24 December 2011

Steak & Potatoes

Every once in a while I feel a need to impress with something incredibly tasty yet simple. "Simple" means few ingredients and minimal prep time, and by "impress" I mean all pieces can be put out to eat at the same time while hot, and I can still talk while putting it all together. Because some nights, just chilling out maxing, relaxing all cool with someone over a killer meal and a few glasses [sic] of pinot noir (btw, thanks Charlie and Jenny for that bottle of La Crema!) is the best gift of all.
Notes on short cuts and timing:
1) I got the small bag of prepped green beans from Wegmans -- the kind where all you have to do is microwave them to steam them. Major time saver right there. 
2) Put the cast iron skillet onto the bottom rack of the oven so you can preheat that while the potatoes roast. 
3) Also, put the steak out while that's happening so it can come up to room temperature while the potatoes roast. 
4) Start cooking the steak when there's 10 minutes left on the potatoes, because...
5) After the steak is done, you need to rest it for 5ish minutes. While the steak rests, prepare the green beans. 
6) Take the taters out, season the beans, and serve the steak all at the same time!

Roasted Potatoes

1 lb red potatoes, cubed so pieces are about the same size (i like 1-2 bite size pieces) 
1 tbsp canola oil
about 1 tbsp Montreal steak seasoning, or enough to lightly coat the potatoes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil (so you don't have to clean the pan later). Arrange the potatoes on it in a single layer, and drizzle with the canola oil. Make sure that they're evenly coated with the oil - you may need to use your hands. Sprinkle with the steak seasoning and just a LITTLE more salt (there's salt in the steak seasoning). Place in oven and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring/flipping so it browns evenly every 10 minutes. They're done when they're fork tender. 

Pan Seared Ribeye Steak
adapted from Alton Brown

2 ribeye steaks, about 1-1 1/2" thick
canola oil
Special equipment: cast iron frying pan big enough to hold steaks

(If you followed the hints, the cast iron skillet should already be preheating in the oven and the steaks are at room temperature now.) Take the pan out of the oven and place on the range over high heat. 

Pat the steaks dry with a paper napkin. Brush oil onto each side of the steak. Generously sprinkle with salt and then grind some pepper onto it. 

Place steaks on the skillet and cook for 30 seconds without moving. Use tongs to turn them to the other side and cook another 30 seconds. Put entire pan back into oven and cook for 2 more minutes. Flip one more time and cook 2 more minutes. 

Remove steaks from pan and allow to rest for about 5 minutes for juices to redistribute. 

NOTE: this is for rare-medium rare done-ness, which, btw, is THE way to eat steak. Well done? Hellz no. If you MUST have medium, add 1 more minute on each side when steak is in the oven.

Lemon Parmesan Green Beans

1 small pack of green beans
1/4 lemon
parmesan cheese
few grinds of red pepper flakes (optional)

Steam the green beans according to the package directions. Drain out the water, then place into a bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon and add about 1/4 tsp of the zest into the beans. Grate some parmesan cheese -- however much floats your boat. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of the red pepper flakes if you like spicy, and toss. 

21 December 2011

scallops au gratin

Christmas is around the corner, yay! My tree is up and pretty. Cookies are baked. Parties are in full swing so I'm seeing lots of friends and family. It really is the most wonderful time of year.

The Christmas party I went to over this past weekend was with The Girls (check out Jenn's blog), and we went for an Italian theme -- Feast of the Seven Fishes. Sure it's normally celebrated on Christmas Eve, but hey we made it work. This time of year is about friends and family being together, right, so got that part down pat! There were mussels and baked salmon and crab dip and ceviche and a shrimp pasta and tons of cookies and desserts. My contribution to this potluck was baked scallops, or scallops au gratin. I saw Ina Garten make it on Food Network once and finally got my chance to make it.
Instead of the bay scallops Ina used, I used giant (10 per pound count) sea scallops. I didn't write down the quantities of the ingredients before I left my house for Jenn's, so I kinda winged it. I wish I'd baked a bit shorter and then broiled them longer for a crisper crust (recipe reflects that change), but it still turned out great!

Scallops Au Gratin
adapted from Ina Garten

12 big scallops
6 tbs butter, softened
5 small cloves garlic, minced
2 small cloves shallots, minced
2 or 3 slices proscuitto, diced
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 C panko bread crumbs
2 or 3 Tbsp white wine

Preheat oven to 425. Remove the little tabby thing on the scallops (I had the guy at the fish counter do it for me), then wash and pat dry. Arrange in a baking dish.

Mix together the butter, garlic, shallots, proscuitto, parsley, and lemon juice. Sprinkle some salt on it an mix again. (The proscuitto is already salty so don't get too overzealous there.) Spread evenly over the scallops. Sprinkle with the panko. Pour white wine into dish.

Bake for 6-9 minutes. Turn to broil and broil another 3-5 minutes or until the tops are golden and crispy. Enjoy!

