Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Week 17: Shredded Beef and Fancy Macaroni

Brad loves shredded beef sandwiches and whines that I can't make then as well as his grandma. This is due (at least partially) to my irrational fear of crock pot cooking. Long days at work plus a crock pot with a faulty thermostat plus meat without much fat plus not enough cooking liquid has led to many burned dinners and impromptu nights out. That, however, is another story.

I tried this beef recipe in hopes of making Brad smile. He didn't say it was better than his grandma's (or even as good as his grandma's), but he did eat two sandwiches.

I served it with Ree Drummond's Fancy Macaroni - which I was simply looking for an excuse to make. And, I baked the macaroni and cheese in my new Le Creuset Mini Cocotte's.

Shredded Beef Barbecue
12 servings
Taken from: Taste of Home

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 - 10 hours (slow cooker)

1 beef sirloin tip roast (2-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup each ketchup and water
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons chili powder
12 kaiser rolls, split

Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, brown roast in oil on all sides over medium-high heat; drain.

Transfer roast to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Combine the ketchup, water, onion, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, celery seed and chili powder; pour over roast.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat; shred with two forks and return to slow cooker. Spoon 1/2 cup meat mixture onto each roll.

One sandwich equals 313 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 2 g fiber

My review: The sanwiches were fine. The meat wasn't fatty (one of my frequent complaints about shredded meat sandwiches), and it was flavorful (no extra BBQ sauce required).

Fancy Macaroni
6 servings
Taken from Pioneer Woman

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 C Macaroni
4 Tbsp Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Cut In Half And Sliced Thin
5 slices Regular Bacon
1/2 Tbsp Bacon Grease (reserved From Bacon Slices)
1/8 C All-purpose Flour
1 C Whole Or 2% Milk
1/4 C Half & Half
1 whole Egg Yolk, Beaten
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/4 C Grated Gruyere Cheese
1/4 C Grated Fontina Cheese
1/4 C Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
2 oz, weight Chevre (soft Goat Cheese)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook macaroni for half the time of the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Fry bacon until slightly, but not overly, crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Reserve grease.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and saute onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and soft. Set aside.

In a pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in milk and half & half, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Beat egg yolks and drizzle 1/8 cup hot mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into sauce and cook for another minute.

Add cheeses and stir until melted. Add onions and bacon and bacon grease and stir. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed. Add cooked macaroni and stir to coat.

Pour into a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until sizzling and hot.

My review: This was labor- and dish-intensive. I bought and shredded way too much cheese (the left-overs were frozen). The bacon, butter, and cheese led to a dish that was plenty salty; I didn't add any additional salt. Also, I'm not a huge onion lover. Next time I will cut the onions at least in half. And, I'm not sure that I'd bake it in small dishes again. It was a little dried out. And, I don't know that I'd use the full amount of noodles the next time, either. How's that for a rambling review?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Week 16: Pork Tenderloin and Applesauce

I love watching Food Network. I recently saw Ina Garten make this applesauce and decided it was just what we needed for dinner, with a pork tenderloin to go with it.

from Ina Garten for Foodnetwork
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Makes 2 1/2 quarters

2 large oranges, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 lb Granny Smith apples (about 6 to 8 apples)
3 lb sweet red apples (McIntosh) (about 6 to 8 apples)
1/2 C light brown sugar, packed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples (reserving the peel of 2 of the red apples) and toss them in the juice. Pour the apples, reserved apple peel, and juice into a Dutch oven or enameled iron pot.

3. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and allspice and cover the pot.

4. Bake for 1 hour, or until all the apples are soft.

5. Remove and discard the red apple peel. Mix with a whisk until smooth, and serve warm or at room temperature.

The process made the house spell absolutely delish. And, the applesauce had a really great texture. The final product, though, was really, really, really tart - like make a sour-face at the dinner table tart. Next time I would use less orange and lemon juice and zest and more sugar.

Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
from Ina Garten for Food Network
Prep time 15 minutes
Marinates for a minimum of 3 hours
Cook time 15 minutes

1 lemon, zest grated
3/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
1/2 C olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.

2. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat.

5. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown. Place the saute pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees F at the thickest part.

6. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it's just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter.

I only used one pork tenderloin (about 1 pound) and marinated for less than 30 minutes with the entire marinade recipe. The flavor was great.

Once again, though, the meat thermometer did me wrong - most of the pork was cooked perfectly, but one end of it was still completely raw. So strange! We will definitely use this marinade again, though.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Week 15: Stracotto with EVOO Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Meat and me - we don't have a real great history, especially roasts and me.

I've tried making roasts in the crock pot. I always anticipate that such a choice will result in a house that smells great, and a roast that flakes apart and tastes fabulous (with very little effort).

In reality, what happens is that the meat gets completely burned, all liquid cooks out of the crock pot, the meat ends up in the trash, and we go to Applebee's (or some other ridiculous restaurant) in place of eating the roast.

(I've even tried buying and returning and returning and returning several different crock pots thinking that the problem must, in fact, be with the crock pot and not with my cooking methods.)

Then, there was the lamb incident. Even using the oven and a brand-new meat thermometer couldn't fix my relationship with meat.

Alas, I refused to let the meat defeat me and decided to try (yet again!) to make a roast. And, this time I was victorious, and Brad was happy.

