Sunday, August 23, 2015

Welcome To...
Another Episode of... 
What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen!

I have had only a few rare opportunities to cook substantially since my return to the school year, so the event and the couple of recipes I am talking about today have been extremely fun and therapeutic for someone who misses his kitchen during busy work times like one does a special loved one.  My goal this year is to prep cook-ahead meals, such as the roast featured above, to slice to use for sandwiches.  I also prepped a potato and egg pie with bacon, cheese, green chiles and jalapenos for breakfasts at work or for lunches. Let's get to the roast and "brekky pie"  before the event. 

Pork Loin Roast seasoned and roasted over an onion bed with fresh herbs:
*Bring the roast to room temperature

1 pork loin roast, about 2 pounds
1 large yellow or white onion
fresh herbs (I used oregano and thyme, as I grow them in my potted patio garden)
coarse sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
garlic powder
3 tablespoons stone ground mustard

I used about 1.5 teaspoons of each of the dry seasonings and several sprigs of the fresh herbs and about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the stone ground mustard.  The more white wine in it, the better, I say!  

I simply rubbed the roast entirely with the dry seasonings, drizzled mustard on the flat bottom of the roast, then placed it atop the onion bed (just onion discs) with tongs, then drizzled more mustard to the top and sides of the roast.  I roasted the pork loin roast for 50 minutes at 375-degrees.  I removed it after that time, allowed it to rest about fifteen minutes.  It is very important to NOT slice into a turkey or a roast of any kind until the meat has "rested".  This allows the meat time to finish cooking, reduce in temperature which allows the juices to redistribute.  If you cut into it immediately, the juices run out onto your cutting board and it will be tougher than it needs to be. Rule of Thumb:  Let it rest.  

 When you do slice into it after about fifteen minutes, the meat will be juicy, not your cutting board.  That is exactly what you want; juicy, tender meat.  I used this for sandwiches last week and it was incredibly flavorful.  The oregano dried up which gave me a great idea for the next segment!


 Fresh Garden Herbs

I grow thyme, basil, sage and oregano in my herb garden container.  These are herbs I use weekly.  I am very upset, however, because my rosemary, which I grew from seeds and have had for years perished in the intense summer heat when we had 105-108-degree weather a few weeks back.  I will grow another next spring.  I do not have thyme featured above because I had used it on the pork loin roast I started off this post with.  It needs time to grow back.  In the  meantime, I harvested several of my plants.  By pinching plants back, you are also stimulating new growth.  You can wrap the herbs separately in moist paper towels and store them in zip- lock bag not completely sealed for upward of a week and keep them fresh.  Oregano, sage and thyme, however, you can let sit on a towel in a cupboard to naturally dry out, or, you can place them, washed, of course, on a piece of parchment paper and dehydrate them in the oven at 100-degrees for about three hours.  I prefer to just let them dry naturally, but, if you have a large, full in-ground herb garden that produces a great deal of foliage, the oven method would be quite preferable.  You could always tie them into bunches and hang them, foliage side down from some kind of indoor rafters, as they did in the old days.  

I love using fresh herbs as often as possible, but the great thing about using your own dried herbs is that you know where they have been, you know their quality and you control the environment.  
If you have any questions, hit me up here, on Twitter: @grnmn1 or on FB at my blog FB page:  In-House Cook!  Thanks!

Rustic Potato and Egg Breakfast Pie

As I mentioned in my introduction, I have decided to make breakfasts and lunches as often as I can to help alleviate my budget woes.  Yes, I have that, too.  I made an incredibly filling brekky pie.  This is a monstrosity and will take care of your breakfast needs for more than a week, so freezing in containers is strongly urged.  Let's get started.  Simple, though only slightly time-consuming, this dish will keep you full and you will not even think about lunch and you will dwell on the flavors all morning.  
Here is my starting line-up:
*3-4 large or 6 medium russet potatoes, washed but unpeeled, sliced into thin discs
12 eggs, cracked in a large bowl
1/4 cup pickled, sliced jalapenos
1/2 cup roasted, diced green chiles
1 cup parmesan cheese, halved
1 cup your favorite cheese (I used an Italian four cheese blend)
butter, non-stick spray 
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
chipotle or pasilla powder 
onion powder
half pound cooked bacon, crumbled, or half pound of sausage (I used bacon)

Note: *The number of potatoes used will also depend on the size of your oven-safe skillet or round baking dish!  I used a very large oven-safe skillet.  As you can see from the photo, I used 4 large russet potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.

Using a mandolin (mine broke, so I had to do this by hand), slice your potatoes into thin discs, but thicker than potato chips.  The potatoes make up the crust and need to hold up to the weight and moisture of the eggs and cheese and not get mushy. 