10 December 2011

Christmas cookie staple: chocolate crinkles

Here's an oldie but goodie: choco crinkle cookies.
I haven't made this since 2008, and I don't know why... they're so good. Pretty, too. To get those contrasty cracks, you roll the dough in powdered sugar before baking, and then they spread in the oven to reveal the chocolatey goodness. Take a bite you get sweet and a deeply chocolate numminess with a hint of Christmas spice. The insides are almost fudgey, and the edges just crisp enough.
Chocolate Crinkles

3/4 C flour
3/4 C sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp butter
1/3 C cocoa powder (NOT dutch processed)
1 egg
1 tsp instant espresso that's been dissolved in 1 1/2 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C powdered sugar

Combine first 5 ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a large bowl and set aside. Melt butter and mix in the cocoa powder until smooth. Whisk in the egg, espresso, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix until combined. Mix in the chocolate chip cookies. Refrigerate while the oven preheats to 350. (Chilled dough will make it easier to scoop and roll around in the powdered sugar later.)

Put powdered sugar in a small bowl. Scoop a cookie and drop into the powdered sugar. Roll to coat. Place on cookie sheet. I bake 12 evenly placed on a sheet. Sprinkle just the tops with a bit more powdered sugar. Bake for 9 minutes. Allow to rest on the baking sheet about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

This recipe makes exactly 24 when using a 1" scoop.

04 December 2011

saved shortbread snafu: cacao nib lace cookies

On Wednesday when I came into a box of Sharffen Berger cacao nibs. I was soooo excited! I spent 3 days looking for recipes, and ultimately decided to use the Nibby Shortbread Cookie Recipe provided on the side of the box. For one of the only times in my life, I followed a recipe ingredients exactly. Do these look like shortbread? Nope! Because they so weren't. Clearly there was too much butter/not enough flour, because look how much they melted and spread. But thankfully they turned into something else, something delicate that still pack a wallop of flavor. So, I present to you... cacao nib lace cookies :-) 
Not what I expected, but sooo delightful. Light, crispy, super buttery with that punch and bite of cacao nib.

So what's a cacao nib? It's basically raw chocolate - the chocolate before it's processed with milks and sugar and other flavors to become the chocolate bars/chips you know and love. They're teeny little pieces that don't melt, so they stay crunchy in a recipe. Because it's unsweetened chocolate, there is a distinct chocolate flavor but it gives way almost instantly to a complex almost but not quite bitterness reminiscent of espresso. The flavor sings when added to something sweet, and these do exactly that.

The only thing I can possibly think of that I did wrong is over mix the batter. Oh, and I refrigerated the dough before baking, but I do that with all of my shortbreads to excellent results. But hey, if you follow this word for word, maybe yours will end up like shortbread. If they end up like these, though, you'll be just as lucky.

Cacao Nib Shortbread Lace Cookies
directly from the Scharffen Berger Cacao Nib Box

1 C butter, slightly softened
3/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 oz (1/2 package) Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs
1 1/2 C all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Use paddle to cream butter, sugar, and salt just until incorporated. Mix in cacao nibs. Gradually add flour until combined. Do not over mix.

Using the palm of your hand, roll into 1" balls and flatten.

Place on cookie sheets, and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

01 December 2011

Holiday Throwbacks

When the holiday parties start, particularly if they're potlucks, there are usually three types of people. 1) There are those who make that one signature dish, that one perfect cake or candy or casserole recipe that the party just will not be complete if it's not there. Then there's 2) The people who want to outdo what they did last year, so they're always trying something new each year. And 3) the people who don't cook, and bring booze. We love you #3, haha.

But the discussion I've been having these past few weeks has been about if it's "better" to be a 1 or a 2. I'm very clearly a 2. There are SO many recipes out there that I have to keep exploring/trying new ones. But I also get a twinge of jealousy when people fawn all over that One Signature Dish that someone else brings, oh it's soooo good I'm soooo glad you brought it! I suppose what most gets to me is... were all those old things I made in the past just simply... forgettable? Or do I make them forgettable because I always bring out a newer younger model treat each year?

Anyways, in an effort to honor the definite #2 side of me, I'll continue to post new recipes for this season. But in an effort to honor recipes gone by (and also because I haven't started baking those new things yet and it IS December and I want a kick off post for the month) here are 6 throwback recipes that would STILL make a great gift or addition to a cookie tray this year.

Try the classic wintery flavor combination: iced choco peppermint snaps:

I'll be making these tender, lovely rugalech for my friend's Hanukkah party later this month:

This was one of my first posts on this blog: spicy molasses cookies. I color coordinated them for Christmas, but they'd be just as nice with clear sanding sugar for some sparkle.

Want to make something extra special? Try French macarons. They scream special. They'll make an impressive gift.

Oh and remember the hot 4 chocolate mix I made just the other day? These fluffy peppermint marshmallows will be awesome in it.

Last but not least, you can never go wrong with a classic. These are seriously my absolute most favorite chocolate chip cookies:

I hope to make new classics, but I don't ever want to forget these oldies but goodies!