Stracotto (Italian-style Pot Roast)
Serves 6 to 8
from Cook's Illustrated: Italian Favorites (p. 36)

1 boneless chuck roast (about 3 1/2 pounds)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped medium
2 small celery ribs, chopped medium
10 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 medium garlic gloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 C low-sodium beef broth
1/2 dry white wine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 - 1 1/2 C water (varies)
1 tsp dried rosemary

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly pat roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in large heatproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to large plate; set aside.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, carrot, celery, and mushroom to pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add chicken and beef broths, wine, tomatoes and juice, and thyme, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot. Add enough water to come halfway up sides of roast. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat, then place large piece of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven. Cook, turning roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

5. Transfer roast to carving board and tent with foil to keep warm. Allow liquid in pot to settle for about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Add rosemary and boil over high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 C, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Carve meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices or pull it apart into large pieces. Transfer meat to warmed serving platter and pour sauce and vegetables over it. Serve immediately.

This was totally delicious. I used a chuck roast that was a little more than 2 pounds. It still took almost 3 hours to cook. I was worried the whole time that I was over-cooking it, but it was really clear when it was cooked enough. Also, checking it every 30 minutes was a great way to be sure I didn't over-cook. I do have to say, though, that turning the roast every 30 minutes really interfered with my Sunday-afternoon napping schedule!

Also, the chuck roast I bought wasn't tied, and I didn't tie it. The recipe made a big deal out of tying the meat, but I didn't have any baker's twine and didn't want a Bridget Jones-esque blue string incident.

We will make this again - maybe even for company. It was that good!

Garlic and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6
from Cook's Illustrated: Italian Favorites (p. 39)

2 lb russet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp juice from 1 lemon

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook at bare simmer until just tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

2. While potatoes are simmering, mince 1 garlic clove. Place minced garlic on cutting board and sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt. Using flat side of chef's knife, drag garlic and salt back and forth across cutting board in small circular motions until garlic is ground into smooth paste. Transfer to medium bowl and set aside.

3. Mince remaining 4 cloves garlic. Place garlic in small saucepan with 1/4 C olive oil and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic foams and is soft, fragrant, and golden, 5 minutes. Transfer oil and garlic to bowl with raw garlic paste.

4. Drain cooked potatoes. Using paring knife, peel skins from potatoes; quarter.

5. Add remaining salt, pepper, lemon juice, and remaining 2 Tbsp uncooked olive oil to bowl with garlic and cooked oil and whisk to combine.

6. Fold mixture into potatoes. Blend together using an electric mixer on a slow speed.

A few things about this recipe. . . I was nervous about the amount of garlic, but the end result was really great (not anything that would scare vampires, as I originally thought). And, I've also saved you from a fatal typo in the original recipe. The recipe lists 2 Tbsp olive oil in one place and 6 Tbsp olive oil in another place. I used 6 Tbsp. It was way too much olive oil.

The verdict. . . the potatoes were a great mate for the roast. I think they'd also taste great with chicken marsala. We will make them again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Week 14: Lasagna with Turkey Sausage

My very first lasagna was made from the recipe on the noodle box. I remember the day when I grabbed a box from the grocery store shelf and actually gasped when I found that the recipe wasn't on the box!

A few years ago, a friend made a lasagna with a homemade sauce (made from tomato soup) and cottage cheese and ricotta. It was delish and is the recipe I've made religiously since then. I'll share it sometime.

But, I love to cook and especially love to cook pasta dishes. It seems pretty lame that I don't have my own lasagna recipe. And, that's how I came to this particular choice.

"Lasagna with Turkey Sausage"
in Barefoot Contessa Family Style
by Ina Garten

Serves 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 C chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 6-oz can tomato paste
4 tsp dried flat-leaf parsley, divided
4 tsp dried basil leaves
Black pepper
1/2 lb lasagna noodles
15 oz ricotta cheese
3 to 4 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 C grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 C for sprinkling
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 lb fresh mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the over to 400 F.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 Tbsp of parsley, the basil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain. Note. I used whole wheat noodles and actually soaked them for more like 40 minutes, replacing the water with fresh hot water about half-way through. It worked great!

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 C Parmesan, egg, 2 tsp parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 12 x 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 C of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.

To make ahead, refrigerate the assembled, unbaked lasagna, Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly.

My review.

I was a little nervous about not cooking the noodles, but that part turned out really well.

I was also a little nervous about the amount of noodles. I'm used to lots of layers of noodles, and this recipe only has two layers. That worked out okay, too.

I didn't listen to Ina and used spicy sausage instead of sweet. The sausage part was okay but not great. Maybe I need to try it with a different brand of sausage. I used Jennie-O turkey sausage (all my grocery store had). I also think I could leave the sausage out.

I was surprised by how solid the lasagna was. When I scooped it out it actually stayed as a real piece (instead of falling apart in a soupy mess like my "normal" recipe). The cheese formed a really nice layer; I think that was due to the egg and the goat cheese. The sauce mixture wasn't the perfect consistency.

I don't think this will replace the lasagna recipe I normally make, but I think we will switch it up with this recipe every now and then. I'll use a different kind of sausage, though.