Thursday, February 28, 2013

The 1010, Ultimate Cheeseburger Experience

This is the first recipe I ever entered into a professional cooking contest.  I had to come up with my idea of the best burger ever, and the results are featured above.  The blueprint for this recipe revolved around a flavor profile that I felt could be identified with by many.  The idea of pot roast came to my mind, so the object of my quest was to create and exhibit the idea of mimicking those flavors, without spending hours over the stove and it won't have to wait until fall or winter. Good quality ground chuck is the protein of choice.  For the potatoes, a settled for a potato roll.  Ironically enough, when I went to our supermarket to purchase the rolls, they were out, so I opted for a robust and hearty Ciabatta roll.  For the carrot, celery and  peppers, I added just that, but in a quick pickled fashion to scatter atop the burger. The onions make an appearance as whole, trimmed green onions or scallions, grilled and chopped.  The tomatoes are included as is, in glorious slices situated below the burger.  
The 'gravy' was probably my most unique aspect of the burger as a whole, as it consisted of a reduction of red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, beef broth, bay leaf, butter and agave nectar!  The sauce was amazing and tied the ingredients together wonderfully, drizzled on the burger itself as well as the top portion of the grilled Ciabatta.  Provolone cheese seals the deal for dexterity.  I didn't win the grand prize of 100,000 bucks or even get runner up, but I am pleased with my work, more importantly, my family thought it was one in a million.
  There are lots of small steps to this recipe, but definitely not something that's not worth the wait.  I named the finished burger after myself, or one of my college days' nicknames, 1010, which I was referred to lovingly by my closest friends.  Now I share this recipe with you all, my new friends in food and blogging family!:)
1 each medium stalk celery,large carrot, red bell pepper
1/3 c. each red wine vinegar, sugar, water
1/4 tsp. each red pepper flakes, dill seed, celery seed
1 c. Cabernet Sauvignon
1 c. reduced sodium beef broth
1 small bay leaf
2 pats unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. Agave nectar
3 lbs. ground chuck, 85/15
1 tbsp. plus1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 c. parsley, rough chopped
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
2 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 5.5 oz bag green onions or scallions, white parts only
12 slices provolone
12 slices tomato
6 Ciabatta or Potato rolls
Preheat grill according to directions on bag, using an indirect cooking method.
Start with the quick pickled veggies.
Julienne carrot, celery and red bell pepper and place in an airtight container with lid.
Add spices and and about 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.
Dissolve sugar in water/vinegar solution and pour over veggies.
Add lid and shake to distribute spices and coat veggies. Set aside.
Next, place wine, broth and bay leaf in medium sauce-pot over the hottest part of the grill, bringing to a boil.  Reduce liquid to about 1/4 c., about seven minutes.
Remove from heat.  Discard bay leaf and stir in butter and Agave nectar.  Keep warm.
Meanwhile, prepare ground mixture by first combining 1 tbsp. olive oil, parsley, allspice, Sriracha and onion powder. SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Add to beef blend just enough to evenly incorporate wet paste.
Divide into 6 burgers.
Place burgers on medium hot grill for 4-6 minutes each side for medium rare to medium.
While burgers cook, drizzle green onions with olive oil and SPST.
Add to grill for about 6 minutes total, a small tin pan or foil will keep them from falling through the grates.
Once burgers have been flipped, split rolls and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Place on medium heat part of grill.
Once green onions have grilled and translucent, transfer to a surface and rough chop.

Place 2 slices of tomato on bottom part of roll.  Add burger.
Stir wine reduction and drizzle 1/6 onto top of burger and and toasted side of top roll
Add 2 slices of cheese and 1/6 of chopped onions
Using a slotted spoon or fork, top with 1/6 of pickled veggies.
Finish with bun top.
Serve with grilled potatoes and/or grilled vegetables.
Serves 6.

Note:  May be prepared via stove-top for convenience using a grill pan or cast iron skillet.

Thai Marinated Fried Chicken

This recipe came to me one day when I was about to marinate some chicken in traditional buttermilk, but I had the ingredients on hand to make other recipes of mine that are popular with the family, Thai Marinated Grilled Chicken and Thai Style Pasta, especially sisters Bonnie,Hollie and Gayle. This was also good to help use up some of the spices I had on hand.  Instead of using buttermilk, I used coconut milk.  For flavor building and aromatics, I used Thai Green Curry Spice blend.  This blend is layered  with goodies, including garlic, soy bean, coriander, chili, onion, lemon grass, celery seed, carrot, chives, turmeric, pepper, mustard powder, fenugreek, cumin, chick pea, ginger and cardamon, also salt.  The results were fabulous and the flavor profile is amazing.  I garnished this recipe with fresh parsley from my herb garden, but using Thai Basil or cilantro would be ideal, cilantro being what I used in the above mentioned recipes.  Jasmine Rice makes for a perfect accompaniment for this recipe and stir fry veggies, for an overall multicultural trip to the Orient!

