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OMG Flank Steak (And Turning Your Oven into a Grill)

9 Aug

The kids and I visited our local warehouse club earlier this week and scored a big, heavy package of flank steak for less than half what it costs per-pound at the grocery store. Sweet, right? So after we came home, I carefully wrapped most of it up in single-pound portions, labeled it, and laid it in the freezer. The last pound, though, I kept out.

I have this file of recipes torn out of magazines that lives in a rack on my desk with my work files–do y’all keep one of these? The poor thing is bursting at the seams with all sorts of yummy potential, but there was a flank steak recipe in there I knew I wanted to try. So I flipped through the file and pulled it out and glanced it over, and sighed mightily. I didn’t have all the ingredients.

Now, there are two possible things to do in that situation: haul the kids and me back out to the grocery store for another meander through the aisles and wait in the checkout line, or make do with what I have and wing it. I went with Door #2. Rummaged through my fridge and pantry, mixed some stuff together in a plastic bag, baptized Mr. Steak in there, and let him swim in the mixture overnight (in the refrigerator, of course) and all the next day.

About an hour before dinnertime, I yanked that steak out of the fridge and let it rest on my countertop, because room-temperature steak cooks better than cold. And about a half-hour before chow time, I heated up my broiler to high, wrapped a rimmed baking sheet in foil, laid a cookie cooling rack on there, and sprayed the whole concoction with olive oil.

You know this trick, yes? You know that a broiler is just an upside-down grill, and that cooking food on a cooling rack over a baking sheet underneath said broiler is just about as good as grilling? (And that if the person who used to own your house was a regular genius like the person who owned my house and installed a hardwired smoke detector six feet from the stove, you should crank that exhaust fan as high as it will go during this process?)

Of course you do.

The steak went on the cooling rack and into that oven, and in about five minutes was looking caramelized and gorgeous. I flipped him over, gave him another five under the flame, pulled him out, covered him with fresh foil, and let him sit for 15 minutes. And then we sliced him up, doled him out, crossed fingers, and waited for the reaction.

OMG.

That was my reaction, anyway. My son–the one who exists on air most of the time–got big wide eyes at first bite and ate two heaping plates of this meat. This is the very best flank steak I’ve ever had, and I am very happy that I didn’t have the ingredients to that other recipe (which I’m sure is very tasty, but seriously, this is amazing steak). It’s savory and just a little sweet and tender and I loved it.

Yet another reason to just follow your gut in the kitchen sometimes. Disaster befalls us sometimes, but then very good things happen too. This is one of those, and I really hope you’ll try it. You need:

1 pound flank steak

1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium Tamari, but use whatever you have)

1 large shallot, diced (shallot = onion + garlic. Substitute with those if you can’t find one in your market.)

2 tbsp garlic oil (or olive oil, and then chuck in a clove of minced garlic too)

1 heaping tbsp brown sugar

3 good shakes of Sriracha or other hot sauce

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

The juice of a lime

Dump all the ingredients but the steak into a  large zip-top bag, and use your fingers on the outside of the bag to mush it all together. Lay your steak in there, give him a little massage to get him good and friendly with the marinate, press the air out of the bag and seal it, and put it on a plate or in a bowl in your fridge overnight. Flip it every few hours.

Take the steak out of the fridge an hour before dinnertime. Heat your broiler to high. Cover a baking sheet with foil, lay a cooling rack on top of that, and spray it with olive oil or your nonstick goodness of choice. Carefully put the steak on that and broil for about five minutes per side (this is going to fluctuate with your oven) until the top sides get all crunchy brown and the inside is medium-rare.

Take it out of the oven, tent with foil, and let it rest 15 minutes before slicing.

 

Hey gang–I get a lot of questions about sharing and printing posts (LOVE that!!). If you look below each post, there’s a bank of buttons you can push to print, post to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, and do all sorts of other fun things. Easy and fun! 😉

The Definitive Summer Grilled Cheese Sandwich

7 Aug

BOO!

