Monday, January 18, 2010

Steak House Dinner, Homemade

Starting the new year on the right foot for me, often means cleaning up. Putting away Christmas gifts and decorations, getting rid of clutter, and cleaning out the fridge. It just feels good to have a fresh clean start.So what to do with those mushrooms I bought for the chili, and forgot to add? Saute them of course. What goes well with mushrooms? Beef, or more specifically filet mignon. What side would turn those two into the most awesome dinner? Double stuffed potatoes.Thus was the thought process for my Steak House style dinner; more or less. I happened to have everything I needed on hand, from the pantry or the freezer. I chose to make pepper crusted steaks so I could try out my new pepper mill.

This dinner was an exercise in time management. Start roasting the potato(es) in the oven, then work on prepping your dishes.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Preheat the oven to 400* F. Scrub your potato(es) and pierce with a fork all over. You are going to want about one per person, or one large potato can be split into two servings. Place it/them in the oven, straight on the rack and allow to bake 40 - 50 minutes or until tender. Potatoes can be roasted in their own skin; wrapping them in foil retains to much moisture.If you want a roasted garlic flavor in the mash you will be making later, place a few cloves unpeeled garlic(per potato) in a foil packet, drizzle with EVOO, wrap tightly, and bake in the oven along side the potatoes. When the potatoes are done, you can take out the garlic packet. Inside you will find that the cloves have turned into little aromatic gobs that can be squeezed out of their peel like paste.When the potatoes are fork tender, remove from the oven and allow them to cool enough for handling. Slice each one in half length wise, and using a fork or spoon, scoop out the interior into a bowl, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. Mix in butter, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper, or whatever you would normally put in mashed potatoes, to taste. Fill the shells with the mixture and top with broccoli and cheese. Pop them back in the oven, until the cheese has melted.

Pepper Crusted Steak

These are nothing more than properly seared steaks that are first coated with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste.Start with room temperature steaks; Filet Mignon are my favorite, but this is good with other cuts as well.

Sprinkle a bit of salt on both sides, then cover with freshly cracked black pepper, lots of black pepper. Press the pepper into the meat to make a nice crust. Allow the steaks to rest for a moment to allow for what is essentially a rub, to marinate. Meanwhile heat up a heavy bottom skillet on the oven with a small amount of vegetable oil. It needs to be screaming hot with the oil just smoking. (Make sure the vent fan is on.) Place the steaks into the skillet and allow the first side to sear for at least four minutes before you even think about moving them. They have to be still to allow the pepper crust to adhere and the meat to caramelize. Once the sear has been achieved, flip the steaks and repeat on side two. This will usually result in rare steak; to cook further, place the skillet into the hot oven 3-5 minutes. If you are unsure if the handle of your skillet is oven proof, wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil. Pull the steaks out of the pan and allow to rest before cutting into them. Remember that residual heat will continue to cook the steaks, so pull them just before you think they look or feel done.

Sauteed Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

1 pint container of mushrooms (brown or white button mushrooms are good)
2 T flour
2 T butter
stock (beef or chicken)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by rinsing off the mushrooms and patting them dry with in a towel. Heat up a small amount of EVOO in your saute pan, the slice those mushrooms. When the pan is hot, add the mushroom slices and allow to cook for 7 - 10 minutes or until browned. DO NOT salt them yet! The salt will draw out the water in them and they will stew in their juices rather than brown. Also it is best not to over crowd the pan. When the mushroom slices are brown, make a well in the middle, and melt in the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and stir and cook to form a roux. Pour in about a cup of stock and a cup of milk and allow the roux to work it's magic and thicken the sauce, over low heat, until the sauce can cover the back of a spoon. Now you can add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baby its cold outside.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I've been working diligently to take more pictures of the food I've been making. Since I am a little bit absent minded, its been some time since I've actually did anything with them.

First off there is the chili I made for New Years Eve. I made it for a friend's party last year and decided to make the NYE Chili a tradition. My chili is never the same anytime I make it, as I put in whatever is looking good in the produce section when I shop. I do try to stick to a loose guideline:

Onion, garlic, (carrot, celery), green onions, green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, canned beans, no salt added diced tomatoes, (jalapeno pepper), steak, and sometimes mushrooms.

Nothing fancy, I just like it colorful; the prettier, the better. As for seasonings, simple salt and pepper, a little bit of chili powder, and cumin to make it smokey. I add each to taste.

The method is usually a chop and drop operation, starting with some EVOO in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Slow cooking veggies go in first and everything is diced. Once the veggies are in and have softened a bit, in goes the canned beans and the diced tomatoes. I use a variety of beans for even more colors; red kidney, pink beans, white beans, black beans. Drain the beans before you add them. Tomatoes go in with their juices, usually two to three cans. Then add enough stock (chicken or vegetable) to cover. From here you can season and simmer until you are ready to serve. I will often transfer the veggies to the crock pot before adding the beans, tomatoes, and stock, and let it simmer there for several hours.

If I do add meat, it will always be steak. Leftovers are fine, or broil a cut or two before you cut it into bite size pieces and add to the chili. I find that ground beef gets lost in all chaos. Chunks of meat do not.

I serve my chili over pasta, and top with shredded cheese and sour cream.

New Year, New Decade

I've been up to many things since my last post. Thanksgiving, working retail during the holidays, and lots of cooking. I have quite a bit of catching up to do.

Thankfully my schedule has somewhat leveled out and I can start doing some regular updates, which is good, since I've been inspired to make so many things!

Of course with the turn of a new year comes resolutions and vows to lose weight and become fit. With this in mind I've picked up some books from the library and started to re-read some of my own books; "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld.

Jessica's book totes the ease of hiding vegetables in food for picky eaters via vegetable purees. It's an interesting idea, and not necessarily time consuming, I recently found out when I used up some odd carrots and put them to good use in a Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffin recipe.

For most of the purees you can steam or roast your chosen vegetable, or fruit, until tender, then puree them in a processor, blender, or whatever you happen to have in the cupboard. The purees can then be stored in small plastic containers or bags and either refrigerated or frozen for later use. The book gives advice for specific fruits and veggies, as well as nutritional break downs for each type used.

The recipes themselves are organized by type, breakfast, mealtime, and desert, and list the possible purees at the top of the page. The photos are simple and colorful, and the directions are easy to follow.

I did a slight bit of editing when I made the muffins; using butter instead of margarine, and a whole egg, instead of just the white. They still came out well and were amazing warm out of the oven with milk. It took me back to grade school.

The only complaint was from a few days latter: I took some of my muffins home for a taste test and the verdict was that they were good, but a little dry. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

makes 12 regular muffins, or 24 mini-muffins

You will need:

non-stick cooking spray
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c carrot puree (You could prob substitute applesauce here)
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 T butter or margarine
1/2 c nonfat plain yogurt
1 large egg
1 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c jelly or preserves (grape, strawberry, etc)

1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin w/ cooking spray, or line w/ paper cups

2. In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, carrot puree, sugar, and margarine/butter with a sturdy spoon until well combined. Stir in the yogurt and egg.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir until just combined, but do not over mix - there should be some lumps in the batter.

4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and drop a spoonful of preserves or jelly on top of each.

5. Bake until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center, 20 - 25 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto a rack to cool.

6. Store in an airtight container at room temp. for up to 2 days, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 1 month.

From "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld.

* I put my muffin mold on a tinfoil lined baking sheet to catch any drips.