Monday, April 6, 2009

"Cajun" Pasta Alfredo

So I found a recipe for Lite Pasta Alfredo in the April 2009 issue of Cuisine at Home (#74) It used chicken, kielbasa and some cajun seasoning. Other unusual additions to pasta alfredo were peas, green onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Sounded pretty good (except for the mushrooms) but there was only 4 oz. of pasta for my carb hounds. So it was going to need some tweeking. I also didn't want to leave a partial pkg. of chicken and kielbasa hanging around so I kind of doubled the recipe but didn't double the veggies. The alfredo sauce itself is also unusual. The recipe called for 1/2 cup evaporated milk, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and 1 egg yolk for the sauce. I kind of followed that part of the recipe. Here's what I did:

"Cajun" Pasta Alfredo

1 box bow tie pasta (I had a 12 oz. box, but 16 oz. might be better)
12 oz. evaporated milk
3 oz. grated Parmesan (looked like about half a cup or so)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I actually used some of Emeril's seasoning)
1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips (I had about 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced into half moons
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt & pepper to taste
2 sliced green onions

Get the pasta water going. Heat a large skillet (mine's a 12 inch) over medium high heat with a couple tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, sprinkle with some salt and saute until translucent (6-8 minutes). Add chicken and cajun seasoning and saute until mostly cooked through (6-8 minutes). Add kielbasa and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic and peas and cook until all is heated through (3 minutes or so).

Meanwhile, combine the evaporated milk, Parmesan, and egg yolks. Turn skillet down to medium when the peas and garlic are heated through. Add the milk mixture and cook, stirring often. Hopefully the pasta water is boiling by now and cook pasta until al dente. When pasta is done and sauce has thickened some, drain the pasta and put back in the pot. Add the sauce and green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy.

I think the most surprising part about this meal is that Bubba (who seems to be the pickiest) liked it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shredded Barbecued Beef

Here's one I had totally forgotten about. I pulled a package out of the freezer expecting Pulled Chicken or Pulled Pork and found Shredded Barbecued Beef. I had forgotten all about it. We made it back in August and this was a great surprise. We really like smoking meats in the warm months and pulling them out when it's cold. Starts off a great busy night meal. I would highly recommend giving this one a try. We'll have to do it again when it warms up.

As a side note, if you have any interest in cooking magazines, I would highly recommend Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country. I have subscriptions to both magazines and websites. I like being able to leaf through the magazine and the website gives full access to all recipes and product tests from past issues. Then I don't have to go find the issues, I can just search the site.

Shredded Barbecued Beef

Serves 8 to 10

If you prefer a smooth barbecue sauce, strain the sauce before tossing it with the beef in step 4. You will need a disposable aluminum roasting pan for this recipe. We like to serve this beef on white bread with plenty of pickle chips.

Spice Rub and Beef
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (5 to 6 pounds)
3 cups wood chips , soaked for 15 minutes

Barbecue Sauce
1 onion , chopped fine
4 garlic cloves , minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/4 cups ketchup
3/4 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. For the spice rub and beef: Combine salt, pepper, and cayenne in small bowl. Following photo 1, quarter roast and remove excess fat and gristle. Rub meat all over with salt mixture and transfer to large disposable aluminum roasting pan. (Salt-rubbed meat can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for 24 hours.)

2. Seal soaked wood chips in foil packet and cut vent holes in top. Open bottom vent on grill. Light 50 coals; when covered with fine gray ash, pour in pile on one side of grill. Arrange foil packet directly on coals. Set cooking grate in place and heat, covered, with lid vent open halfway, until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes. (For gas grill, place foil packet directly on primary burner. Heat all burners on high, covered, until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and shut other burner[s] off.) Arrange roasting pan with beef on cooler side of grill and barbecue, covered, until meat is deep red and smoky, about 2 hours.

3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Following photo 3, flip meat over, cover pan tightly with foil, and bake until fork inserted into meat can be removed with no resistance, 2 to 3 hours. Transfer meat to large bowl, tent with foil, and let rest 30 minutes. While meat rests, skim fat from accumulated juices in pan; reserve 2 tablespoons fat. Strain defatted juices; reserve 1/2 cup juice.

4. For the barbecue sauce and to finish: Combine onion and reserved fat in saucepan and cook over medium heat until onion has softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in remaining ingredients and reserved meat juices and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Using 2 forks, pull meat into shreds, discarding any excess fat or gristle. Toss meat with 1/2 cup barbecue sauce. Serve, passing remaining sauce at table.