Sorry for the quiet, gang. I really had no intention of taking the summer off like that. School ended and there were two business trips and the weather got hot and there were days at the pool and days out of town and playdates and work work work, and now here we are. August. I have ignored you for far too long, and I apologize and hope you’re still with me here.

I have a treat for you today, to try and make up for my inexcusable lack of yumminess lately. The first is my new obsession: garlic oil.

My kids and I wandered into World Market recently for some hazelnut coffee syrup, and this little bottle whispered to me from the shelf, next to a nearly identical big bottle. “I’m taaaaaaasty,” it said. “You’ll liiiiiiiike me.” I turned it over in my hand a few times, shrugged, and took it home to give it a whirl in my kitchen.

To say I’m addicted is a leetle understatement. This stuff is amazing. I roasted potatoes with it–brilliant. I dipped pita in it–delicious. And today, I made a grilled tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwich with it. Which rocked my world in ways that may not be legal. It was crispy and crunchy and garlicky and fresh and I am in love, my friends.

You can make your own garlic oil by simmering garlic in olive oil, but there’s a pretty good risk of contaminating it and sickening yourself. I have seen it in the grocery store with the olive oil. This bottle from World Market is divine, and I’m going back for his big brother in the next couple of weeks. Consider it endorsed.

More to come in the next few days, my loves. Thank you for reading–I’ve missed you all.

To make the world’s best sandwich, you need:

Bread. Anything you like–I used a honey wheat sandwich bread because that’s what we had.

Mozzarella cheese. I used shredded. Two half-handfuls.

Two slices of summer tomatoes.

A wee bit of basil, fresh or dried.

A sprinkle of salt or No Salt.

About a tablespoon of garlic oil.

 

Heat a small skillet over medium-low. Brush one side of each slice of bread with the oil. When the pan is hot, gently lay the first slice in, oil side down. Quickly top it with half the cheese, the tomato, the basil, the salt, the rest of the cheese, and the other slide of bread, this time oil side up.

Cook your beautiful lunch or dinner (or breakfast, really) until the bottom slice of bread is golden brown and delicious. Carefully flip, toast, remove to a plate. let cool for a few minutes, cut, and devour. But slowly–you’ll want to savor this one.

Steakhouse Mushrooms

22 May

We had steak for dinner last night (marinate flank steak all day in soy sauce, Worcestershire, lemon zest, garlic, honey, sherry, and red pepper flakes, blot it dry, spray it with a little olive oil, and broil it 3″ from the flame on a cooling rack in a baking sheet until the meat hits 145 degrees in the center, flipping once). I didn’t eat beef for a long time–12 years–and rarely missed it, but I’m glad it’s back in my diet. Lots of iron. Lots of yummy. Moderation.

The thing I did miss all that time, though was sauteed mushrooms. And I don’t know why on earth I didn’t just make some. They’re traditional to serve with steak, sure, but it’s so easy to whip some up and they go with so many things (I may or may not have had a bowl as a snack this week, all on their own) that I really should have made them much sooner. Spoon some over a burger. Serve them up with roast chicken. Snarf them down right out of the pan. Whatever suits your fancy.

These are super easy and very economical–use whatever cheapie mushrooms are in your grocery store. Buttons, baby bellas, whatever. You can make them with larger ‘shrooms too, but cut them up first. And they are delicious. Beefy tasting and yummy-savory-garlicky in a subtle kind of way, and the kind of thing you’d likely get aside your steak in one of those chi-chi restaurants none of us can afford.

Pull out your pan and a few pantry staples, kids (speaking of, my kids wouldn’t touch these. Fine with me–pile my plate high, picky people). You’re going to love these mushrooms. You need:

1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

About 1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

1 clove garlic, very finely minced (or a Dorot frozen garlic cube, which is what I used)

salt

Put a small saucepan or saucier over a medium burner and let it heat up for a few minutes. Pour in the olive oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump in your mushrooms, hit ’em with a pinch or two of salt, and stir for a second. Then leave them alone for stretches of about 5 minutes. You’re going to see a lot of liquid in the pan and think things are going wrong, but have patience. After a little while, your mushrooms are going to start to brown and then they’re going to soak up all that liquid like magic.

