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
paprika
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!

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 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!

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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!!!  

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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