every kitchen that I've ever worked in use this exact method and it never occurred to me to do it at home.  It took longer than normal, but I didn't have to worry about batches and it cooked while I made everything else.  As far as timing goes, it was pretty spot on. 

So there you have it folks.   Not so delicious pancakes but a solid tip for bacon.  I'd leave you with the recipe, but I'd have to type out the whole thing and who would really want a not so good pancake recipe anyway?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cabbage & Potato Bake- Emeril Lagasse

I have to be honest.... This is the second time that I've made this recipe.  My first try was while I was on hiatus and it was amazing.  So amazing that I planned, and failed, to type it up and post it.  So now that I'm back on the blogging bandwagon and making it a second time (still needing to follow the recipe, though) I decided that it was worthy of your reading.  As much as I love my cookbooks, online recipes truly rock.  They're search friendly, I can check out reviews, and I can also pull them up on my smartphone to review while cooking.  My first time around, I found this when looking for a way to use the huge head of cabbage that I picked up at a farmers market over the summer.  It includes some of the most beautiful ingredients of the world... bacon, onions, cabbage, and potatoes.  Oh, glorious dish!

So here we are just after St Pattys day and guess what I have?  Cabbage, potatoes, onions... and bacon in the fridge.  It was on.  I diced up 5 pieces of thick cut bacon and fried it up for about 5 minutes, and then added 2 sliced onion.  While it softened up, I cut the cabbage into eighths and halved a few red potatoes.  I alternated the pieces in a baking dish, topped it with the bacon and onion mixture, and then poured 2 cups of broth over it all.  I originally used chicken broth, but had some gorgeous broth that I made with a pork bone the night before.  I used that instead- wouldn't you?   Once the dish was wrapped tight with foil, it went in the oven for 1 1/2 hours at 375.  Let it sit for another 15 while I heated up the leftover corned beef and it was ready.


Sooooo gooooood..... it could always use more bacon (what dish can't?) but I wanted to keep it a little lighter.  The onions really soften up and mix with the cabbage beautifully when you start slicing it up.  The broth is just amazing.  It gathers the bacon, onion, cabbage flavor and you just want to spoon it up all over everything.  In my onion, the potatoes kind of fade away in this dish.  You don't need them, other than to make it a one pot side dish.  They're good; they just don't shine alongside the rest.  This would be a perfect dish for someone on Atkins or who was trying to cut out carbs.  Its cheap, easy, healthy, and amazing.  Make it.  You'll thank me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Corned Beef Sandwices & Potato Salad

March Madness time!!  We have people over every year for March Madness and its always a great time to check out some new recipes.  Once in a while this event coincides with St Pattys Day, which gives fun opportunities to decorate- both for us and for those attending.  This year I decided to go with the Irish theme and make corned beef for sandwiches.  I searched a few recipes and found a version online at with 5 stars and over 500 reviews.  With that kind of response you have to imagine it would be tasty, right?  The recipes calls for a stovetop method and many reviewers used the crockpot to great results.  I went back and forth all week about which method I wanted to use.  I finally decided on the stovetop for 2 reasons.  First, those who used the crockpot loved their results but those who used the stovetop method RAVED about their results.  Second, by using the stovetop I could keep the crockpot clean and use it for holding during the party without having to wash in between.  I have a really small kitchen and that really counts for something when you're making a lot of different dishes. 

I used 2 packages of the standard corned beef that you purchase on sale the week of St Pattys Day.  I trimmed the meat and then soaked in water for about 10 minutes to get some of the salty brine out of it.  This wasn't in the recipe, but is something I've heard of before and wanted to add to the mix.  I drained the water and added only one of the included spice packets, a 1/4 cup of whole peppercorns, and a head of peeled garlic cloves.  Topped it with 2 bottles of Yeungling and enough water to cover the meat by about an inch.  I brought the mix to a boil and then simmered it, covered, for around 4 hours; turning the pieces every hour and adding water as needed. 

While this was going on....

I put together some potato salad.  You cannot have an Irish holiday without potatoes.  Can't be done.  I thought potato salad would pair nicely with the sandwiches and also with the smoked pork shoulder that we had coming out later in the evening.  I found another great recipe only, this time on the Food Network's website.  It's Ina Garten's recipe and was well reviewed.  I like that it included dill, mustard, and vegetables.  It also had my main requirement- no eggs.  I hate eggs (despise eggs) and I try to find recipes without it rather than leaving it out.  I feel like when a recipe is created, the whole thing plays together and those featuring eggs will have its measurements and ingredients wrapped around that inclusion.  I want a recipe that suits what I need. 

I cut the potatoes into large chunks and boiled them for about 12 minutes, then drained the potatoes.  I put the colander into the pot and covered it with a cloth for about 15 minutes.  I really like this method- it steams the potatoes to completion so they don't get waterlogged.  The dressing includes mayo, dijon and whole grain mustards, dill, salt & pepper.  I finished cutting the potatoes into smaller pieces, mixed it with the dressing while they were still warm, and finished it off with celery & red onion.  My initial impression was that the salad had too much mustard and I hoped it would be better once it cooled off and the flavors blended. 

Back to the corned beef...

After 4 hours and change on the stove, I pulled the pieces of beef out of the liquid and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Whatever fat was left on the meat skimmed off effortlessly.  I sliced about 2 pieces and was giddy at the texture of the meat.  It held together enough to keep in slices but was so tender that I could pull each slice apart with my fingers.  As you can imagine, I had to take a taste right then and there and was thrilled with the result.  The saltiness had toned down from the pre-soaking and the garlic had such a nice subtle presence in the flavor.  Simply outstanding.  The rest sliced up beautifully and I put it all in the crockpot to keep warm for sandwiches. 

The end result...

It took a while for folks to try the beef.  I wanted to shout from the rooftops- it's delicious!!  Try it, damn it!!  lol.  They finally did and agreed.  I served the beef alongside some sliced turkey, ham and salami so there were sandwich options for everyone.  There was swiss cheese, provolone, dijon & whole grain mustards. and cole slaw with rye and pumpernickel breads.  My favorite combination was definitely the seeded rye with dijon mustard and beef.  Simple and perfect.  I paired it with the potato salad, which had thankfully evened out in flavor and was really tasty. 

Tonight, we'll be dining on leftover corned beef with cabbage and potatoes.  I will keep on trying new potato salad recipes, just because different meats call for different flavors, but my search for corned beef has concluded.  I'll never make it any other way again.

Sidebar- I feel like I have to add a comment about the the pork shoulder, since it was mentioned.  Shawn smoked a nice sized shoulder with his homemade rub and BBQ sauce and also smoked a tray of my mac & cheese.  My man is talented with his smoker and this was no exception.  Fall apart tender and completely amazing.  There were no leftovers and I now have to figure out what to buy this week to use as a catalyst to eat more BBQ sauce.  My mac & cheese was ridiculous and the 2 hours in the smoker gave it so much flavor.  We ate well yesterday, that goes without saying....