Once your mushrooms get a nice light brown on them, stir in the Worcestershire and soy sauce, and then stir in five-minute increments again. Your mushrooms are going to soak up the sauce and then start to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. Once they are a deep golden brown, stir in your garlic and keep everything moving constantly for about two minutes–you want to get rid of the sharp raw garlic taste, but you don’t want to burn it. Take it off the heat and sing a little song to the mushroom gods, because this, my friends, is heaven.

Spaghetti Sauce and Happiness

18 May

I’ve tried to be a runner over the years, and my body simply won’t do it. I can do 75 minutes of martial arts once a week (that’s something like 11 Weight Watchers points to give you an idea of the exercise involved), but I can’t run a mile. My knees scream and my shins threaten to splinter off and my lungs rebel and I get all kinds of grouchy and begin wondering why in the world a grown woman with a reasonable IQ is trying to hard to do something that makes me so miserable. And so then I don’t.

I do, however, walk. Fast. This morning, I walked 2.18 miles in 24 minutes, dragging an angry 94-pound labrador retriever behind me (SNIFF! Woman, I need to SNIFF!). I used to listen to music on these jaunts, but have recently become addicted to the NPR Ted Radio Hour podcast. And as soon as I heard today’s installment, I had to share it with you.

You all know Malcolm Gladwell, yes? Bestselling author of books about the economy and human nature and life in general? Great stuff. He was invited a year or two back to give a TED talk, which are 18-minute long addresses given by all sorts of fascinating people on all kinds of interesting topics. So Malcolm Gladwell gets up to do his TED talk in front of an audience of several thousand, and do you know what he talked about?

Spaghetti sauce.

Specifically, he talked about food and human nature and believing what we do about what we like, and how all of that makes us happy.

It is fan-flippin-tastic, and I have now listened to it twice in a row. Laughing, nodding along. It’s everything I love about playing with food, boiled down to real science and human nature.  Here it is for all of you–18 minutes of wonderful foodiness and how what’s on our plate relates to the joy in our hearts.

Enjoy!

Twofer! Cilantro-Lime Scented Rice, and Easy-Peasy Burrito Bowls

10 May

My poor blog.

My poor kitchen.

Ignored, ignored, ignored.

Y’all have these weeks, right? (Please say yes.) These weeks when the day starts and you blink and it’s over? Spring seems to be the worst for it. School is insane and work is crazy-busy (which is a good thing!) and activities are ramping up and the things that are non-necessary go right out the window for awhile? It’s been like that around here, and we’ve been eating lots of favorite dishes–the things I can make with my eyes closed and what’s in my freezer and pantry. Stuff I’ve already shared with you.

The other day, though, I moved my office into my kitchen and started playing with food in between returning calls and doing all the must-dos, and do you know what happened? Besides my house smelling glorious and my mood improving immensely (playing with food is zen!)?

My kids declared this the “best dinner ever.” Cleared their plates and asked for more, and it was healthy! Thank you, hour of happiness!

Today, you get a twofer. I’m going to tell you how to make my burrito bowls, which are a combination of cilantro-lime scented rice (I call it that because the flavors are subtle but delicious) and the fixings to turn that into a whole meal. Let’s start with the rice.

To make it, you need:

1 1/2 cups of uncooked white rice

1 tbsp butter

The juice of a lime

A small bunch of cilantro (trust me–it’s not overpowering here)

2 3/4 cups of water

A dash of salt

Put a small saucepan over a medium flame and melt your butter in it. Stir in your lime juice and rice and cook it for just a moment or two, to let the rice soak up the flavors. Once the butter and juice have been absorbed, add your water, put a lid on it, and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat, crack the lid a little bit (to avoid mushy rice), and let it simmer until all the liquid is gone–about 20 minutes(ish). Once that happens, chop your cilantro (you want a tablespoon or so of very finely chopped herb), remove the rice from the heat, and stir everything together. Eat immediately or pop this in the fridge for later–it reheats beautifully.

