17 January 2012

southwest seasoning and a quick quesadilla

Say hello to tonight's dinner:
This delightful little quesadilla was perfect for one person and took me all of 10 minutes to put together because everything* was premade, including some cooked, seasoned chicken thighs I had in my fridge. All I had to do was slice some up and add it in.
I try to keep cooked chicken thighs in my fridge for quick dinners. Thighs, not breasts. I don't know what it is about chicken breasts but I can NOT cook them well. One time I boiled a chicken breast - boiled, like in liquid - and it STILL turned out dry and chalky. Ever since then I'm strictly a thigh girl, lol.

I'll buy a pack of organic thighs and then forget about them until the day they're almost bad, lol, and then bake them all off. I usually line a 9x13 with little sections of foil with edges folded up so that there are little compartments, then add different seasonings. A couple are simple salt and pepper in case I want to make chicken salad. I'll add lemon pepper to another, and in this case, I seasoned some with Emeril's spicy southwest seasoning.  Banging seasoning, btw, and I highly recommend you try it, thus, a recipe. I like heat, so I upped the hot ingredients, but feel free to use Emeril's original proportions.

Emeril's Southwest Seasoning Blend

2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Store in an airtight container away from sunlight and heat.

I trimmed the fat off the thighs then seasoned liberally with this southwest seasoning. I then baked them at 350 for around 20 minutes. I cut one open to make sure they were done... best to check because thickness varies

* Bonus note. The guacamole I had with that quesadilla was NOT my normal guacamole recipe. I was in a rush, and thus my recipe for insta-guac: mash up an avocado, mix in enough bottled salsa to suit your tastes. Viola.

05 January 2012

French Dip Sandwiches

Perfeclty rare meat + buttered crusty bread dunked in jus = comfort and joy.
My brother introduced me to the french dip au jus (with juice) sandwich in LA around 10 years ago. I thought it was ridiculous he'd pay nearly $20 for a meat sandwich. But oh my, was it so worth it! Every GOOD french dip I've had has been that pricey, presumably because of the pile of thin slices of quality roasted beef, so that became my goal for making my own. While I saw different seasoning recipes all over the webs, it was on an episode of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives that I saw someone use Montreal steak seasoning before roasting. That's one of the few spice blends I use regularly because it's well balanced. That plus some extra thyme, garlic, and salt made for an exceptionally crusted and flavored meat that I roasted rare - we could eat the meat all by itself...and we did!

But it is a sandwich after all, so it was better on a fresh, buttered, toasted crisp french roll. Want to kick up the flavor and some extra texture? Add a slice of provolone, too, and broil until melted. Soak each bite in that jus and try not to dribble all over yourself while eating it!

Slow Roasted Beef
adapted from Teri's Kitchen

2.5 to 3 lb sirloin roast, brought to room temperature
Montreal steak seasoning
dried thyme
garlic powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter
Special equipment: probe thermometer, dutch oven

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat a dutch oven (large enough to fit roast) over medium high heat.

Season all sides of roast with an even layer of steak seasoning, thyme, and an extra dusting of garlic powder and salt. Pat down so the herbs stick.

Make sure the oil is really hot and add the roast. Sear - about 2 minutes each side - until browned. Insert a probe thermometer about halfway into roast. Put roast, uncovered, into oven and cook until it reaches 130 degrees for rare (around 2 hours).

Take off the heat and allow to rest. When ready to eat, slice into thin slices -- thinner than these in this pic. Mmm look how perfectly rare and juicy!
Au Jus
pan drippings from the roast beef
1/2 carton of reduced sodium beef broth
1 to 1-1/2 C water
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 Tbsp butter

Put the dutch oven with all the beef drippings on the stove over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes, or until it reaches the flavor you like. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove the chunky parts. Serve hot with the sandwiches.

And now I can knock off the first item on my 2012 Hit List, hooray!

02 January 2012

egg and potato breakfast bake

Say hello to my very first meal of 2012! I had people over for NYE, and I wanted to make sure they woke up to something home cooked. So I brewed some coffee and got to work in the kitchen on this filling and possibly even sorta healthy casserole. And then I fried up a bunch of bacon to go with it :-) It tasted great topped with leftover guacamole and some sour cream, and I bet salsa would have gone really well with it, too - now I know for next time! Not a bad way to start the year at all.
You could sub out frozen Potatoes O' Brien, but I bought a big bag of potatoes I needed to use. I roasted them with salt and pepper and olive oil for about 25 minutes at 450 a few days in advance and then just kept them in the fridge. You could also make the onions/pepper in advance, too. If you like a little kick, fine dice a seeded jalapeno or serrano pepper and toss it in with it, too. This is kinda like a really big, southwesternish tortilla espanola :)

Egg and Potato Breakfast Bake
adapted from A Communal Table

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into 1" pieces and roasted ahead of time
3/4 large sweet onion, diced (
1 red bell pepper, seeded and deveined and diced
1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 1/2 C shredded Mexican cheese blend
12 eggs
1/2 C milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Put potatoes into a big bowl.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion in some canola/olive oil (or bacon grease, if you have any on hand, yum!) until it starts to get translucent. Add in the bell pepper and saute another few minutes until onion is soft. Season with a big pinch of salt and stir. Add to the potatoes and toss until evenly incorporated. Dump in an even layer into baking dish. Spread the cheese evenly over the taters.

In a large bowl, whisk/beat eggs until completely combined and starting to get fluffy. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the milk. Pour over the potatoes and cheese.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until middle is set. You should be able to insert a knife and it'll come out clean.

Happy 2012: It's Hit List Time again!

My 31st birthday was the day before NYE, and I celebrated with ridiculous food, a movie, and later drinks and dancing surrounded by lots of friends. And if that wasn't Yay enough, the next night I ended 2011 and begin 2012 on an Unexpectedly high note... I really couldn't have asked for a better transition of time.

So of course, it being the new year, it's resolution time. For me, 2012 is devoted to moving forward with optimism and strength. Changes are coming, and commitments will be kept.

First commitment involves my family... both of my brothers are flying in to run a half marathon with me (plus two more of my friends) in March. I don't care how long it takes me (but no more than the 5.5 hr limit, haha), but I will cross that finish line. That means I should probably head to the gym today to restart training ;-) That's actually tied in pretty well with my next resolution to strengthen relationships. More phone calls and emails, more making time to see people, more being involved in their lives. So... to my friends out of state, get your couches ready!

And of course, as food is one of the great loves of my life, here are my food resolutions. My 2012 Hit List involves finishing the unconquered foods from Hit Lists past (2010 and 2011):

1) chicken stock from scratch
2) chicharon de cerdo
3) patatas bravas
4) pain au chocolate
5) french dip completed 1/5/12
6) tamales
7) baked char siu bao
8) cheese souffle a la Panera
9) garlic knots a la C&Os Trattoria
10) thai rice pudding with mango
11) *successful* matzo ball soup
12) my mom's mocha cake