Monday, August 29, 2011

Baked Garlic-Beer Fries

Though it pains me, Vince is not particularly interested in food.  He likes eating it of course, but whenever I ask what he wants to have for dinner next week, my question is almost always met with a shrug and "whatever you feel like cooking."  So when he sends me a recipe, I do my best to work it into the menu.  Not surprisingly, the recipe that caught his attention involves beer. 

I used a beer made with roasted poblano peppers that Vince had brewed and bottled a few months ago this time around, but any beer that you'd drink with a burger works here.  Use something good though, because a lot of the beer's flavor comes though, despite the short soaking time.  I've also skipped the olive oil and used bacon fat leftover from baking bacon and it defnitely adds a whole other layer to the fries.  Fresh herbs are also delicious here.  These are awesome with any burger- definitely tons of flavor however you make them!

Baked Garlic-Beer Fries

What's in them:

12 oz good beer
3 russet potatoes, about 3/4 lbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil, canola oil, or bacon fat
1-1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper

How to make them:

Preheat oven to 425°F

Scrub and cut potatoes with skin on into 1/2" sticks.  In a large bowl, soak the cut fries in the beer.  Let soak for 15 minutes, tossing a few times so that the potatoes soak evenly.

Drain beer and toss the potatoes with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper, making sure that each one is well coated.

Line a large baking sheet with foil, and spread the fries in a single layer on the pan, using two pans if necessary.  Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how crispy you like them, tossing 3-4 times.

Add more salt and pepper to your liking and serve hot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marinara Magnifica

It’s recipe swap time again, hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking. This week’s theme was Italian, and I really didn’t know what kind of recipe to expect. Italian cooking runs the gamut from simple with a few quality ingredients that come together quickly to complex, layered and long-cooking. I received a great recipe for marinara magnifica from Christine's Kitchen Chronicles, which in my mind combines the best of both ends of the spectrum. A few good ingredients are cooked slowly for a final sauce that is much richer than the short list would lead you to believe.

Since this recipe does have a long stove top simmering time, I adapted it just barely for the slow cooker since I wasn’t going to have a four-hour window at home. Lucky for me, slow-simmering soups, stews and sauces usually translate well to the slow cooker, and this was no exception. For the original cooking instructions, check out Christine’s original post. We enjoyed this with pasta and hot Italian sausage with roasted broccoli on the side. There was also plenty of leftover sauce to save in the freezer for future dinners- I’m thinking meatball subs with lots of gooey mozzarella!
Marinara Magnifica

What’s in it:

1 Tbsp olive oil
6 c chopped onion, about three medium
1 Tbsp sugar
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup dry red wine (I used a pinot grigio)
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes

Note: I used 2 28-oz cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes, and 1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes. I think that any combination of whole, half, diced or crushed tomatoes would work here, as long as you still have the full volume.

How to make it:

Heat the olive oil in a stove top-safe slow cooker insert or saucepan. Add onions and sugar, and season lightly with a little salt. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for about a half hour, until onions start to turn golden brown. Add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper, then stir in the wine and cook for another minute. (I prepped up to this point the night before and refrigerated the onion mixture overnight.)

In the slow cooker, combine the onion mixture and the tomato paste, then add the tomatoes. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve over pasta or use in your favorite lasagna, manicotti, and other Italian recipes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chipotle Beef Enchiladas

I have to admit, this is a little new for me.  There are a number of meals that go on the menu at our house regularly that aren't from a recipe, and how I make them depends on what's in the house and how I feel that day.  But every once in a while, the meal surpasses the usual results and turns out to be amazing.  I always think I should write them down before I forget how I got there, and then get distracted and it's gone.  But this time, I'm not forgetting.

The parts of these enchiladas are each pretty simple- spicy shredded beef, sauteed veggies and rich sauce with some heat.  But together they were really something special, the perfect combination of chewy, melty, crunchy and saucy. 

