Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stuffed Flank Steak Pinwheels

I always get excited when I get my issue of Cooks Illustrated (thanks, mom-in-law!). It is one of those magazines that you have to really read through. There aren't a ton of pictures, and most of them are illustrations. The pages aren't glossy, and there isn't a single advertisement. The recipes are well thought out and definitely were given a LOT of thought. The writers are from America's Test Kitchen after all!

Because of this great attention to detail, sometimes the recipes that result are a little too involved for this cook's taste. I tried making their oven steak fries a couple of times, but the sheer number of steps quickly wore me out.

Recently, however, I was intrigued by the title "The Best Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak". I had a flank steak, I had a grill. It was time to get cooking.

Preparing and filling the steak consists of 6 simple steps.

1. Butterfly the 2-3 pound flank steak (lay it parallel with the counter), leaving 1/2 inch at the top to "hinge" it open.
2. Open the steak up and pound it flat, trimming the rough edges.
3. Rub with your herb mixture, and add your fillings. (see below for what I added).Roll the steak away from you to form a tight log.

4. Place the steak seam-side down and tie with string at 1 inch intervals.
5. Skewer the steak directly through each string. (No, I didn't just turn into a sasquatch. The hubs helped!)
6. Slice the steak between strings into pinwheels.

A couple of extra hints to keep in mind:

1. By butterflying the steak and then pounding it open, you eliminate having to totally pound out the flesh. The butterflying itself was a little tricky for me. The magazine recommends placing the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes before splitting it open.

2. If you don't have butcher twine, and don't want to have to search for it, ask your grocery store butcher. The hubs asked ours for some and came home with about 3 yards.

3. Soak your skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using.

4. Be conservative with your filling amount (have you ever tried to roll an overstuffed burrito?).

I didn't like the recipe that they provided for the stuffing, so I used what I had on hand, sneaking in some of my favorites!

For the herb mixture:
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

For the filling:
these are approximate
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

To cook the steaks, place them on your grill (the hubs used the charcoal grill) until they are to your desired doneness. Remove the butcher twine and skewers and enjoy!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BB: Outrageous Brownies

Right now I am having a hard time getting this blog entry done. Why? I am totally into watching my DVR'ed episode of "The Real Housewives of New York Reunion #2". Oh yeah, you caught me. Anything with "The Real Housewives" grabs me; I can't help myself, it is my total guilty pleasure. Have you seen TRH of New Jersey yet? Oh you are missing some good stuff.

The other reason it is taking me so long to blog is that I am having a little dessert.

This stuff is good.

Thank you to Eva of I’m Boring for choosing Ina's Outrageous Brownies. My hips, however, are staging a revolt.

I halved the recipe and in the process changed a couple of things. One out of lack of ingredients: I only had 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. The other, I can only say out of distractedness (spell check didn't catch that, so is it really a word?): I put in the full amount of espresso powder.

I didn't read the recipe that calls for coffee powder.

So, my brownies do have a definite coffee flavor. But, it is pretty darn good and best enjoyed in small portions.

Outrageous Brownies
adapted from Ina Garten
2 sticks unsalted butter. room temperature
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons for the chips)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 inch pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Melt together the butter, 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, wisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the slightly warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining cup of chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of flour to coat. Stir it into the batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Not a Barefoot Blogger yet? Join us!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Balsamic Chicken

Three and a half years ago, I had the pleasure of receiving for my birthday a cookbook and demonstration from Sara Moulton at the local culinary institute. This was a real treat as I had just popped out sous chef #1 and desperately needed some "me time." Perhaps this new mommy scenario is what put me in such an inspirational mood, but Sara's recipe for balsamic chicken is something I had to try right away, and since then, it has evolved in to something I must make at least once a month.

Balsamic ChickenAlign Center
4 boneless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 small onion, chopped medium-fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes, drained of excess juice
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a little bit (1 tablespoon or so) of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken breasts and cook about 7-8 minutes per side or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Reduce the heat a little bit and add the onion and cook until it is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly so that garlic does not burn. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and broth and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is reduced by 1/3. You just kind of eyeball this...I just like it to get a little thick. Add the butter and then the chicken, let simmer for another minute or two. Top with the parsley, plate up and serve!

I served mine on top of some rice pilaf and broccoli. Enjoy!
I am posting this on Memorial Day. Not a day goes by that I don't appreciate living in the United States and that would not be possible without the sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces who gave their lives for this country.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Salmon Cakes

Today I popped into the grocery store with the sous chefs to pick up a couple of ingredients to make some cupcakes. While I was opening my lead sous chef's dum dum sucker (the ultimate bribe for quiet) I realized that I wasn't sure what I had planned for dinner. We were out of town for my brother's high school graduation and I had only made my bi-monthly Sam's trip and not my grocery trek.

I knew I had something written down on the menu, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what it was or if I needed anything for it. So, it was plan B, just to be safe. My mind immediately went to making crab cakes. I actually have no idea why, except today is Meatless Monday. Doing a quick inventory in my mind, I knew I had everything I needed except for the crab. In the past, I have used canned crab meat (a cheaper and equally tasty option) and so I headed to that shelf.

I don't know what happened between then and home but for some reason today I bought canned salmon.

So, plan B became plan C.

