Alfredo sauce, by sharon

January 18, 2010

I’ll admit it, I’ve been a sucker.  I don’t know why, but for years and years I’ve been buying Alfredo sauce in jars.  I’ve been under the impression that Alfredo sauce is difficult to make.  But no more!  I have thrown off the shackles and seen the light.  And the light is made of cream, butter, and cheese.

The other day, I was poking around my kitchen.  I had some leftover cooked pasta, but C had eaten the rest of the meatballs and tomato sauce.  I spied some heavy cream that I bought for another batch of tomato soup, looked over and saw butter, checked the drawer and found a block of Parmesan.  Of course, I had garlic waiting on the counter because I always make sure to have a head of garlic around.

And I figured, today is the day I try this.  I poked around online and found a few basic recipes and they all seemed pretty easy.  Basically, it involved simmering the cream and butter for a few minutes before adding the garlic, cheese, and seasonings.  But decided to add the garlic to the butter and cook it for a bit because I didn’t want too strong of a raw garlic flavor.  The following amounts made enough sauce for a large, entree-sized single serving or a side dish for 2 people.

1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and fresh cracked pepper
parsley

In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add minced garlic and allow to sauté briefly before adding the cream.  Simmer the cream (do NOT boil) for approximately 5 minutes before adding the cheese and whisking to mix.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss with pasta and sprinkle with parsley.

And it was THAT EASY.  I will never never never buy Alfredo sauce again. EVER.  I’m sorry to say that C wasn’t home for this creation, and she was awfully mad that she missed out since Alfredo is her favorite way to eat pasta.  And I’m glad I made it the real way at least once—full fat and all.  Now if I try to tweak any ingredients I’ll know how it should taste.

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Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken with Dilled Orzo, by sharon

October 19, 2009

I made this over a month ago for my anniversary dinner, and it was such a hit that I decided to make it again. Originally found in a copy of EveryDay Food, I (as per usual) tweaked it more to my taste.  That means more garlic and more lemon!

Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken with Dilled Orzo

Ingredients:
1 chicken, cut into 10 pieces
3 lemons, quartered
8-10 cloves of garlic, smashed
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup dried orzo
1/2 teaspoon dried dill

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If you’ve purchased a chicken already cut into pieces, you’re almost done. Using a large, sharp knife, cut each chicken breast in half horizontally. This makes all the pieces almost equal size, which is what allows them to cook quickly and evenly.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss chicken, lemon and garlic cloves with a teaspoon (I used a little more) of olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Arrange skin side up.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until evenly browned and cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, bring a pot of water to boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente. Drain and return to pan. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive and dried dill.

Serve chicken pieces arranged over the orzo.  I highly suggest you drizzle some of the pan juices over everything as well.

While the chicken was cooking, I made roasted carrots underneath. Easy peasy: chop some carrots. Toss them on a rimmed baking sheet with a teaspoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, and ground thyme. Roast at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes, shaking once or twice while cooking.

chicken


Creamy Tomato Soup

October 18, 2009

Soup

I love a good tomato soup.  And even though I’ll still crack open a can of Campbell’s and be happy enough, I much prefer a heartier version. In fact, Le Madeline’s sells some in a jar that is pretty good. But you know, that can get expensive. Especially as often as I want soup.

Now that my blender is all fixed, I thought now would be the perfect time to give this a shot. And this recipe from Martha Stewart (shut up) seemed like a winner.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (I used 4 because I like garlic)
2 14-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes (I got the kind with basil in it, since my store didn’t have fresh basil)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 heavy cream

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring constantly, until translucent about 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and their juices and the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer tomato mixture to blender (put a towel over the lid) and puree until smooth.

Return soup to a clean pot and set over low heat. Whisk in cream and heat through.  I tasted it at this point and added some more salt and pepper, along with a dash of ground thyme. It needed more salt than I expected, but the cream probably had something to do with that.

If you have some leftover and you want to reheat it, do NOT do it in a microwave. This will break the cream and it will be really gross. Heat gently over low or medium low.

I made a grilled cheese sandwich to go with this and it was fantastic!!


Cheater Pulled Pork, by sharon

October 15, 2009

You know what? One might think that as much as I love barbecue, my living in Texas would make me a really happy, satisfied person. But it doesn’t.  I just don’t like Texas barbecue that much. It’s too smoky, too dependant on beef and brisket and . . . well it’s not my cup of tea (or bottle of sauce, as it were).  And speaking of sauce, I don’t like Texas sauce.