Chipotle Beef Enchiladas

What's in them:
For the beef
3-4 lb beef roast
1 thinly sliced onion
2 chipotles in adobo, roughly chopped
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
12 oz beer

For the enchilada sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
15 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 -1/2 c water
salt and pepper to taste

For the enchiladas
2 tsp olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced (I used a mix of red, yellow and orange)
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 12-15 oz can diced tomatoes (I used Rotel), drained
2-3 c chipotle beef
2 c enchilada sauce, divided
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 c shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, Mexican blend), divided
8 10" tortillas

How to make them:

For the beef  (Note: I had originally made the beef for burrito bowls, and had portioned it out into freezer bags to use for sandwiches, tacos, or these enchiladas.  If you're making it for the enchiladas, cook the beef the day before you need it.)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, and cook for 8-10 hours on low.  Remove beef from the slow cooker and shred.  Add some of the liquid from the slow cooker to prevent drying.  Use for enchiladas, sandwiches or anything else you want.

For the enchilada sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan until shimmering.  Add onions and cook until soft, then add garlic.  When garlic becomes fragrant, add the spices, and stir to combine.  Pour in the tomato sauce, and thin with water to desired consistency.  Check for seasonings, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

For the enchiladas (FINALLY!)

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat olive oil in a sautee pan and add the peppers, onions and garlic.  While they cook, combine the beef, 3/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, sour cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese.  When the vegetables have just started to brown, add the drained tomatoes.  Cool slightly, then add to the beef mixture.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce in a 9x13" baking dish.  Divide the beef mixture equally between the tortillas, rolling each as you fill them and lining them up in the baking dish.  Spread the remaining sauce on top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbling and beginning to brown on top.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Porcini Polenta

Do me a favor and don't scroll down to the photo yet.  Hey, no peeking!  This was one of those dishes that just is not pretty, even though it tastes amazing.  I had planned to make Alton Brown's savory polenta to go under Josie's chicken with tomato-herb pan sauce, but rediscovered a package of dried porcini mushrooms in the fridge that hadn't made it into the risotto I had bought them for.  The water used to reconstitute dried mushrooms takes on their earthy, rich flavor, and I wanted to add that flavor in the polenta.  But as you might expect, the deep brown color of the mushroom broth results in this rather unfortunately-colored polenta.  Okay, you can look now....

Told you it was bad!  But covered up with the chicken, sauce and some sauteed spinach, this polenta made a sturdy base for the rest of the meal, and it's flavor managed to stand out without overpowering the others.  So close your eyes, take a bite, and pretend it's a more appetizing shade.

Porcini Polenta

What's in it:

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 c hot water
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c white wine
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 c yellow cornmeal
1/3 c shredded Parmesan cheese

How it make it:

Soak mushrooms in boiling water for 10 minutes, or in warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain and dry mushrooms, reserving the resulting broth.  Finely dice the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a medium pot until shimmering.  Add the mushrooms, onion and garlic, cooking until soft and just starting to brown.  Add wine to deglaze pan, then add chicken and reserved mushroom broth, and bring to a boil.

Add cornmeal slowly, whisking constantly until combined.  Reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until the polenta is thickened and smooth, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

S'mores Bars

Did you know that today was National S'mores Day?  Now that's a holiday I can get behind.  I only wish I'd known in time to plan for it.  While nothing beats a marshmallow slightly charred over a campfire sandwiched between graham crackers with a Hershey bar, these s'mores bars were a great alternative since the campfire wasn't going to happen today. 

These were so easy, and a hit when I took them to dinner with friends.  I did let them sit under the broiler a touch longer to get that slightly burnt flavor.

Happy S'mores Day!

S'mores Bars
from Gourmet

What's in them:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 cracker sheets)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups milk chocolate
3 cups mini-marshmallows

How to make them:

Preheat oven to   350°F.  In a bowl combine well the crumbs, the sugar, the salt, and the butter and, reserving 1 cup of the mixture, press the remaining mixture into the bottom of a flameproof 9x12x2" baking dish. Bake the crust for 12 minutes, or until it is golden, and let it cool in the dish on a rack.