Salmon Cakes

olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1 small onion (about 3/4 cup), diced
2 celery stalks (1/2 cup), diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 14oz canned salmon, picked through for bones
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When ready, add the onion, celery, red bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Place the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs in a large bowl. Add the vegetable mixture and the salmon mixing well.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To shape into patties: using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop out the crab mixture and pat in your hands to make a patty. You should be able to make 8, 3-inch patties. I did end up with a little extra, which made a nice little salmon cake for my sous chef!

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Wipe out the saute pan and return it to medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the finished cakes on the pan and keep warm in the oven as you cook the remaining batches.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 14, 2009

BB; play it again!

Actually, I didn't do it the first time!

I would like to give mention to Kate of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails (a totally fabulous blog that you should visit often) who chose Ina's Tuna Salad as the recipe for Barefoot Bloggers' first post of May. I chose not to do this ,mainly because I have never had sushi, and also because the only time that I ate ahi tuna was on my honeymoon over 5 years ago. It was okay then, but not really anything I'd want to try making on my own.

Fortunately, I was able to do a backtrack recipe this month, which means I could swap out one of the two Barefoot recipes this month with any previous BB recipe. Last month, we started "Barefoot on a Budget", where we take an Ina recipe and try to do it on an "I don't live in the Hamptons" budget. The first recipe was Ina's Lobster Cobb Salad Rolls.

I decided to make this recipe using only what I had on-hand. That half pound of shrimp in my freezer would be the perfect substitute for lobster! The rolls turned out fabulous. Using the online comments, I decided not to use as much lemon juice (I didn't toss my avocado in lemon juice) and I cut down on the salt and pepper. I actually used about 3/4 of the vinaigrette. That reminds me: on Ina's original directions, she writes that 1/4 cup of lemon juice is 2 lemons. I usually get that much from one lemon. The hubs took the leftovers to work and made wraps using flour tortillas; they were awesome that way, too! Here is my take on it...

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 romaine leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp meat, diced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 strips lean bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup crumbled English Stilton, or other crumbly blue cheese
  • 6 hot dog rolls

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

To cook the bacon, place the strips on a rack inside a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the bacon at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

To cook the shrimp, place about a teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and just starts to curl. Be careful not to overcook. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, cut into a 1/4 inch dice. Place in a medium bowl.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and peel. Cut into a 1/2 inch dice. Add to the shrimp.

Add the tomatoes, blue cheese, bacon, and romaine. Add just enough vinaigrette to moisten. Toss to combine.

Fill the hot dog buns with desired amount of filling. Enjoy!

Click here to find out what other Barefoot Bloggers did with this week's challenge!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My favorite things stuffed chicken

I struggled with what to call this dish for many reasons.

First, this is my 100th post (wahoo!) and I should have something catchy, right?
Second, it contains many of my favorite ingredients: goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, shallots, balsamic vinegar. Which one should I choose?

At the risk of being boring, I settled on "my favorite things" stuffed chicken.

2 large chicken breasts

olive oil
2-3 tablespoons shallots, chopped fine
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons artichoke hearts, chopped fine
2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine
1/4 cup goat cheese
salt, pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth

Heat a little olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and sugar. Cook for about 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently as to not burn the garlic.
Remove to a small bowl and add the balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, art hearts, cheese, salt, and pepper; stirring well.

Make a horizontal slit all the way through the chicken breast.
Stuff half the filling into each piece of chicken. Salt and pepper the chicken.

Wipe out the skillet and add olive oil over medium heat. Cook the chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes a side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover to keep warm.

If you have any little bits of filling left in the pan, this is the perfect time to make a pan sauce. Add a little bit more vinegar and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon. Top the chicken, serve, and enjoy!

I served mine on another favorite of mine...arugula.

Well, this may not be the best 100th post out there in the blog world, but I wanted to get a post out, it has almost been a week again! I have no idea what is wrong with me, but I know that the need for sleep is really outweighing my need to blog. I really enjoyed January, when I posted every day. It was tough, but refreshing and I met so many new blogger friends during that time.

Moving forward to the next 100 posts, I hope to blog a little more often. I had such a great time when I posted every day and I hope that I can get back to that. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What, it's my 99th post??

Lately, when I enter a blog and see those numbers go up, I keep thinking, when I get to 100 posts, I have to do something good. I LURV giveaways, and I really want to have my own, but now the time has gotten away from me, and I have nothing to give. :( How did I let this happen?

I also can't believe that I've not blogged since April 29th. What the heck is wrong with me? I've been cooking up some good stuff, too! However, at the end of the day, when I have time to blog, I get caught up in reading some of my favorite foodies, and then the need for sleep kicks in. Once I go to write about something, I either forget what I did, or I remember everything but can't find a picture to save my life.

I haven't checked my reader in a day and, at first look, I have 150 new things to read...WHAT?

I gotta get me an i-touch, i-phone, or i-something or other. Oh, and then a fancy plan that would let me be online whenever and wherever I wanted. Imagine being able to blog while on the elliptical!! Ah, my two loves would combine and then the sky would probably fall.

I'll leave you with some pictures of cupcakes that I made the other day for a friend to take to her son's preschool for teacher appreciation week. The idea was inspired by one of my favorite blogs, I Heart Cuppycakes, who made these cupcakes. I had them earmarked to try, and teacher appreciation seemed like a darn good idea! I used the same basic cupcake recipe, but did a maple cream cheese frosting.

If you are reading this and happen to be a teacher at lead sous chef's preschool...avert your eyes...or just pretend that you've never seen them before.