Easy, right? Smelling yummy? So now you need to make the rest of the stuff for your burrito bowls.

I’m using beef for this recipe. I bought a 3-pound pot roast and cut it in half. Half went into this dish, and the other half was wrapped tightly and put in the freezer for another night. Pot roast was on sale and we’ll get another dinner out of it. Always good. But you can use chicken or pork just the same–whatever you like. It’s all going to act pretty much the same.

This is one of those dishes, actually, that you should tailor for your own family. Use my directions more as a method than a recipe. Use the veggies you like, the toppings you like, the meat you like. Totally versatile. You could even do this with fish, but I’d recommend grilling it rather than putting it in the slow cooker as we’ll do with meat.

So. Burrito bowls. Best dinner ever. Ready? You need:

1.5 pounds of beef (use chicken, pork, or turkey if you’d rather)

2 cups of beef broth (use chicken broth if you’re going with white meat)

1 tbsp fajita seasoning (I get mine at the Spice Hunter; use the grocery store stuff if you want, but watch the salt)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 onion, halved and cut into half-moon slices

2 peppers (I used red bell. Use whatever veggies you like)

Toppings: We used cheese, salsa, and chopped avocado.

Spray your slow cooker with olive oil. Pour the broth into it.

Combine all the spices above and gently rub your meat with them on all sides. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature (you won’t die unless it’s a super hot day. Room temp for a bit lets the meat and rub get to know each other. If it’s super hot and you don’t have your A/C on, do this in the fridge for an hour or two.). Gently put it in the slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours or high 4, or a combination of the two.

I suspect you could pitch the veggies in the crock right along with the meat–if anybody tries that, please come back and let us know. But I made mine on the stovetop:

Heat a heavy skillet (I like cast iron for this) over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Immediately stir in your onions with a pinch of salt. Let those cook until they’re nice and dark brown and crunchy-like around the edges. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Cut your pepper into strips and lay them, skin-side down, in the same skillet. Let them cook about 5 minutes or until charred. Put those to the side with the onions.

When your slow cooker time is done, carefully remove your meat to a cutting board and shred it with two forks. You’re ready to assemble your burrito bowls!

Put a scoop of rice into each bowl and top it with the charred veggies, meat, and toppings. How stinkin’ easy is that? Happy dinner! Ole!

 

Chicken Enchilada Pie

1 May

Y’all are going to have to forgive my photos today–it’s been one of those days. Apologies.

You know how you have those weeks (months, whatever) when you try to be inventive in the kitchen and you work with ingredients that everybody in your family likes, and then you put a steaming dish of deliciousness on the table and somebody under four feet tall pronounces it “disgusting”?

Been there. Been there a lot lately, actually. My daughter has decided that really, only mac n cheese (out of the blue box) and ham sandwiches are worthy of her increasingly discriminating palate. I’ve been doing a lot of shrugging and “more for me, then” talking, but it’s terribly frustrating, especially because she’s rejecting food I know she actually likes. And after awhile, it starts to wear a person down to the point that approaching the stove comes with a sigh, because the cook already knows that nothing is going to be good enough.

Right? If it makes you feel any better, we all go there. Plowing through is tough, I know (especially if you kind of put your heart and soul into dinner), but must be done. So today, I bring you our dinner from last night, which my little darling actually ate without complaint. I’m not sure if she actually liked it or she was just tired of being hungry, but she ate it. I’m calling it a success; I liked it, anyway.

This is a great dinner to make ahead and there are several stopping points along the way. This is awesomeness for working parents or busy parents who may not have the full 45 minutes or so all in one shot to make this. If you do, rock on and get ‘er done in one fell swoop. It’s all good.

The inspiration for this was a Cooking Light recipe. That one used ground beef; I’m using whole chicken breasts. It also had one more tortilla layer in there and used commercial taco seasoning, which the rest of us know is mostly salt and pretty well horrendous and expensive. They called for canned broth. Because I started with chicken, I could skip that.  I used a few different methods than they did as well, to further cut calories and to simplify things a bit.

