Archive for January, 2008

Bison Burgers with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Jay here. I haven’t done much writing on this blog, but I think I will be getting more into it in the near future, after having participated in the pizza challenge last weekend. Jenny was at class and the gym until late tonight, so that gave me quite a bit of time to come up with something tasty. No pictures tonight though, since everything was scarfed down no sooner than the meat hit the plate.

Jenny had mentioned a couple nights ago that she was craving a bison burger, so off to the store I went. After getting the usual provisions, I grabbed a pound of ground bison from the meat section. It was on sale for $4.49, so I saved 50 cents! I picked up some light whole wheat buns as well – they are a little smaller than usual, so that gave me an idea.

There was a bar back in Charlottesville, VA, called Coupe de Ville’s that we would sometimes go to on Thursday nights after a night out, where they would serve 2 dollar fresh grilled cheeseburgers to hungry drunks (and us). These thin, chargrilled burgers were my inspiration for this meal. I added a gourmet twist rather than your typical ketchup and mustard with American cheese.

Recipe:

  • 1 lb ground bison, split into 8 equal portions, flattened into circles
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • Cavender’s Seasoning
  • hamburger buns
  • herb chevre (goat cheese)
  • sun dried tomatoes, cut into strips

Heat a large pan over high heat for a few minutes. Season each mini burger on one side liberally with salt, pepper, and Cavender’s. Spray the pan and each burger with Pam cooking spray. Put 1/2 of the burgers seasoned-side down into the pan, and let them site for a minute, then turn the heat down to medium. Continue cooking for another minute or so; while they are cooking, season the top of the burger the same way as the bottom. Flip the burgers and cook for 2 minutes or until desired doneness. (This will give you a nice medium to medium rare burger. Be careful, bison can overcook quickly due to less fat in the meat.) Do the same thing for the second batch of burgers.

Toast several hamburger buns, and spread some chevre on the bottom bun. Julienne some sun dried tomatoes (I put them on a paper towel to dry off some of the oil) and put them on the bottom bun as well. Put two mini burgers on each bun.

Eat to combine.

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Daring Bakers: Lemon Meringue Pie

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I am writing this coming off somewhat of a burnout as far as online food events are concerned. I participated in so many in the past couple of weeks that I’m honestly just tired of the kitchen. For me to say something like that …. well, I usually don’t.

In classing Jenny Robertson fashion, I waited until the last weekend to prepare my Daring Bakers creation, this time around a lemon meringue pie, but I wasn’t rushed. I was a little concerned that my meringue wouldn’t be quite as fluffy as I wanted, considering it was dreary and raining outside, but this time around my Daring Bakers challenge wasn’t filled with the anxiety that accompanied the yule log. Even though I had read about other bloggers problems with the crust being too soggy or the filling being too mushy, for some reason I knew that mine would be alright.

One of the options we had with this challenge was to make little lemon tartletts rather than a whole pie. I opted for this route, and although my tarts weren’t the most gorgeous-shaped things, I was really pleased with them. They had an almost ugly-duckling type appeal. My filling was nice and firm, my crust was perfect and flaky, and my merinque–while maybe not so high–was perfectly fluffy and divine. Right after taking the first batch out of the oven, Jay and I dove into the first two tartlets without even bothering to take a picture (I saved the picturesque ones for baking the second time around). Nice and warm, with the meringue slightly spongey and resisting, the filling firm yet smooth, and the crust flakey and crispy, the tarts were perfection. Sure, maybe I didn’t style mine and make them super fancy, but the taste was excellent. We even saved a couple of tarts for the next day–I was warry that they might get too soggy–and they were just as tasty. The fridge hardened the meringue to an almost marshmallow-like consistency, and the real tartness of the lemon really shined.

This is probably my last food challenge for a while, which will allow me to actually focus on my final semester of law school, but I think it was a great one to go out on. 🙂

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HHDD: Chicken, Roasted Red Peppers and Onion Pizza

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It seems like most of my posts these days are consisting of food blog events or challenges. Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of the various events out there. I’m definitely not complaining though! Most of the challenges have forced me to expand my culinary abilities, or to think about cooking in a different way, or have made me prepare a certain kind of dish that I always wanted to make but just never got around to it.