1 3 to 4 lb. fryer, cut up into 8 pieces
1 can coconut milk, UN-sweetened
2 tbsp. Thai Green Curry Spice Blend
Seasoned flour
oil for frying
parsley or cilantro for garnish
In resealable bag, add coconut milk and spice blend, shaking to mix.  Add chicken and work around in bag to coat.
Press out excess air and seal.
Marinate for 2 to 4 hours.
When ready, heat oil to 375*.
Drain chicken in colander, but do not rinse.
Fry chicken in 2 batches until golden and internal temperature reaches 165*, about 10 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.
Keep warm in oven until complete.
Garnish with herbs.  Serves 4.

Steak n' Havarti Mac and Cheese!

Macaroni and cheese is not only popular with the kids, adults can also be included in the bunch. More and more chefs and mac and cheese enthusiasts have come up with spins and variations that elevate this wonderful complete protein combination to all new heights. Ingredients are virtually limitless when swapping out pastas and  cheeses, including add in's like lobster and steak.   Adding savory steak bites and carmelized onions, help achieve an over the top and super protein packed punch. This recipe is suitable for an amazing meal for adults. The cheese for this recipe is Havarti,  Danish in orgin, also a pasturized,cow's milk cheese, named after a farmer's estate in the 19th century, aged for at least 1 month.  Havarti is often flavored with dill, chili or cumin, and has a natural washed soft rind .
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp.brown sugar
1 lb. ziti, cooked  al dente, in salted water, reserving about 1 1/2 cups pasta water.
1 lb. bite sized steak pieces, such as for stir frying, sauteed for about 2 minutes in a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat
8 oz. Havarti w/ dill, cut into cubes
1/2 c. frozen or fresh peas
Olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with oil and melt butter.
Once small bubbles form and sizzling, add onions, sugar and SPST, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 4 minutes, reduce heat to medium low and cook until onions are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Once onions are carmelized, remove from pan, and return heat to medium high.
Drizzle with olive oil and add steak bites.  SPST
Saute until no longer pink and some browning occurs, about 2 minutes.
Add pasta water and bring up to a boil.
Add cheese and reduce heat to medium low.  Stir until cheese is melted and add pasta.
Fold until pasta is coated and heated through.
Fold in onions and peas. Drizzle with olive oil and  SPST.  Cover.
Turn  off heat.
Let stand for 5 minutes, for peas to heat through.  Serves 6 to 8.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meatloaf for 'Dummies'!

This recipe is a quick and hassle free version of a tasty meatloaf that's SUPER, especially if you have never made one or for guys and gals who like meatloaf, but don't necessarily like to cook. The finished product is moist and flavorful, plus makes for super comfort food sandwiches later.
This recipe is initially designed for a larger family like mine, but I have offered a scaled down version for smaller families as well. The first recipe is also fantastic for make ahead meals.
 If you want to save on cooking for dinner time in the future, simply prepare the original recipe and divide the meatloaf blend into 2 or 3 disposable loaf pans, baking and freezing the others, cooled wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a zip type freezer bag! The loaves will keep for at least 3 months, not that you will want to wait that long!
 No worries about onion or garlicky hands, because all the ingredients are prepared mix-ins. Some cooks argue that meatloaves and ground meats are best when manipulated with your hands. I beg to differ and would rather opt for a long tined fork stirring and a sturdy rubber spatula, using a folding fashion for the bulk of the work and saving my hands for shaping at the end.
 Make Ahead/Multiple Meal Recipe:
 3 lbs. meatloaf blend, beef, veal and pork
 5 oz. bag cheese and garlic croutons, crushed, about 1 1/2 c.
1/2 c. good quality medium salsa
1/3 c. ketchup
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. onion powder
6 slices good quality bacon, halved
Preheat oven to 375*F. Combine all ingredients w/ fork and rubber spatula until well blended.*
Shape into oblong loaf and arrange the pieces  of bacon along the length of the loaf. 
Bake until internal temperature reaches 165*F, about 35-40 minutes.
Let rest for 10 minutes or more before serving.
*I like to check my seasonings by frying a thin, tiny disc of the meat mixture before committing it to the shape or the oven, it's the best way to check.  I learned this tip from Emeril Lagasse about 2 decades ago, BAM!
 Small Family/ Single Meal Version:
1 lb. Meatloaf blend
 1/2 c. Garlic and cheese croutons, crushed
1/3 c. Good quality medium salsa
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1 tsp. Onion powder
1 tsp. Fish sauce
2-3 slices Bacon, halved.
See above instructions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Crescent Moon-Lit Asparagus Bundles