Hearty Beef Stew

This is a good go to recipe for feeding a hungry crew. According to Cook's Country, this serves 6 to 8. Maybe if they're lumberjacks. We fed 10 and still had leftovers. The recipe calls for parsnips, but I only find them about half of the time that I want them, so I just double the carrots. It also calls for only 1 lb. of red potatoes. I use whatever I have on hand and probably closer to 2 lbs. With 5 lbs. of beef, we like some extra potatoes. The stew is thickened with instant tapioca. According to my mom, my dad hates tapioca, so we don't tell him it's in there. He really likes the stew. The addition of soy sauce (don't tell my dad that one either) helps bring out the beefiness. I think my favorite part about this recipe is that it's a slow cooker recipe, so I do all the work in the morning and have very little fuss at mealtime. The downside is it takes about an hour for all the cutting, pealing, chopping and browning to get it going. I like to add the veggies back in with the stew half and hour or so before serving so they can soak up the flavor. Oh, I used dried thyme instead of fresh with no ill effects.

Hearty Beef Stew

Serves 6 to 8

If you’re going to be away from your slow cooker for more than 10 hours, cutting the vegetables into larger, 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces will help them retain their texture.

5 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye roast , trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

Table salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium onions , chopped fine
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound red potatoes , cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 cups frozen peas , thawed

1. Dry beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow-cooker insert and repeat with remaining beef (you shouldn’t need more oil).

2. Add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to empty skillet and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring well, for 2 minutes. Add broth and soy sauce, bring to simmer, and transfer to slow-cooker insert.

3. Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap vegetables in foil packet that will fit in slow cooker. Stir bay leaves and tapioca into slow-cooker insert; set vegetable packet on top of beef.

4. Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook for 6 to 7 hours. (Or cook on low for 10 to 11 hours.) Transfer vegetable packet to plate. Carefully open packet (watch for steam) and stir vegetables and juices into stew. Add remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and peas and let stand until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Make Ahead

You can do most of the prep for this recipe the night before the ingredients go into the slow cooker. Prepare the recipe through step 2 and refrigerate the browned beef and onion mixture in separate containers. In the morning, just transfer everything to the slow cooker and proceed with step 3. The cooking time will run to the high end of the ranges given in the recipe.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

So the first time I had Shepherd's Pie was at the cafeteria at the bank where I was working. It was awful. Canned vegetables, hamburger, and beef broth (that may be too generous, probably mostly water) topped with instant mashed potatoes and served. Did I mention it was bad? This recipe from Cook's Country (can you tell I like this one?) has many layers of flavor and no mushy veggies. The only change I made this time was to bake the pie before brushing the top with egg and broiling. This worked much better. Usually the brush knocks down the potatoes and makes an eggy mess. Still very tasty when it's done, but it was much easier to brush with egg after the potatoes were firm. The only really annoying part of this recipe is that the potatoes are really thick. It is hard to spread them on top of the filling. So I drop on little spoonfuls and try to smear them together. But the consistency at the end is very good, so I haven't tried thinning the potatoes. I'm thinking smushing them through a hole in the corner of a gallon bag may be the easiest way to go. But I haven't tried it yet. We usually use Guinness, but I would guess whatever beer you like to drink would work.

Shepherd's Pie

Although just about any mild beer will work in this recipe, we particularly enjoyed the sweet flavor of O’Doul’s nonalcoholic amber.

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion , chopped fine
2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped fine
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

Table salt and ground black pepper
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup beer (see note above)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup frozen peas

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes . peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

Table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1/3 cup heavy cream , warmed

Ground black pepper
1 large egg , beaten

1. For the filling: Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onion and carrots and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add meat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 12 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute.

2. Add cream and cook until it spatters, about 1 minute. Add broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick but still saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in peas, adjust seasonings, and transfer to broilersafe 2-quart casserole dish.

3. For the topping: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water to cover to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to saucepan, and mash potatoes with butter and cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread potatoes over filling, using spatula to smooth top (see photo). Brush with egg and drag fork across top to make ridges. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Make Ahead

Make the filling through step 2, but do not add the peas. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. When ready to proceed, reheat the filling in a large saucepan, stir in the peas, and transfer to a broilersafe 2-quart casserole. Proceed with the recipe from step 3.

