Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Burger Heaven

There are times when I end up having the house all to myself.  My husband travels for work frequently and my girls share time between their dad and me.  Most times my husband is out of town it works out that my girls are here and I make the best of it by using that time to bond with them and we usually end up eating kid/teenager friendly food.  It's kind of a nice indulgence for me, and, fortunately, temporary.  When they're all here I enjoy, most days anyway, feeding them all my various and crazy dishes.  Usually they're happy to be my guinea pigs, and my husband is usually beside me in the kitchen helping to come up with our crazy recipes.  But, on the weeks I'm alone, I really don't feel like cooking.  When I cook, I cook to feed people.  Don't get me wrong, I still love to eat, but my incentive to cook plummets a thousand fold when its just myself I'm feeding.  I tend to commit the terrible crime of frozen pizza's, egg rolls, or take out.  Or if I'm lucky I can afford to go to lunch during my work day and have some leftovers for dinner.  But, every now and then, I feel the urge to feed myself.  Tonight was one of those nights.  My original plan was to eat some frozen shrimp thingies I have in the freezer and have a few glasses of wine after mopping the kitchen and doing some laundry.  But on the way home I got this tremendous craving for a good burger.  To be specific a AA Bar and Grill Burger.  One of the best burgers on the planet!  All the way home I ran ideas through my head on how to talk a group of my friends to meet me on Friday for a burger at AA. (I'm still working on those plans by the way)  By the time I got home I was jonesing hard for a burger.  At this point almost any burger would do.  There was no way I was going to disappoint myself with a Burger King or McDonalds burger.  My favorite diner in town is closed tonight, so that option was out.  So......  Ok, I decided  to actually cook a real meal for myself tonight.  I mean why not?  I deserve it right?  I stopped at the nearest grocery store and picked up some locally raised grass fed hamburger, brioche buns and some pre-sliced crimini mushrooms.  I had everything else I needed at home. 

This is what I came up with:

This is how I built my best burger ever:

I took about 3/4 lb of the burger and mixed in about a half tsp of jarred minced garlic and a tablespoon of crumbled roquefort cheese.  I pressed it into a patty, salted both sides and set aside.  I took a half cup of the sliced crimini mushrooms and sauteed them in a tablespoon and a half of butter, a tsp. of fresh minced garlic a pinch of salt and a splash of white wine.  Just as they released their juices and started to turn brown I removed them and turned up the heat.  I placed the seasoned burger in the hot pan and cooked for about 4 minutes.  While that was cooking I put a slice of white onion in the pan in the same mushroom butter flavoring and browned it.  I flipped the burger over, placed the sauteed mushrooms on top and topped them with a slice of Swiss cheese  In the mean time I removed the onion and put the brioche slices in the same pan to brown.  After getting a nice toast to them I took them out and spread mayo on them and some dijon mustard on one side.  I placed the burger on that slice (it was cooked to just under medium) and topped it with the grilled onion, tomato and lettuce and then I spread my homemade tomato chutney on the other slice of brioche.  (Click on the link for the recipe for the chutney - it's waaaaayyyyyy better than ketchup! )

I sat down at the table and took a big bite and was blown away at how good my burger was, I really don't mean to brag, but it really was outstanding.  I was literally expecting the worst.  I knew I was craving the best burger ever and that I would never meet my taste buds expectations.  I just knew I'd take a bite and be almost choked up with tears of disappointment.  I just never thought I could ever meet my own high expectations.  Wow!  Not only did I meet them, I exceeded them, by far!  My biggest disappointment was that I could only eat half of it.  I was stuffed halfway through.  In fact I ate more than I should have because it was so damn good!  I had to put the other half in the kitchen out of site so that I wouldn't continue to force it all down and make myself miserable.  I'm not kidding! 