This recipe is fun and great for entertaining or for introducing new and ornate veggies to your family and friends. The ingredients are simple and the results are fantastic. You can use this as a Great side dish to a wonderful roast or chicken. The name arose withe the clever help of my cousin Aaron, a tried and tested taster for 99% of my work and gets the perks of new and different menus for display where he works!  Recipe:
 1 lb. Baby asparagus, blanched 1 minute and shocked,
1 8 oz. Roll buttery crescent rolls,
1 oz. Gruyere, sliced into 16 1/4 inch strips about 1 inch long,
2 heaping tbsp. Whipped cream cheese,
 1 1/2 tsp. Mayonnaise,
1 tsp. Horseradish mustard,
1 drop Sriracha

 Preheat oven to 375*F. Blanche asparagus in salted water for 1 minute and remove and shock in ice bath, drain on paper towels. Remove woody and fibrous part of stems, leaving approximately half of the asparagus. Put in bundles of 4 to 5 asparagus spears forming 16 groupings. Carefully unroll crescent rolls and One By One, divide each in half and center a portion of cheese at the largest end as well as a bundle of spears and roll according to the directions. Place on baking sheet evenly spaced and brush with a little milk. Bake until golden and cheese is melty, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile combine the cream cheese, mayo, mustard and Sriracha until smooth and creamy, place in small serving vessel and arrange bundles as desired.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tex Mex Fabulous Cornbread

Corn meal and Maize is the source of much sustenance for Americans and other countries, and more so in the Southern lying states in America and New England.  Since the American Indians' introduction of a process called Nixtamalization, which is corn ground into a meal or soaked in a lime or alkaline salt to make hominy, the possibilities for providing with a plethora sustainable menu ideas is virtually endless.  Referred to as "Johnnycakes", journey cakes, shawnee cakes, to name a few, consisting of ground corn or corn meal, moistened with milk that has been scalded or water and salt, these cake variations were commonly fried in some sort of animal fat on a griddle type device or depending on the area, baked in the oven or fires and served savory or with sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey.  References to the johnny cake span from 1739 in New England.
The history of the journey cake is similar to that of the "Hoecake", by way of ingredients, but dissimilar in regard to preparation.  Hoecakes and the name therein has roots dating back to the negro  field hands, who without the means to afford certain cooking vessels, would use their ingenuity and used their hoes used in the cotton fields, as a griddle or baking sheet of sorts, to cook their cornmeal cakes over an open fire.  Hoes used for cotton farming were large and flat with a long, detachable handle, made for a suitable cooking device once greased with animal fat. Some of  the first noted references to hoecakes date back to 1745 by writers like Barlow and Washington Irving.
Ironically enough, here in our "middle-east" South, which I use to refer to here in Southwestern  Virginia, Hoecakes are considered as simply home-made, hand-shaped bread biscuits made from flour.  In lieu of cornbread, we seldom serve it without adding a measure of sugar for sweetness, which for us is the optimal way to serve the sumptuous, buttered corn cake.   At any rate, today's recipe features corn meal, embellished with wonderful Tex-Mex ingredients and baked in an old fashioned, seasoned cast iron skillet, which remains one of the staples in my kitchen.  Preparation is simple and time conscious, using  a packaged corn muffin mix to bring these fabulous items together.  This recipe pairs well with any meal, especially chili beans, pinto beans, or long simmered legumes of your choice or as the starch to serve alongside a fragrant, roasted chicken as I served this recipe to my family.
2 pkgs. corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
2/3 c. milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. Agave nectar

1/2 c. Colby Jack cheese cubes
1/2 c. whole kernel corn, drained
olive oil for drizzling
1 chipotle chili, small diced, (optional)
Preheat oven and
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greased cast iron skillet to 400*F.  Mix dry ingredients and in separate vessel, the wet ingredients and combined until just blended.  fold in corn and cheese, and chili if desired and carefully pour into cast iron skillet.  Bake until knife or fork inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Serve with butter if desired.   Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Meat Free! Mushroom Quiche w/Gruyere and Provolone

This quiche recipe is an extension of an entry past featuring a delightful quiche with sausage.  Normally, when  I venture into a specific dish, I make variations and try several types offering vegetarian or meat free options alongside the versions containing animal proteins.  While on my quiche 'kick', I came up with this recipe that is as equally enjoyable as the next and full of wonderful earthy mushrooms and spectacular Gruyere.
16 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 small onion, chopped, about 1/3 c.
4 tbsp. salted butter
1 1/2 c. Gruyere, shredded
1/2 c. provolone, diced or shredded
4 large eggs
2 c. 1 1/2% milk
2 9 inch deep dish pie crusts
1/4 tsp. Sriracha
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 425*F.
In a skillet over medium high heat, melt butter and a drizzle of olive oil. When small bubbles form, add mushrooms. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until signs of browning starts to occur and add onion, cooking for another 2 minutes.  SPST.  Turn off heat.
Beat eggs, milk and sriracha together.  SPST
Divide mushroom mixture and cheese among the two pie crusts. Divide egg mixture among the two.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300*F, covering loosely with foil if needed to keep from over browning and bake until knife  inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Serves 6