Red Beans & Rice

I've made this Red Beans and Rice several times before. I found it in Cook's Country (Feb. 2006) and it does not disappoint. Previously, I have just followed the directions and made the rice separately then tossed it together at the end. It is intended to be served over the rice but we like it all mixed together. This time, I thought, why make the rice on the side and then stir it all together. I'll just make the rice in the pot. There was lots of liquid remaining. So I used 1 lb. long grain rice (about 2 1/2 cups) straight in the pot when there was about half an hour to go on the beans. It sucked up all the water and I added another two cups. So I think next time I'll start with 16 cups liquid (I use all water, we don't really notice the chicken broth with all the other flavors). Then if it gets too thick just add a bit more water as it cooks. I am also happy that we can now find andouille at Scroger's (you know, Scott's bought out by Kroger's; sound better than Krott's). But it is good with Kielbasa as well. We like to serve it with hot sauce as desired. All of the boys but Bubba like this dish. He just doesn't think he likes rice.

Red Beans and Rice

Andouille is the traditional sausage for this dish, but we also had good results with kielbasa.

Serves 8 to 10
4 slices bacon , chopped medium
1 small onion , chopped fine
1 green bell pepper , chopped fine
1 rib celery , chopped fine
4 cloves garlic , minced

Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bay leaves

Table salt
1 pound dried red kidney beans , rinsed and picked over
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
7 cups water
1/2 pound andouille sausage or kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch half-moons
6 cups cooked long-grain rice (from 3 cups raw rice)

Hot pepper sauce

1. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned and fat has rendered, about 7 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon pepper, oregano, thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, beans, broth, and water, and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain vigorous simmer (mixture will be steaming and several bubbles should be breaking the surface) and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until beans are soft and liquid thickens, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

2. Stir in sausage and cook until liquid is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over hot cooked rice with hot pepper sauce, if desired. (Leftover beans can be refrigerated in airtight container for several days.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Apple Crisp Oatmeal

I came across this recipe about a month ago, shortly after Buster was asking for oatmeal for breakfast. I usually do Alton's Steel Cut Oatmeal, but it takes too long for a school day. So this morning I tried this recipe I found on Kids Cuisine. It uses regular rolled oats, some apples and pecans. With the low fat milk and a pretty small amount of added sugar, I can feel good feeding the guys a surprisingly hearty breakfast. This recipe called for two large apples. The ones I had were huge. I think they are intending two large bagged apples. The apples selected individually at the grocery are really big. So I probably could have gone with just one apple. But it was really good with all those apples. And we have leftovers to use during the week. Buster was excited about that.

Apple Crisp Oatmeal
Servings: 4

3 cups water

1 cup lowfat 1% milk
2-1/2 cups rolled oats
2 large apples, peeled and diced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt

Bring water and milk to a boil over medium high heat.

Add oats, apples, and pecans. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook for one more minute, uncovered.

Serve immediately.

Steel Cut Oatmeal

We're not real bit fans of oatmeal around here. But we do have it more than I did growing up. And by that I mean we sometimes have oatmeal for breakfast. It's not just a cookie ingredient. We started having oatmeal when we saw Alton Brown's episode on oatmeal and he made Steel Cut Oatmeal. I pretty much follow the recipe as printed, but I tend to use closer to 2/3 cup buttermilk and 1/3 cup whole milk instead of 1/2 cup of each. I really like the added tanginess. I also stir in about 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon in the pan before serving, instead of doing it individually. Much easier with the boys that way.

Steel Cut Oatmeal

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 35 min
Serves: 4 servings

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large sauce pot, melt the butter and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.

Combine the milk and half of the buttermilk with the oatmeal. Stir gently to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with remaining buttermilk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cornmeal Biscuits

There will be no more dry cornmeal muffins around here. They have been replaced by the recipe I found in Cook's Country (Feb. 2009) for Cornmeal Biscuits. These are a tender biscuit with a nice cornmeal flavor. I did use an extra splash of buttermilk in mine as I like regular biscuits a bit more moist and tender from an addition of extra buttermilk. But else wise it was great as is. Serve with honey and butter and it's a great accompaniment to chili or bean soup.

Cornmeal Biscuits

If you don’t have buttermilk, whisk 1 tablespoon lemon juice into 1¼ cups of milk and let it stand until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Avoid coarsely ground cornmeal, which makes gritty biscuits.

Makes 12 biscuits
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

1. SOAK CORNMEAL Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk cornmeal, buttermilk, and honey in large bowl; let sit 10 minutes.

2. PROCESS DOUGH Pulse flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add to bowl with buttermilk mixture and stir until dough forms.

3. KNEAD Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 8 to 10 times. Pat dough into 9-inch circle, about ¾ inch thick. Using 2½-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds (dipping cutter in flour after each cut) and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Gather remaining dough and pat into ¾-inch-thick circle. Cut rounds from dough and transfer to baking sheet.

4. BAKE Bake until biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes more. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature. (Biscuits can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)