I cleaned up the kitchen , but left the prized burger on the counter for just a bit, just in case I just happened to burp or something and make enough room for just one more bite.  I sat down in front of the TV and chatted with my love on the phone for a bit.  When I hung up I could hear a strange whining noise coming from the kitchen.  I walked into the kitchen to find this:

My dog, guarding the burger and doing his best to mentally will it down to him.  Note said burger in upper left hand corner of picture.  Here's a closer look:
Remaining burger (well guarded at this point - heaven forbid a thief come in and try to take it.  They will be taking their life into their own hands between trying to get it away from City Boy or me!) 
And so he remains...... "Please mom!  Just one bite?" (Don't worry, he'll get a little taste, as soon as I can accept the fact that I can't eat it all myself. )




Monday, November 17, 2014

Game Day/Nascar Sausage Roll Ups.

Not the best picture ever, but, well actually, one of the worst, but it's all I've got.  Regardless, these things were DELICIOUS!  And very rich!  

 
This is what to do with left over hot dogs or sausages and crescent roll dough.  Cut the dogs in half, slit each half almost all the way through, then pan fry them until slightly brown;  stuff them with some cheese and a piece of pickled vegetable (or jalapeno’s would be good too) wrap them up in the crescent dough (or phyllo would work too, but phyllo would require a little more effort because of it's delicate nature, but I think worth the time. I'll let you know when I get a chance to try it out on this recipe.). Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until the dough is brown and cheese is melted.  Dip in BBQ sauce, ketchup, sweet and sour sauce, mustard of any kind (especially Larrupin's Mustard if you can get it, what ever floats your boat. Perfect easy game day or Nascar snack (or any kind of event you can think of.).
My particular ingredients to serve 2 were:
2 sausage dogs, cut in half and split length wise, but not all the way through.
One thin slice of jalapeno jack cheese
One thin slice of Swiss cheese
One thin slice of cheddar cheese
(the cheese should just be thin and narrow enough to fit inside the slit of the sausage)
A piece of pickled asparagus in one
A piece of pickled green bean in one
A slice of bread and butter pickle in two others.
(all sliced down small enough to squeeze in with the cheese)
 Get crazy and make up your own version of these yummy tidbits.  Make your own dough, use phyllo, store bought pie dough.  Use blue cheese maybe? Olives?  Go crazy!  See what kind of fun snack you can make out of this.  


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Last Night's Dinner

Sword Fish brushed in a sauce of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh mint, 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, 1 minced garlic clove and fresh ground pepper.  (2 swordfish steaks).  Cooked in a hot cast iron skillet for 4 minutes per side (came out absolutely, amazingly perfect!)

Green salad consisting of romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, tomato, cucumber, grated carrots, and chopped basil, all topped with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  (3/4 cup olive oil to 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar,  tbsp honey, tsp of minced garlic, pinch of salt and ground pepper)

Mustard Greens with diced pancetta.  First the pancetta was fried up and set aside on a paper towel to drain.  The mustard greens were then sauteed in the remaining fat from the pancetta, with some olive oil, minced garlic (1 clove) and 1/2 a thinly sliced shallot. 

Linguini in browned butter sage sauce.  Linguini was cooked according to package directions while I browned about 4 tablespoons of butter with chopped fresh sage until the butter just started to turn brown and the sage was crisp.  The linguini was drained and tossed with the butter sauce and served with the mustard greens on top. 

This all tasted fantastic while watching Big Jake and sipping a glass of Cabernet.   

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kim's Breakfast Sami

Kim's Breakfast Sami

You wake up hungry on a Saturday morning (late Saturday morning) and you want something satisfying to eat, but don't want to go to the store and need to use up a few things in the fridge.  Here's what I did in that situation:

2 slices of white or whole wheat bread (what ever you have in the house) Toasted
Mustard
Mayo
Fig Jam
Lettuce
Tomato
Mustard Greens (small handfull) sauteed in olive oil, chili flakes and bacon salt
Half slice smoked prosciutto fried until cripsy
Several slices of pastrami sauteed in olive oil and remaining fat from prosciutto.  
Scrambled egg with about a table spoon of parmesan cheese grated into it and cooked until barely done and left in pan off the heat to finish.  
Slice of havarti cheese
A few tater tots ( placed in 425 oven in the beginning to be ready when sandwiches are done)
a little more bacon salt
grated cheddar cheese.  
To assemble the sami:
Slather one slice of the toasted bread with mayo and squirt some regular mustard on it.  
Slather the other side with fig jam.
Place lettuce on the mayo side.
Place two thin slices of tomato next
Place the sauteed mustard greens on top of the tomatoes.
Next comes the pastrami.
Top the pastrami with the small crispy slices of prosciutto
Place the scrambled parmesan eggs on top.
Top the hot eggs with the havarti, which should slightly melt the cheese.
Place the fig jam slathered slice of toast on top and slice the sami in half.  