Butter the large skillet or whatever large baking dish or dishes you will be using, or, use a lot of non-stick spray on every surface your pie will be engaging.  Spray it again just before you add the potatoes.  Starting on one side of the skillet, begin laying the potato discs in a circular pattern, like scales, layering one partly over the other.  When you have the entire bottom of the skillet covered, it will be pretty beautiful (take a picture for you to share your good and hard work with your friends, which is what I did not do this time!) begin adding them to the sides of the skillet or baking dish, like shields.  

Crack all of the eggs, add a good teaspoon of both salt and pepper, half a palm full of chipotle or your favorite chile powder and a rounded half palm full of onion powder (or, finely chop a quarter of an onion) and whisk thoroughly.  Next, add the bacon, jalapenos and the roasted green chiles and stir to incorporate with a spoon or spatula to avoid pieces catching in the whisk. 

Now, drizzle evoo gently over the potatoes and add a little dusting of salt and pepper and half of the parmesan cheese.  Place the skillet into the oven for five minutes.  

Once removed, add the egg mixture to the large skillet carefully, so as not to disrupt the potato crust.  Top with the white cheese (as I said, I used a four-cheese Italian mix I bought at the store) and topped that with the remaining parmesan cheese.  

Place the skillet into the oven for exactly one hour.  Do not open the door until one hour has passed.  When you do open the oven door, your senses will be overwhelmed with aromas, and you will see a gorgeous golden brown pie.  Be careful removing it!  It will be heavy and, of course, extremely hot!!!  But this is what you will see....

 To make sure the pie is completely done, stick a chop stick or tooth pick (though tooth picks will only go half way down); if it comes out clean, the breakfast pie is done. Allow to rest for fifteen minutes, at least, before serving or slicing for future use. 

Here, however, is what it looks like when I decided to have some for lunch that day!  I added some mixed cheeses and pickled jalapenos.  Beware, this WILL cause droolage!!!

 As you can see from the side view above, the egg slips into those open spaces from the layering of the potato discs.  That is what you want!  I think I did good work this time. 

Breakfast, anyone???

How about a burger event???  That is next!!!  


The finale of this episode is a true In-House dinner event.  My dear friend, Anne, (pronounced like "Annie") and her mother asked me to cook dinner at her mother's newly remodeled kitchen.  I tell you, it was an amazing pleasure cooking in that pristine, gorgeous kitchen!  As you know, I have just a little tiny kitchen, so whenever I am asked to cook at someone's home who has a huge, fantastic kitchen, I feel like a kid in a chocolate store!  

 Not an extremely clear picture, but this is Anne and I,  besties. 

The menu for dinner at Anne's mom's was burgers. Her mother wanted to roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic (fantastic cooking idea and flavors!) and I made Italian Bistro Blue Cheese Burgers and traditional Caprese.  

I used one pound of lean ground beef, one pound of chuck and one pound of mild Italian sausage to feed 4 guests,two burgers each.   I asked Anne to finely chop red onion and garlic which I added to the meat, along with a half palm full of dried Italian seasoning and some fresh oregano and thyme from Mrs. B's garden. I threw in a half cup of grated parmesan cheese, as well. I mixed all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and scored the meat, as seen below. 

 Each burger was topped with blue cheese when cooking and topped with cooked-ahead pancetta discs I had purchased from my local butcher and sliced fresh. I formed the patties, cooked them in my cast iron skillet for even cooking, added the blue cheese once the burger had been flipped to allow it to soften and permeate the awesome salt and pepper crust of each burger. 

 Burgers and prepped dutch crunch buns at the ready!

Meanwhile, Anne sliced the tomatoes and the mozzarella to make the Caprese.  Next, she added extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.  My favorite salad!  I have to tell you, I made a drizzle for the Caprese, but I cannot for the life of me remember what was really in it, except for balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, evoo, salt and pepper and thyme. We had one traditional caprese, and one with my drizzle, which also went over the pancetta and blue cheese topped burgers.  

Now, I also fried up eggs, and Mrs. B showed me how she baked her potatoes.  She took out a full-sized muffin tin, cut potatoes into wedges and placed them in the muffin cups with whole clove peeled and crushed garlic and a sprig of fresh rosemary.  Evoo was drizzled over them and baked at 400-degrees for thirty minutes.  The aroma and flavors were simply incredible. 

Here is the final dish.  Great friends, fun conversation and drinks, good food, and folks simply a pleasure to cook for in true In-House Cook style.  Thank You for the invite, Mrs. B and Anne!

Thank You for joining me for another episode of What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen!  I have a fantastic pasta recipe, short and simple, to write up for you soon!  Stay tuned!

Now, go cook something for someone you love! 