This time around, HHDD focused on pizza. Jay had been itching to make some homemade pizza dough ever since we saw a Good Eats on pizza, but either we would be too busy and wouldn’t have time to make the dough, or we would be too lazy and didn’t feel like making the dough. This challenge finally presented us with the oportunity to make pizza, so we eagerly decided to do it.

Jay did most of the cooking, so my input is more second-hand. The pizza tasted fabulous. The only thing that needed improving was the dough. We were hungry so we probably didn’t let the dough rise enough. Although the finished product was nice and crisp, the crust was a little lacking. All in all though, the toppings were superb and blended nicely together. I wanted to add some black beans, but I’m glad Jay resisted.

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Chicken, Roasted Red Peppers and Onion Pizza

Ingredients:
1 chicken breast, trimmed of excess fat
1 red bell pepper, roasted
1 ball of mozzarella plus some shredded mozzarella for extra topping
1/2 red onion
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 disk pizza dough (recipe follows)
fresh basil
dried oregano
garlic powder
salt
black pepper

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Pinch sugar
2/3 cup (5 fl oz) warm water
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

Place the yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl. Set aside until bubbles form. Add the four, salt, and oil, and mix to form a smooth dough. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover, and allow to stand in a warm place until it has doubled in size (This is where we were impatient).

Sauce – Combine tomato sauce and tomato paste in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk together. When combined, add oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, all to taste.

Preheat oven w/pizza stone to 425 degrees.

Divide the dough into 2 parts (could have been more if it had risen completely). Roll out one part into a thin disk. Add  a ladle of sauce to the center of the disc, spreading out to about an inch from the edge (for crust).

Top pizza with sliced mozzarella, chopped basil, chicken, onions, roasted red peppers, and top off with some shredded mozzarella. Cook pizza on pizza stone for about 15 minutes until golden brown on the edges.

Remove from oven and immediately slice with a pizza cutter. Shomp it all for great enjoyment.

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Frugal Foodie Challenge: Mozzarella

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When the blog Food Revolution announced the first Frugal Foodie Challenge, both Jay and I got very excited. The challenge? Make a complete meal for two people using the required ingredient, mozzarella cheese, without spending over $7 total for both people.

 Like most things in life, I was determined not to do this challenge at the last minute, but at 9PM on Thursday, walking out of my last class for the day, I realized that Jay and I hadn’t even thought about the challenge, much less shopped for it, and the due date was the next day. What I had hoped would be a carefully planned shopping trip ended up being a kind of a shopping blitzkreig, avoiding the areas in Kroger that were being remodeled and circling the store for items that had been relocated.

For once in my life, I was the one saying we couldn’t buy an item because it cost too much money. Eventually we decided that I would make pasta, something that includes mostly pantry items and a few bought items. I knew that I wanted to add meat, but what kind of meat would be cheap enough to allow for other ingredients, not to mention the mozzarella? Jay at first suggested andoillie sausage or chicken thighs, but at 3 or 4 dollars a package, it just wasn’t going to work. I had also originally planned on making a sauce, but all the elements required for a decent sauce just wasn’t going to work.

We had to think outside the box. I decided to take the tomato out of the sauce and put it in the pasta, adding tomato paste to a basic egg pasta recipe. That cut costs in a big way. After dissuading Jay away from the fresh meat, we headed to the can aisle and decided on some vienna sausages and canned chicken. Personally, I’ve never had canned chicken, and the last time I ate vienna sausages I was at my grandmother’s house, the same grandmother who served us fried spam sandwiches. Needless to say, it was a different world of meat products for me.

When we got home, this was the total damage (I pro rated the eggs):
Valley Fresh white chicken in water: $1.50
Prarie Belt smoked sausage: $.89
Kroger Tomato Paste: $.50
2 large eggs: $.34 ($.17 each)
Kroger Mozzarella: $2.29
1 head of garlic: $.24
Total (including 4% tax): $5.98

I was very proud of our frugal-ness. Now the challenge was cooking something that tasted good. Given the fact that we were using canned meat, Jay was very skeptical right from the beginning. I even remember telling him, “You just wait, you’ll love it when I’m done.” I wasn’t 100% sure of this statement, but the duck terinne challenge reassured me that not all hope was lost, and that the dogs in fact were not going to get a second dinner.