Which I suppose means that I prefer Georgia or Carolina barbecue.  Maybe. What I like is my dad’s barbecue and I don’t have a clue what regional affiliation he might be going for. He’s from Florida, there’s just no telling.

Anyway, the purpose of this is to say that even though I live where I live, I don’t get to eat the kind of barbecue I like. And what I really like, more than anything, is pulled pork. And that is reallly hard to find in super beef-eating Texas.

So it seems obvious that I should make it myself. However, I don’t have a grill and the smoker I was given is sitting at Molly’s house because my porch is way too tiny for something like that. What’s a girl to do?

The answer? CHEAT like it’s going out of style and use a Crock Pot.

I looked around online for how to do it and found a few different answers. But the basic answer seemed to be to rub the meat with some spices, let it sit for 2-3 days in the fridge, put it in the Crock Pot for 10 hours, shred, eat. Well, okay. I can do that.

I called my dad for a few pointers. After he was done laughing at me for trying to do something like this without wood chips and/or a fire, he told me two very important things:
1) Throw in a little liquid smoke or you’ll be sorry
2) The meat has to reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees or it won’t shred properly.

So I went to the store and found a 6-pound, bone-in pork butt. I was looking for a boneless pork butt or a pork shoulder, but that’s all the store at the front of my neighborhood had. It’s pork, I figured it would be fine.

I threw together what looked like some good spices: a little brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne. I mixed all that in a bowl and then rubbed it into the meat. Then I wrapped the meat securely in plastic wrap (like 3 times around), and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 days. I could have let it sit another day, but I was getting a little impatient, honestly.

I woke up early one morning and dug out my Crock Pot. I poured 1/4 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of liquid smoke into the bottom of the liner, set the meat inside, turned it on low, and popped the lid on. And then I went right back to bed.

Some time later, I wondered if the pork was done. It hadn’t been 10 hours, but I was curious anyway. So I got my handy meat therometer (the kind with a cord that plugs into an alarm/sensor, I love it so much) and poked the meat. Voila! It was just over 200 degrees!

I took the meat out to cool and contemplated the juices and liquid left behind. I threw them out, but only because I intended to toss the meat with sauce when I reheated it. If I hadn’t, I would have cooled and skimmed the liquid to keep around for moistening the meat.

Once the meat was cool enough to handle, I grabbed my giant cutting board and started pulling hunks off of the . . . bigger hunk. I shredded all the meat with two forks, discarding any fat, and threw it all back into the (cleaned) Crock Pot liner.

Shredded and Waiting for Sauce

Then I grabbed a bowl and mixed a couple of barbecue sauces I had on hand. One was a vinegary sauce, the other was a dark, sweet concoction that almosted tasted like candy. I played around until I got the balance I liked, and poured it over the meat in the Crock Pot. That went back on low while I made my potato salad to go with it.

And it was gooooood. The gf came home from work and pretty much lost her mind at the smell that was wafting through the apartment. We made Pulled Pork sandwiches and ate potato salad and watched stupid tv. And I finally got my barbecue!

sandwich macro


THE potato salad, by sharon

April 19, 2009

Finally, after many people asking me over the years, “How did you MAKE that?” after tasting my potato salad, I am putting the recipe up.  This is slightly adapted from my father’s recipe, who got it from his friend Janice.  It is legendary, both in my household growing up and to anyone who has ever tried it.

One of the reasons it’s so good, I think, is that it gets rid of the things that most people don’t like about potato salad.  The most common complaints I’ve heard (and given) about standard potato salad is texture (too runny); flavor (too sweet); and the sometimes not appreciated addition of onion or relish.

Well, this recipe gets rid of all those problems and I guarantee that if potato salad isn’t usually your thing, this might change your mind.  Now, this isn’t an exact recipe because I’ve never bothered to measure things.  I know how it should be and I make it so.

For a decent party-sized batch (or enough to keep around for a few days), start with 5-6 baking potatoes.  Red potatoes would also work well.  Peel the potatoes (unless they’re red potatoes) and chop them into large cubes.  Rinse and boil with salt, a healthy dash of Tony Chacheres, and a tiny splash of crab boil (if you have any).  Boil the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork, but no longer.  You want them to keep their shape, not turn into mashed potatoes.

Boil a dozen eggs and peel them.  Cut all the eggs in half and place the yolks into a separate bowl.  Chop the whites roughly and set aside.