*Sorry folks, thought I had edited very well, but upon reading after publishing, I found some glaring things to fix.  I hope I have done so.  Thank you for your patience!  Martin


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pork Chow Mein with Egg

It is the end of the month, and, as I have talked about before, as a teacher, I get paid once a month.  My usual motus operandi is to splurge at the beginning of the month, then create and enjoy pantry meals at the end of it.  This is one of those dishes.  I had been craving Chinese food, but I was exhausted and I just did not want to drive to the other side of my town (and to be fair, I live in a pretty small town, so it was me being lazy) to my favorite Chinese take-out restaurant.  Therefore, I decided to make my own.  I love pork fried rice and pork or chicken chow mein.  Having had pork thawing in the frig, and no rice, I decided to combine the two.  I  made chow mein with items I had on hand in my frig and pantry.  This was a one-wok dish and I am a bit proud of it. 

I have been hearing about one-pot wonder dishes, but many of them take a slow-cooker all day to make some pretty amazing dishes.  I was hungry and did not want to take hours to do it.  I experimented, and this dish came out very well.  May not look as pretty as I could have made it, and I know what I will do very differently next time to make the aesthetics more appealing, but in flavor, this was awesome, and as you know, I do not often "toot my own horn" about my own dishes.  I'd rather let others do that, if they are at all going to.  

Let's get started.  Dudes, if you want to impress your date with your culinary prowess, this is a great one!  Your date may think you just went to the take out, but you can honestly say you made this meal in about thirty minutes in one pan or wok all by yourself.  Here is what I did, to get you started.  
I used half of a bag of frozen varied colored slivered bell peppers.  I coarsely chopped one large onion, and slivered four cloves, garlic. I took half a pound (or, package) of angel hair pasta and broke them in half.  I set aside the following:

3 eggs, whisked
1 pound diced pork dark meat (from the shoulder)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup Tamari Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon chili in garlic oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon evoo
1 tablespoon fresh-frozen grated ginger (I keep the bulbs in my freezer)
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
 1 rounded teaspoon of tamarind paste (I love the tart sweet taste)

Pork seasoning before cooking:
1 rounded teaspoon coarse sea salt
 1.5 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin, or cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

I began by adding half of the garlic chips and a pinch of cumin seed to the toasted sesame oil and evoo over low heat in my wok.  You could easily use a high-sided saute skillet/pan.  The garlic and cumin infuse the oil in the wok with their oils, causing an amazing fragrance to emerge in your kitchen. 

Once the garlic chips begin to sizzle, I add (and all of my stir fry dishes start out this way, by-the-way), I add a half teaspoon of the chili in garlic oil and stir.  After two  minutes, I remove the garlic chips and set aside.  In this case, I then brought the oil to elevated heat over medium-high, added the seasoned pork and began to saute it, tossing the pork around in the oil to evenly coat it with the intensely flavorful oil.  Once it began to caramelize, I added the onions and tossed it around for a few minutes to also coat the onions with the increasingly flavorful oil.  Next, I added the pepper and repeated, just for a couple of minutes.  Finally, I moved the pork and veg to the sides of the wok and added the chicken stock, soy and sriracha sauce and stirred it briskly over high heat.  I added the halved angel hair pasta to the center and allowed it cook, or boil, for five minutes under my watchful eye before I incorporated the rest and tossed it for several more minutes.  I reduced the heat to medium and allowed it to simmer briskly for seven minutes more, tossing every couple of minutes.


Now, I elevated the heat to high, added the whisked eggs and tossed continuously as the egg solidified onto the pasta, pork and veg.  This took several minutes of continuous tossing.  Great for working out the arms!  I used tongs for this, you a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula works just fine.  (I know this, as I tried to find the best utensil to use; I found the tongs worked best, but the others were fine).  

I served simply, with only coarsely chopped cilantro and almond slivers in an udon bowl.  Simple, flavorful and filling!  Who could ask for more?  Dudes and Ladies who want to impress their dates, I tell you, this is so easy to do!  The only chopping is the onion and garlic!!!  So easy and flavorful!  And, one wok or high-sided skillet, cutting board and utensils for easy clean-up afterward!  I hope you try this, families or singles!  Great for a family week day or weekend meal for families on the go!  

As always, Thank You for your time and consideration!  
Now, Go Cook Something for someone you  love!!!




Puerto Rican Pollo Fake Out Tostadas

Have you ever started a dish with a very particular result in mind but, it takes a completely unexpected but pleasantly surprising turn?  That was this dish.  I have made Puerto Rican Chicken with Spaghetti several times before, I have even blogged it, so if you are interested in That recipe, please feel free to search for it as it is Really good!  This dish started out just like Puerto Rican Chicken with Spaghetti just like it usually does, very fragrant and rich, but, as I said, it took me on quite a journey, two days! and it was, from a culinary sense, more than a wonderful learning experience, it was fantastic!  I will get to that in a minute.  Let's get started on the recipe.  I will tell you why it took the turn that it did very shortly. 