Although making the pasta took a while and we ended up staying up pretty late Thursday night, I think it was all worth it. Our dish in the end actually ended up tasting pretty darn good. The tomato pasta really added a depth of flavor that is absent in plain pasta dishes, and combining melted mozzarella with the roasted garlic paste also substantially increased the flavor profile. Searing the meat with a bunch of spices and pepper didn’t hurt either, neither did the fact that the pasta was brand spanking fresh. Rather than throwing everything out, Jay actually saved (!!!) the finished dish for lunch the next day … all after he downed an entire bowl.

I’m really glad that I participated in this challenge, even if I did wait until the last minute to get rolling. It’s amazing what a little bit of seasoning and searing can do to really basic ingredients, and how you can dress up even the cheapest of meat. It reminded me of a Top Chef challenge where the contestants had to make a dish out of very common ingredients like American cheese. After some pretty creative thinking, some of the contestants came up with some really good dishes, and you wouldn’t have been able to guess that the dishes included those very cheap ingredients. Even with a restricted budget, you can still cook like a gourmet, and I think it speaks more about a cook or chef that he or she can create something out of nothing, rather than being able to create something amazing out of already amazing ingredients.

If you’re skeptical about using canned meat, try this recipe. It’ll only cost you a little over $5, less than a price of a movie, and I guarantee you you’ll have fun discovering a new way of cooking.

Update: I originally wrote this post last night around 2 in the morning, which could be why some of the sentences are interesting (i.e. not written very well). I just returned home from the gym and warmed up a bowl of this pasta, and let me tell you, a little goes a long way! It is very filling and definitely keeps well, which just means you can stretch your dollar even further with this dish. Another frugal plus!

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 Tomato Pasta with Chicken, Sausages, and Garlic-Mozzarella
Note: I’m not the best with exact measurements on seasoning, I usually just eyeball things, so when I give a measurement for things like dried parsley and ground pepper, they are pretty approximate.

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic
2 cups or so shredded mozzarella
1 tin Prarie Belt smoked vienna sausages
1 tin Valley Fresh chicken
2 teaspoons ground pepper
pinch salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried parsley
pinch or two of red pepper flakes (depending on desired hotness)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Olive oil
Tomato Pasta (see recipe below)

Method:
1. Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally. Wrap each half in foil and place them in a small oven-safe pan. Roast the garlic in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and squeeze the roasted cloves into a small saucepan. Mash the garlic with the back of a spoon. Place the saucpan over medium-high heat and add a few handfulls of shredded mozzarella. Stir the mozzarella and garlic puree together, mashing with the back of the spoon, until the mozarella is melted and the garlic is incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Drain sausages and chicken and rinse each with water. Cut the sausages into small pieces. Break big chunks of the chicken into smaller pieces. Place chicken and sausages in a small bowl, and season with ground pepper, pinch of salt, paprika, dried parsley, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a medium-sized pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken and sausages and let sear on one side for about a minute, then use a wood spoon or spatula to toss the meat in the pan for another few minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer meat to a bowl. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Cover with foil to keep warm. (Note: you can reheat the meat in the pan immediately before adding to the pasta if you think it’s not warm enough.)

3. Cook the fresh pasta in salted boiling water for two minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the seared meat and toss together with a tablespoon of olive oil. Tear bits of the garlic mozzarella into the pasta and toss again. Sprinkle pasts with dried parsley and serve warm.

Note: if you make the garlic mozzarella enough in advance, you can stick it in the freezer so it hardens enough for you to grate the mozzarella over the pasta.

Tomato Pasta
(method adapted from October 2007 Bon Appetit)
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil

Method:
1. Combine flour and salt in food processer; blend 5 seconds. Beat together eggs and tomato paste. Add egg and tomato paste mixture to food processer along with the olice oil. Blend until moist dough forms.

2. Gather dough together; transfer to lightly floured work surgace. Knead until smooth and pliable, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 45 minutes. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Cover with plastic.

3. Shape 1 piece of dough into thin rectangle. Set pasta maker to widest setting. Run dough through the machine 4 times.

4. Adjust machine to next-narrower setting. Run dough though machine 4 times. Continue to run dough through rollers, adjusting machine to next-narrower setting after every 4 passes. (Note: I stopped at three. I think my dough was a little thicker and the recipe calls for, but it was also more filling. And I loved it!)