While you were preparing all of that, you should have had a few tater tots in the oven.  Toasting at about 425 for 15 minutes.  When the sandwiches are done, pull out the tater tots, sprinkle them with bacon salt and some shredded cheese and you have one filling and delicious breakfast/brunch/lunch.  
Serve with a piping hot strong cup of coffee.  
I hope this inspires you to use what ever you have to make a satisfying and outrages breakfast sami of your own.  Please share with me your breakfast sami sandwich ideas - I hope this inspires you to make something crazy, fun and yummy.  


 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Thin Veil of Fall - It's time for Comfort Food




The time of year for comfort food has arrived.  The days have suddenly become shorter,  there is the distinct smell of  fall leaves, and that familiar chill in the air.  This is the time of year to cozy up to the table and enjoy some nice warm and soothing comfort food.  Something filling, warming and simple.  Something that takes you back to your childhood and makes all the bad things of the world go away for a while.  What better dish to provide this cocoon of warmth and comfort then Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s Pie originates from the British Isles.  There are various versions of this dish from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  Anywhere that had sheep and potatoes.  The original name for Shepherd’s Pie was Cottage pie, which came about in the 1790’s as the potato was growing in importance in the British Isles.  The potato itself originates from Peru and Bolivia in South America and was brought to Europe by the Spanish around 1570.  This foreign starch made its way to Britain somewhere between the 1580’s and 1590’s.  It was quickly beloved by the peasants as it was a crop that was rarely plundered by others, had low spoilage, easily satisfied hunger and was cheap and easy to grow.  By 1845 one third of Ireland’s arable land was growing potatoes.  The term “Cottage Pie” was thought to come from the fact that this was an affordable vegetable for the poor who lived in modest cottages.  In the late 1870’s the term Shepherd’s Pie began to appear, probably because the Shepherd’s Pie was usually made with lamb/mutton which were tended to by shepherds. 
Originally, and probably to this day, this meat pie was a means  to use up leftover meat of any kind.  A pie dish would be lined with mashed potatoes filled with meat and vegetables and topped with more mashed potatoes and baked.  Today, a true traditional Shepherd’s Pie would include ground or cubed lamb, onions, turnips, and carrots.  If you are a traditionalist and would prefer to try the “real deal” you can find a traditional, yet American version here at Chowning’sTavern’s  .  Their version is here.  

I still use this dish as a way to use up leftover meat and veggies, but I first discovered this dish from a cookbook while I was still finding my way in the kitchen.  Before I had the knowledge or ability to venture beyond a recipe.  The recipe that first introduced me to this warm cozy blanket of a meal, came from Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Luis.   Susan is originally from Seattle Washington, but moved to France in 1980 to study cooking.  I imagine she has a pretty good grasp on good down to earth, comforting farmhouse foods. Her Farmhouse Cookbook certainly demonstrates that.  


I no longer pull out the Farmhouse Cookbook to follow the recipe.  I pretty much have it memorized and have added a tweak or two of my own here and there.  Here is my adaptation of the Farmhouse’s Shepherd’s Pie:
1 lb hamburger
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp allspice
2 medium sized onions sliced
¼ cup water or white wine
2lbs russet potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbs butter
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables of your choice, or frozen corn, or peas, or green beans (what ever floats your boat.)
½ cup cheddar cheese, or any other cheese that sounds good to you.  I’ve tried everything from cheddar to blue cheese. 
Boil the potatoes until they are soft.  While the potatoes are boiling season the hamburger (or ground lamb – or whatever meat you would like to use) with salt pepper and allspice.  Fry until done but still a bit pink.  Place into a pie plate or 8 X 8 baking dish. 
Add sliced onions to the fat and fry, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until a dark brown and caramelized.  Add the water or wine and deglaze the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan and add this to the hamburger.  Season to taste.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk and cream until smooth. Season to taste.
Add the 2 cups of frozen vegetables. 
Press the meat and vegetable mixture into the bottom of the pie dish, or 8 X 8 baking dish and spoon the mashed potatoes over the top, be sure to spread evenly over the meat mixture to the edges of the dish. 
Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese.
Bake until heated through.  Approximately 30 minutes. 
At this time you can choose to broil the shepherd’s pie for 3 or 4 minutes to brown the top. (2 inches from the broiler) Depending on the kind of cheese I use I may or may not do this.  The cheese often creates a nice crispy crust on top without broiling, and also easily burns under the broiler.  Some cheeses fair better than others under the broiler.  If you choose not to use cheese, then I recommend broiling the pie until the top is browned. 
Here is what it looks like before going in the oven:


Here is what it looked like (YUM!) right out of the oven.  (I chose not to broil it this time –  I pre-made everything the Sunday night before so it made for a super easy dinner Monday night. I cooked all the different ingredients, assembled them and put the meat pie in the refrigerator.   My husband got home the following night,  preheated the oven and put it in for about 40 to 45 minutes.  It had been in the refrigerator for almost 24 hours and had chilled requiring some extra cook time.  Normally you would cook for about 30 minutes if cooked the day it is assembled.  It turned out to be an incredibly easy dinner done before 7 o’clock. )
 


Not only was it an easy week night dinner, I had some awesome leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Here's to a comforting Fall! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Comfort Food and Taking Care of Friends

I have a group of friends from my former work place that I always hope to stay in touch with.  Our common thread, among a few other things, is that we're all foodies in various and unique ways.  I guess you could say we're like the Foodie Wolf Pack of Eureka.  The Foodie Gang.  We roam the internet in search of restaurants and recipe's that are new and different.  We invent crazy recipes, cook them along with old favorites that come from our various family backgrounds.  We share them with each other and insist that others taste them as well.  We search the streets as we walk or drive around Eureka and Humboldt County for new restaurants to try.  We have our old favorites and new finds that we insist on sharing with each other and anyone else who is wiling to be pressured into joining us.  If we manage to catch on to something new and/or different, the pack is called out for the kill, or, actually just to go meet each other for a good meal to commiserate about our jobs and life and to make each other laugh a bit.

Unfortunately, recently one of the foodie crew was badly injured and had to have his jaw wired shut.  This is not a good thing for a foodie type person, especially the one of us who is an athlete and probably puts away 5000 calories a day and is still skinny as a rail.  Half of those calories are probably in Twinkies and Cheese Whiz on crackers, but I do know he also eats his fair share of good, delicious and healthy food as well.  So the foodie pack arose to action.  The artiste in the group came up with what sounds like a wonderful cheese and broccoli soup pureed for someone who can't open their mouth.  I never got a taste, but I trust from other dishes of his that I've had the honor of trying, that it was divinely delicious.  (I'll have to get him to share the recipe here on my blog.) Next was my turn.   I got the chance to jump on board with one of my favorite soups.  Mushroom soup.  I've been craving it, so what better excuse then to make a double batch of it to; one)  to feed our injured friend, and two) to treat my husband and I to this earthy, velvety heaven. (This is not the creepy canned gelatinous condensed stuff coming from the red and white can - this is simple homemade goodness)

If you'd like to give it a shot, along with my Mac and Cheese meat balls - read on.......

This recipe is adapted from Anthony Bourdain's recipe from his Le Halles Cookbook.
(Also available at Amazon)
This is my "doubled" version

12 tbsp butter (1 and a half sticks)
1 medium onion
1 large leek
24 ounces of mushrooms - I combined button, crimini and oyster
8 cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)
several sprigs of flat leaf parsely
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces good quality sherry (don't use the cooking sherry crap - yuck!)
This is what I used:
In a large sauce pan I melted 4 tablespoons of butter and added the onion and leek.  I cooked them until they were soft and then added the mushrooms and remaining butter (the nice thing is you don't have to chop the mushrooms, although I did chop the oyster mushrooms because they're a bit tough on the bottoms. )  You let the mixture cook for about 8 minutes (to sweat) on medium high, making sure the onions stay translucent and don't brown.  Stir in the 8 cups of chicken stock and add the sprigs of parsley and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.