While all this is going on, fry up some bacon (about a half pound).  Since it’s all going to be crumbled anyway, I cut the bacon into pieces with some kitchen shears (easier than chopping) and throw it into a pan to cook.  This is easier than standing over a hot stove flipping bacon.  Just stir it around until it’s evenly browned, then remove with a slotted spoon to some paper towels to drain.

Mash the egg yolks with a fork and add 1/2 – 3/4 cups mayonnaise, 1/4 – 1/2 cups sour cream (or plain yogurt), 1-2 tablespoons yellow mustard, and 1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.  Mix well.  This incorporates the egg yolks evenly throughout the potato salad and makes for a better tasting dressing.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  You want this to taste a little strong, since it has to cover the potatoes and eggs (which are, for the most part, unseasoned).

I like to mix this up in batches, ensuring even distribution of ingredients without squashing the potatoes to all hell.  Pour a third of the potatoes, egg whites and bacon into your serving bowl, add a third of the dressing, and mix.  Continue to do this until you’ve used all the ingredients.  If you find you want more dressing, just mix more mayonnaise, sour cream, and mustard together with the seasonings and fold that into the salad.

This is good warm or cold, and of course just gets better the next day.  I made this today to serve with my Crock Pot Pulled Pork (another good dish) and it was a total success.

DSCN1112

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Dad’s Roast Beef, by sharon

March 22, 2009

I called my father yesterday for this recipe because 1) I love it and 2) it’s another thing that freezes really well. So here it is:

Dad’s Roast Beef

Ingredients:
a roast
salt
pepper
2 packs of brown gravy mix
Italian dressing (optional)

Again, I realize I’m being vague with the ingredients. Dad told me to get sirloin tip roast with the cap off, but then he said that because of the cooking method it wouldn’t really matter. So I got 2 small rump roasts. It’s way cheaper and I just tasted it, it’s perfectly fine.

Method:

If you want, marinate the meat in the Italian dressing overnight. You can do this right in the roasting pan. I did not use the Italian dressing method this time for a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t make it to the store until this morning. Two, it gives the meat a tangy flavor. While I LOVE love this flavor when this recipe is used for sandwiches, I prefer not using it if I’m doing this as a main dish. It’s up to you.

Get one of those big roasting pans with a lid. The kind they sell at WalMart for $12, you know, they’re usually blue with white speckles on them. Put the meat in there. Slap a little salt and pepper all over the meat if you didn’t marinate it. Roast the meat, lid on, at 220 degress for 7-8 hours. And that’s it. I swear. Don’t mess with it, don’t turn it over. Just leave it in there as your house starts smelling good and random dogs start howling.

When it’s done, remove the meat to a plate and let it cool. I poured the drippings into a bowl, stirred in some ice cubes, and let the juice sit in the freezer for about 30 minutes. That allowed the fat to rise to the top so I could skim it off and throw it into the garbage can. Not the sink. I know I gave this warning in the recipe for Chicken and Dumplings, but it bears repeating. Do not put fat down the sink. It will harden and clog your pipes. Okay, I’m done.

Once you’ve skimmed the fat, pour the juice into a large pot. I had a lot of meat, so I made a lot of gravy. I added about 1 1/2 cups of water, a dash of Kitchen Bouquet, and then whisked in the gravy mix. Then I brought the gravy to a boil. It wasn’t getting thick enough, so I made a slurry of cornstarch and water and whisked that in while the gravy was boiling. Then I cut up the meat and added it to the gravy. Okay, I sliced some of the meat and then the rest started falling apart because it’s VERY tender so I just went with it and let it do its thing.

I’m serving this with rice (because I LOVE rice and gravy, especially left over the next day) and peas. And I’m freezing half of the meat and gravy to use in a week or so. This is my new thing — freezing food for future dinners. And I would like to point out my lovely alliteration in the previous sentence.

And here is a picture of the complete meal:

Pot Roast

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Braised short ribs, by sharon

January 13, 2009

Molly and I haven’t cooked together in a long while, so I sent her this recipe and she came over yesterday so we could try it.  It was pretty good.  We both agree that either there was a tad too much thyme or it could have used more tomato paste, but it was still quite tasty.  The smell while it was cooking was amazing, and I knew it would be hard to sit around and deal with that for three hours, so I made some deviled eggs to munch on in the meantime.  We also had a green salad with a vinaigrette I made with white wine vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, and olive oil.  Good dinner!!

braised-ribs