5. When dough strip is 1/16 inch thick (and 20 to 24 inches long), place on floured surfance or large baking sheets; cover with plastic. Repeat with remaining dough. Uncover strips; let stand until slightly dry (for easier cutting), turning once, 30 to 40 minutes.

6. Cut each dough in half crosswise. (Note: because my dough wasn’t quite as long as this recipe suggests, my pasta was a little short). Fit machine with a 1/4 to 3/8 inch cutter attachment. Run strips through machine, cutting dough into fettuccine and dusting with flour if dough sticks.

7. Spread fettuccine out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat.
Note: the recipe says to cover the paste loosely with kitchen towels and let it stand up to 4 hours, tossing occasionally. I skipped this step and went ahead and cooked the pasta, and I thought it tasted fine.

Note on amount of pasta: this recipe makes a lot! We used a little over half and had more than enough pasta for the two of us, but feel free to cook all of it!

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Waiter there’s something in my …. duck terrine!

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When The Passionatte Cook announced that the next WTSIM event would focus on terrines, I eagerly turned toward the back of my new CIA cookbook, The Professional Chef. Yet another wonderful Christmas present, it proved to be a blessing, with a whole chapter devoted to forecemeats.

My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as delighted about the event as I was. When I told him I wanted to make a pate, I think at first he thought I was joking. He said, well, you’re the one making it! When he got a chance to look at the ingredients (fatback is included), his enthusiasm shrank even more. It probably wasn’t very fair of me to make him ask for the weird ingredients at the butcher, but hey, I was the one cooking!

The first challenge was getting enough duck meat off of the duck we bought without using the breast meat (that was reserved to be added whole). The duck was frozen and even though we had let it thaw in the fridge for a day, parts of it were still frozen. Eventually I managed to salvage enough meat off of the duck, a process that probably could have been easier if I had kitchen shears. We ended up saving the carcass and using it to make duck stock, which happily awaits us in the freezer.

The second challenge was grinding the meat. I don’t have a meat grinder attachment for my kitchenaid mixer yet, so I had to make due with my meat processor. I vaguely remember something on Good Eats about how the food processor isn’t as good for grinding meats for sausages, but because I wanted the consistency of this meat to be more pasty anyway, I didn’t think it would matter too much.

Third problem: we couldn’t find TCM (tinted curing mix) ANYWHERE in town. Granted, we live in Little Rock, Arkansas, so the culinary community is quite small. I had to settle on some Morton curing mix that included suger, but it was better than nothing.

Fourth problem: no terrine pan. Not only did we not have one, but, once again NOWHERE in town had one for sale. The only thing that seemed like a suitable replacement was our earthenware meat loaf pan. It was a little wide, so the terrine itself ended up being a little more shallow than I would have liked.

After poaching the pate and then weighing it down over night, Jay and I were anxious to try it. Later Jay told me that his only experiences with pate had been with mushy, cat-food like pates. I was the first to try the pate, which was a little intimidating all wrapped in ham. Cut open, however, it revealed its little jewels of dried cherries and pistachio nuts, as well as the whole duck breast running through the center of the pate. I bit into the first slice …..

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….. and it was amazing! The flavors are really complex but not overwhelmingly so, and they all play on each other very nicely. The first thing I could taste was the saltiness of the ham, but soon it gave way to the flavor of the duck, which in turn was followed by a subtle sweetness and a hint of the early sage. Each bite was exactly like the first: a harmony of flavors that played off of and followed each other in a gradual succession, inviting you to savor the meat in your mouth rather than just swallow and get rid of it. Furthermore, the texture isn’t mushy at all but instead nice and firm without being overly tough. I think Jay ended up liking it even more than me! For dinner, Jay seared a couple of thin slices for a duck pate sandwich.

Needless to say, I was very proud of my achievment. I was a little timid and anxious during most of the process, mainly because this was a whole new type of cooking that I had never even dreamed of trying. Thanks to my new cookbook, however, and this wonderful challenge, I was able to stretch my culinary abilities. And thanks to this new-found ability and confidence in myself, I’ll be more confident about preparing fancy things like pates for future dinner parties. If you can weather through the preparation of this dish, I highly recommend it.