1 package six boneless/skinless chicken thighs*
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 12-16 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 palm full (or one rounded tablespoon) smoked paprika
4 slices thick cut bacon,chopped, or, one package pork Chorizo
1 teaspoon cumin seed or ground cumin
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh or dry
1 large teaspoon dried or fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons chipotle powder 
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons pasilla powder
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar

In a large dutch oven, add the bacon to a slight drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) to start the dish off.  As the bacon fat renders, add about a teaspoon of chipotle powder to the bacon.  Stir and mix well to incorporate.  When the fat has rendered a bit more than half way, strain half of the fat and remove the bacon. 

Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs* with the garlic powder, onion powder, part of the remaining chipotle powder, salt and pepper, some of the oregano  thyme, some of the smoked paprika and cumin seed. *I ground the cumin and coriander seeds with a little coarse sea salt, pepper and dried oregano to allow the herbs and spices to release their fragrances in my little mortar and pestle.  Now, add the chicken, de-boned side down first, and sear for three minutes, until it gets a good caramelization. The idea is to sear it, get some color on it, but it will finish off braising in the sauce a little later. Be mindful that, if the thigh does not turn when you are ready to, it has not yet released enough sugars to do so, so be patient; it will turn easily when it is ready. Once the chicken thighs have finished searing, remove them. 

Next, add the quarter cup of red or white wine vinegar to deglaze the pot.  Scrape those burnt on bits with a wooden spoon and stir it in.  This is all amazing flavor!  Careful, though, the vinegar can be a bit overpowering and will clear out your sinuses!!!  

Once you have deglazed the pot, add the onion and and little salt and saute for four or so minutes.  Once the onion begins to soften and turn translucent, add the garlic and saute about three minutes, stirring occasionally.  The aroma will be hypnotizing, I tell you!  Now, add the two canned tomato products and also incorporate those completely.  

 Add the remaining spices and chicken stock and bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Stir thoroughly to incorporate the plethora of ingredients, then reduce the heat to medium. Snuggle in the seared chicken and bacon bits and bring the thickening sauce to a boil. 

 Once the sauce boils, reduce the heat to low, add fresh herbs, mostly cover the pot, allowing a little steam to escape, and simmer over low for two hours.*

*Here is where the dish takes a turn into adventure-land.  The original recipe calls for skin-on, bone-in chicken legs and thighs, but, I did not have that on hand, but I did have the boneless/skinless thighs, so I used those instead. You would season and sear the legs and thighs, as I did above, with the chicken, set aside, and snuggle them into the sauce and simmer.  What happened during the simmering, braising process is, the boneless-skinless chicken thighs became so tender that they practically fell apart by themselves in the thick, aromatic sauce.  As it braises, the chicken stock reduces and thickens the sauce into a salsa. The acids of the vinegar and the tomatoes reduce and creates a rich, thick, intensely flavorful salsa.  What I was left with was basically a chicken, Pollo Salsa.  Immediately, my brain told me that the spaghetti part was out.  It was not going to be presentable.  It was also eleven at night, and my mind was mush.  I decided to sleep on it.

Next morning, I knew exactly where this dish was taking me, and then, I challenged myself.  It was going to be a tostada.  But I did not want to make traditional bean frijoles.  I have gotten a bit bean pureed out recently, since the Budget Pantry Meals in June.  My challenge was to change it up, make it a bit healthier than bean frijoles.  I went with hominy, or, garbanzo beans, which I had several cans of in my pantry.  Here is how I progressed with it. 

Hominy Frijoles Ingredients:
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and stemmed
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
2 12-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed in a colander
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika

In an oven-safe skillet tossed in evoo and salt and pepper, I roasted the aromatics and chile for 15 minutes at 400-degrees. I allowed them to cool while I added the strained and rinsed garbanzo beans to my mom's old 1970s food processor she gave me recently.  I added the spices, the roasted veg, about a quarter cup of mixed flat-leaf Italian parsley and cilantro, evoo and pulse processed until it was fairly smooth.  I wanted it to have some texture, unlike a hummus. Here is a photo essay of this process. 


You can see it has texture, like frijoles. 

The ending steps are extremely simple and tasty!  I simply took a store-bought tostada tortilla, slathered on my hominy no-cook frijoles, topped with the pollo salsa (what was supposed to be pasta sauce, ergo the "fake out" part!), top with cheese, cilantro and serve!  Yes, that is it!  Of course, being a pantry meal, I was out of traditional toppings such as shredded cabbage and finely sliced radish.  Next time.  And yes, I will be making this again!  I really enjoyed the surprised this dish had in store for me. This is one of those dishes where I surprised myself, too.  

I feel like I can confidently say:  "I done good".  


Thank You for your time and consideration!  Now, please go cook something fun for someone you love!