Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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

Toward the end of September, I was feeling a bit like Old Mother Hubbard; my cupboards were bare.  Embarrassingly bare!  I had a small bowl full of red baby new potatoes and a package of two bone-in pork chops available, along with three eggs and a partially consumed box of Cheez Its TM.  Since payday was the next day, and my cupboards and freezer would soon be full, I got a bit creative. I added some dried thyme leaves and the pinch of dried oregano I'd had left, a little salt and pepper and two cups of the Cheddar Cheez Its to my food processor and created a darn good coating for the pork chops, if I do not say so, myself!  Don't judge until you have had this....it really is good!  I was completely surprised!

I set up a dredging station, seasoned the chops lightly with salt and pepper, dipped it into the egg wash, coated it with the crusty mix, and fried the chops in vegetable oil over medium-hih heat. 

I fried one chop at a time until golden brown and finished them off low and slow in a 250-degree oven on a wire rack over a baking pan. 
In the meantime, I grated the baby new potatoes (tedious process when they are that small), added onion and garlic powder, half a teaspoon of each, to the fresh potato hash, and added one last egg to it.  I hand mixed the ingredients and formed little potato patties and fried them in a separate skillet also with about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  I was able to make ten little (half dollar sized) potato crisps, or, patties, which I'd dried on paper towels on a rack to drain the excess oil. This helps to keep them crispy. 
By having the chops finish low and slow in a barely hot oven, they were fully cooked, moist on the inside and still crispy on the outside.  Best of all worlds!
I served two chops with fresh sage garnish and two potato crisps.  For an extreme budget pantry meal, this was good!  
 Thank You AGAIN for your visit, your consideration and time!  These are all extremely important things, and I appreciate your spending them with me for a bit! 
Now!  Go cook something for someone you love!

Seared Chicken with Fusili and Fresh Veg and Herb Pasta Sauce

There are times when one just wants it all, both meat and pasta with a killer fresh sauce, not a jarred or canned sauce.  I am especially proud of this dish because it is a one-pot-wonder.  Sure cuts down on the number of dishes you have to clean later!  This will feed a family of four on a budget a healthy and filling meal, also great for lunch leftovers. Let's get started!

Chicken Seasoning:
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 teaspoons palm-crushed dried oregano 
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
salt and pepper, about a teaspoon each

Season four-to-six boneless, skinless chicken thighs on both sides and set aside to come to room temperature. Add a good two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet and sear about four minutes per side. Place on a wire rack over a baking pan and finish at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes in the oven. Remove and allow to rest. After ten minutes, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. 

Fresh Pasta Sauce Ingredients:
1 red onion, sliced into slivers
2 pints halved grape or cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper
fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley and torn fresh basil (about a half cup, together)
fresh or dried oregano and thyme (about two teaspoons of each)
1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or wine (I use Cento, my favorite!)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped

 I went a little backwards, but I wanted to get you excited about the pasta sauce and how fresh it all it and to let you know we do not want to cook it down to a puddle; we want it chunky and fresh, almost putanesca style. More on the sauce in just a little bit!

Before the sauce goes into the pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a roiling boil.  Add a generous amount of salt to the water (it is the only chance you get to season the pasta) and add a box or package of short fusili pasta to the water.  Boil/cook the pasta to just before al dente (just before done).  Strain it in a colander and let it sit for a few moments.  

Immediately add the 3-4 tablespoons of evoo to the pot and add the onion and garlic over medium-high heat.  Add a little salt to onions to help them "sweat out" and release their sugars.  Add the halved tomatoes and herbs and stir after about three or four minutes to the onions and garlic, which, by  now, should be incredibly fragrant! 

After five minutes of stirring and simmering over the medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pasta.  Toss the pasta and the veggies together constantly to coat all of it with those fresh flavors.  Note:  I added a second round, but not as much of it, of the fresh herbs to add a bit more fresh Italian flavors.  I also added a hand full of grated pecorino romano, which is great for a pasta toss. 

After a good five minutes of tossing and heating, the pasta will be ready to be served on a plate or a bowl, topped with some of the chicken, garnished with fresh herbs and cheese.  

 One more, you ask for?  Sure!

 Thank You again for your time and consideration!  I hope you enjoy this simple, fragrant, flavorful and extremely easy pasta dish!  
Now, go cook something for someone you love! 

Breakfast of Champions

Okay, I do not know about champions, but this breakfast is a champion, if I have ever eaten one. I fried up 8 slices of bacon to start with, saved the rendered bacon grease for another day, then added herb infused extra virgin olive oil leftover from pizza night the previous night and sauteed leftover red onion and red pepper slivers. I added a splash of white wine and balsamic vinegar.  I simmered low and slow for a good thirty minutes before serving it with micro greens and goat cheese.  

I have fallen in love with my parmesan crusted eggs and served them in this delicious breakfast sammy.  I simply add about 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese to the skillet over medium heat, crack open my egg over it and immediately use a spatula to keep it from spreading far.  I try to get to the egg to surround the plate of cheese.  I add another generous amount of parmesan to the top of the egg and, when the egg is ready to release, I easily can flip it over low and close to the skillet.  Not an Olympic skill, but it is important to keep the cheese and the egg together.  I add the cheese to the top of the egg so it assimilates into the egg white, making it easier to keep the cheese and the egg together. 

To serve, I simply toasted the English muffins I'd separated, added grated fontina cheese to one of the halves, topped it with an egg, added bacon to the egg and gave the other muffin half a splash of stone ground mustard (I love it!) and topped the sammy.  I served the sauteed veg with micro greens and crumbled goat cheese with dots of sriracha for dipping.  

 But what if you want to serve a loved one a breakfast to remember?  Just to show your love and appreciation?  I have just the simple breakfast for you!

 Simply cut out a heart from the center of a piece of toast.  Just like you are going to make grilled cheese sandwiches, add a little butter to a skillet, add the bread and crack and egg into the heart shape.  Allow it to cook as the bread crusts.  Flip it carefully and allow the same process.  This takes about five minutes per piece of egg toast.  I serve with fresh fruit and fresh ground seasoned sausage (love fennel and sage sausage with red pepper flakes).  I garnish with fresh herbs (finely chopped basil is shown above).   

So many ways to show someone you love, a significant other, a child, a friend....just how much you appreciate their contribution to your life. 

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

In-House Cook's Lasagna Rolls, Lasagna, and In-House Cook's Bacon Bacon Cheeseburgers!!!

Two QuaranDinners Terrible play on words, but I wanted to share with you all a couple of simple dinners to bust your taste buds.  Fi...