After an hour allow the soup to cool, then puree in a blender in batches.  Do this carefully so you don't spray molten hot soup all over your kitchen and yourself.  Once blended return to the pot, season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a simmer and add the sherry.  You can serve immediately, but this soup is even tastier the next day.  Our injured friend liked it so much he was drinking it cold, straight out of the jar I brought to him.  I hope he took the time to try it warmed up a bit. It's even better warm.  




As I had said earlier, I doubled this so that I could share some with my husband for dinner, and also with a couple of the other foodie pack the next day.  (I like to feed people by the way)

My other half and I wanted something a little more than just soup for dinner.  I looked in the fridge.  Hmmm leftover blue box mac and cheese from dinner with my girls a couple of nights ago.  Cheddar cheese that had been sliced for sandwiches for our lunches.  Eggs.  A partial onion, and best of all hamburger from Pixie's Loleta Meat Market.  Local and delicious!  (Best burger meat EVER! If you live in Humboldt go see her for some hamburger and sausages.  They're the best!)
We took that fine hamburger (2 1b's.) and mixed in onion( about one small one finely chopped),  an egg, salt and pepper to taste.  We stuffed it with the blue box mac and cheese, topped the mac with bits of cheddar cheese and sprinkled it with a touch of allspice.  We formed this into balls and baked them in a 325 degree (convect bake) oven for 25 minutes.  (You should probably go with 350 on a non convect oven.)



Molten cheesy balls of love!  These things turned out to be some awesome comfort food!

 A most delicious dinner, and a great way to use up left over mac and cheese.  We served up Mushroom Soup, Mac and Cheese Meat Balls and a green salad topped with Russian Dressing.  We ended the night in a happy little food coma.
Happy Eating!





Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Mom's Cutting Board

This was my mom's cutting board.  It's older than I am.  My brother, who is 15 years older than me, made it for her when he was in grade school.  Even though I hated him at the time, soon after the death of both of my parents, he insisted I have it.  I'm not sure why.  I do treasure it though, and every time I find it in the dishwasher I have a panic attack.  Don't get me wrong, I still use it, but it's too precious to be anything but hand washed.  The back side of it has been used so much that it's indented.  It's like touching a piece of history, it's like being able to touch my mother across time.  I'm not sure why that's important to me, as my mother often weighs on my mind in a negative way.  She never had much faith in my ability to cook, and when ever I did succeed ,and she witnessed the success, she always seemed shocked.  I guess it's her lack of faith that spurred me on.  My desire to prove her wrong has made me succeed.  I will never be able to make a successful pie dough, because she made the perfect pie dough and has convinced me that I never will, but there are so many other things I can do that she would have never attempted.  Mole sauce from scratch, a daunting task, even for most Mexican's, at least from what I've been told.  I can make it, and have done so successfully.  Coq a vin, yes I can do that.  Quite simple actually.  I have made corned beef from scratch.  With the help of my husband I have made homemade pastrami, sauerkraut, mustard, and rye bread.  I have ventured into charcuterie and made duck prosciutto.  I have brined and smoked a chicken over charcoal by myself.  I've made birria stew, canned tuna and chutney of various kinds, baked pies, bread, cakes and much more.  So many things she would never have ventured into; things she didn't know existed.  Somehow she created this passion with her doubt, and somehow, I not only say "I told you I can cook", but I also share it with her through this silly little cutting board.  Her doubt created a passion, that not only makes me a pretty good cook, but it keeps me alive in times of despair.  When my heart is breaking, the kitchen, the hearth, is my safe place and cooking is my therapy.  There have been times when my creations have been destroyed, out of anger.  When this happens, it tears a hole in my heart.  I can't explain why.  I can't explain why food is so important to me.  It's way beyond nourishment.  It's way beyond nurturing for me.  It's an existence.  I need to cook to survive.  Not to just eat the food, but to create it.  To have that taken away would kill me.  So I shall continue to cook and create and I will never let anyone take that away from me.  I will continue to chop on that little wooden duck until the day I die.