The result is a chicken enchilada dish without the rolling, that bakes in a pie plate. Kids think real food that looks like pie is cool. Who am I to argue?

To make chicken enchilada pie, you need:

1 pound chicken breasts

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup chopped onion (I used half a Vidalia)

2 cloves of garlic, minced (I used frozen Dorot garlic–look by the veggies in your grocery freezer)

1 1/2 tbsp flour

1 8-oz can tomato sauce

2 tsp fajita seasoning (I get mine at the Spice Hunter and use it for all sorts of things–it’s salt-free)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

3 whole-wheat or regular flour tortillas

1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese (cheddar, jack…whatever you like)

Garnishes of your choosing: Guacamole, salsa, olives, onions, jalapenos, sour cream, etc.

Fill a saucepan 2/3 of the way with water. Bring that to a boil. Add in the first amounts of chili powder and cumin, and then carefully drop in your chicken breasts. Poach them until they’re cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Carefully fish them out (don’t dump the liquid–you need some) and shred them with two forks (do this while they’re hot–it’s easiest). If you’re stopping here, put the chicken in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate, and do the same with one cup of the cooking liquid.

Coat a pan with olive oil, heat it over a medium burner, and cook your onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir to incorporate it into the oil, and add the flour, stirring constantly for about two minutes (to get rid of the raw flour taste). After that, stir in the rest of your spices. Stir in the tomato sauce and one cup of the chicken poaching liquid, bring everything to a boil, and let it cook for about two minutes. Turn the heat off.

Scoop out 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce you just made and set it aside. Into the pan with the rest of the sauce, stir your chicken to coat it all–it will not be super wet.

Spray a deep pie dish with olive oil and lay a tortilla in the bottom. Spread half the chicken mixture over the tortilla, Top with another tortilla, and layer the rest of the chicken on top of that. Your last tortilla goes on top. Pour the reserved 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on top of that, sprinkle your cheese over the sauce. If you need to stop here, cover the pie with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. Otherwise, keep going.

When you’re ready to finish dinner, heat your oven to 400 degrees. Put your uncovered pie dish on a cookie sheet (just in case it bubbles over), and bake it for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and everything is hot. Pull it out of the oven, let it sit for five minutes, cut into wedges (I got eight out of mine), and serve with your garnishes.

Easier, Healthier Oven-Cooked Bacon

24 Apr

Y’all still here? Sorry I haven’t been around. We headed out of town for spring break and then spent last week playing catch-up, and I haven’t cooked anything new in awhile. But today, I have a great tip for you!

Bacon has been the hot food for awhile, and while stovetop frying is still a delicious way to cook it up, it’s hugely greasy and very, very messy. And I for one do not enjoy splatter burns all over my hands, which is what I get frying bacon.

You probably already know you can “fry” bacon in the oven. The problem with that, of course, is that you generally end up with bacon that’s submerged in a pool of grease on the sheet pan. Not great for crisping, and, quite frankly, disgusting to contemplate.

Enter your cooling rack. Yes, the same one you use for cookies and breads and baked amazingness. Note: if you don’t have one of these, they are a true multi-tasker and make a huge difference in the kitchen–great for baking but also good for many other things. They’re like $5, and I highly recommend procuring one or two.

Here’s the trick: Line your baking sheet with foil and put your cooling rack on top of it, just like you would if you were cooling cookies on it. Spray it with olive oil or other nonstick stuff; bacon has a lot of fat, but it’s all going to run off and if you don’t spray your rack, you’re going to be scraping bacon bits off it for a good long time.

Lay your bacon on the sprayed rack and bake it at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes–start checking on it after 10, because your oven is going to cook differently than mine. When it reaches its desired done-ness and crispyness, pull it out. See how all the fat is on the baking sheet where it’s not touching your yummy bacon?

Neat, eh?

I hope you’ll try this soon. And I have an amazing recipe for you later this week–I promise!

 

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