In a glass bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir again until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Pour it over the crust spreading it evenly, and sprinkle the marshmallows over the chocolate, pressing them lightly, and then add the reserved crumb mixture. Broil the dessert under a preheated broiler about 2 inches from the heat for 30 seconds, or until the marshmallows are golden, let it cool completely, and cut it into squares.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Homemade Sweet Potato Tots

There's a restaurant near my office that's popular for retirement lunches, celebrating project completions, and other office events.  The food is primarily your typical pub stuff, but what I consider their standout item isn't even an entree: it's their sweet potato tots.  But there's a catch.  I don't know if they make them in-house or if sometimes their distributor just doesn't come through, but they're not always available.  Maybe it's on purpose, because it just makes me want them that much more.

When I saw a recipe for homemade tater tots on Serious Eats, I was curious about the method, but not enough to make me want to dirty that many dishes and the food processor, and deal with deep-frying.  Until I saw that one of the suggested variations was sweet potato tots. 

They turned out great, and even better with some leftover smoky jalapeno-lime ranch dressing for dipping.  And despite my fear of deep-frying, they weren't too difficult, they just took a lot of undivided attention.  Regulating the oil temp was a little tricky for me, but that could easily be remedied by thinking ahead and frying smaller batches of sweet potato chunks and tots.  They reheated well in the oven, crisping up nicely.

Homemade Sweet Potato Tots

What's in them:

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1-2 qts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch or potato starch
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

How to make them:

Place potatoes in a bowl of cold water and agitate for 10 seconds. Transfer to fine mesh strainer and allow to drain for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in large wok or Dutch oven over high heat to 350°F. Fry potatoes, stirring them with a wire spider until light golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes, adjusting flame to maintain oil temperature. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Transfer 1/2 of the potatoes to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into rough 1/4 to 1/8th inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses. Be careful not to over-process; the inside texture of the tots may end up on the gummy side.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Add salt, starch, sugar, grated onion, black pepper to taste, and any other flavoring to taste (cinnamon, cayenne, bacon, etc., I used about 2 tablespoons of grated onion). Gently mix with your hands to combine. Shape into cylinders about 3/4-inch wide and 1-inch long.  Don't squish the mixture too much to keep the texture of the cooked tots fluffy.

Bring oil back to 350°F and add sweet potato tots in small batches, avoiding crowding the pan. Allow to fry for 1 minute, then gently agitate with a metal spider to separate them. Continue to cook, adjusting flame to maintain heat, until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot, or reheat as needed in a 425°F oven.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Smoky Jalapeno-Lime Ranch Dressing

I am terrible with salad dressings.  The last time I cleaned out the fridge, every last one of the store-bought bottles in the fridge were at least a year past their best-by date, and probably hadn't been touched since then either.  But I find it really hard to limit myself to just a couple options, when it's so easy to make a variation that ties in with the rest of the meal.  So for southwestern steak salads last week, I wasn't happy with regular ranch dressing.  I wanted something that was still creamy, but tangier than the typical bottled version, and with some heat.

Christen has recently posted her own jalapeno ranch, and I really just adapted that.  In particular, the addition of some chipotles in adobo and cumin made it a littler smokier to play off the grilled steak's flavor.  This was great on the salads, and also as a dipping sauce for the homemade sweet potato tots I'll be posting later this week.

Smoky Jalapeno-Lime Ranch Dressing

What's in it:

1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
juice of half a lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and stems removed, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced

1-2 tsp mashed chipotle in adobo
2 tsp agave nectar or honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4-1/2 c milk (use less if using as a dip, more for a dressing)

How to make it:

Whisk together all ingredients, adding milk a little at a time until desired consistency.  For a smoother texture, combine all ingredients in a food processor (a mini or immersion blender processor attachment is great here), and puree until smooth, about a minute.  Dressing keeps for about a week in the fridge.