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packed pate, pre-poaching

Duck Terrine with Pistachios and Dried Cherries
(original recipe The Professional Chef by the CIA)

Weekend Cookbook Challenge: Veggin’ Out

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Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 24 focused on vegetables this time around, and although this first seemed like an easy assignment, I had trouble finding a recipe from my cookbooks that was ALL vegetables. Granted, there are some cookbooks I’ve used a lot recently that I could have turned to, but I wanted to use something that had been sitting neglected on the shelf for a while.

Finally, I came across The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healty Weight and a Healty Life. It was a cookbook my husband had bought early in our relationship but that somehow got used only a few times before being forgotten. Flipping through the pages, I couldn’t believe I had gone so long without cooking from it. Thanks to this challenge, I have a new rediscovery, and I plan on cooking from this cookbook much, much more.

I settled on brussels-sprouts with shallots and nutmeg, which required steaming the sprouts. I have only cooked brussel sprouts by caramelizing them, so this was unknown territory, and I think I steemed them for a little too long. Although I didn’t have any bitter sprouts in my bowl, Jay wound up with more than his fair share, and after tasting a bitter one, I don’t think I could cook sprouts this way again. Unfortunately, caramelizing the sprouts requires a lot more oil than this recipe (2 Tbs. versus 2 teas.). Maybe next time I will get the timing right and they won’t be so bitter.

Plusses on this recipe: after just a bowl of these sprouts, I was full. I think the nutmeg and the chicken broth contributed to this. I didn’t go to the gym the day I cooked these, so that could have been why I didn’t need extra food to fill up, but considering how little calories these sprouts have, I was happily surprised. If you’re looking for a way to eat less calories and still feel full, I suggest this recipe. Also, this recipe was relatively quick to make.

Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Nutmeg
(original recipe The New American Plate Cookbook)
Note: you can make a vegetarian version of this recipe by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Also, be sure NOT to steam the sprouts too long or else they will become unpleasantly bitter.

Ingredients:
10 ounces fresh brussels sprouts (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fat free reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt (Note: we both thought the sprouts also needed pepper)
3 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Method:
Remove any yellow leaves from the brussels sprouts and rinse them thoroughly. Time the bottoms and, with the tip of a knife, make an X in each stem end to help the sprouts cook evenly. Place a steamer basket inside a pot and add about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and put the sprouts in the steamer. Cover and steam over high heat for about 8 minutes, until sprouts are a bright, fresh green, and just tender but still crisp. (Sprouts can also be steemed in a microwave-safe contianer in the microwave). Drain the sprouts and set them aside.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the sprouts and the broth, cover, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the broth is absorbed. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle the almonds and parsley over the top, and serve immediately.

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Gameday Gourmet

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Around this neck of the woods, football is serious business. I always feel a little sad–like the kind you feel when you’re going home after a great vacation, or Sunday night after taking a weekend off when you realize you have to go back to work/school the next morning–whenever the last college football game slips away. Almost as if the rest of the world sighs with me, this is about the same time that the weather starts getting really cold, and everyone huddles inside awaiting a new fall and a new season.

This is why the Super Bowl is such a big deal. It resuscitates the tailgate cuisine and gives everyone a chance to bring out the stops one last time. I’m talking chili, cheese dip, chicken wings, bacon-wrapped bread sticks, roasted nuts …. you name it. This year, I’ll even be attending an event where the entire meal will consist of wild game, including snake burgers.

Because of my huge interest in gameday food, I decided to host what I’m calling Gameday Gourmet, a chance for you to submit posts on what you like to cook for a game. Ideally, this means what you would like to cook for the Super Bowl, but it can also include other types of tailgate like foods that you would cook for some other sporting event. I’m also very interested in whether or not different regions focus on different kinds of foods.

Here are the rules:
1. Post about your gameday food and send an e-mail to roberjenny @ gmail dot com (without spaces of course) by Friday, February 8 with the following information: your name, your location, name of your blog, a permalink of your Gameday Gourmet post, and what you made. Please note: I’m looking for food you have made, not a bunch of stuff you bought at Walmart or wherever and just assembled. In the subject line of the e-mail, inlclude “gameday gourmet.”
2. Link back to this post in your own post.
3. If you would like to send a picture, I only ask that you make the maximum width 400 pixels.
4. I will assume that your gameday food is for the Super Bowl unless you tell me otherwise.

Have fun and I look forward to some great submissions! I will post a roundup early in the week of February 10. If you have any questions, please post here. I will try to come up with some sort of logo, or get my tech-savy husband to do it. 🙂


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