Monday, September 30, 2013

Stove Top Enchiladas

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I went to the store last Wednesday and bought everything to make enchiladas the next afternoon. I was planning to make them from scratch. This meant making the filling, warming the tortillas, dipping them in sauce, stuffing, rolling and putting everything together so it can be baked off. It’s a labor intensive, but also a magically delicious treat.

In the morning, before I got started, I noticed a simple and quick enchilada recipe in a magazine that I was thumbing through. The recipe would leave me hardly any dishes to do and take only a half hour. Not feeling that ambitious, I changed course and adapted my ingredients to the quick version and it turned out totally delicious.

For this recipe, I take the classic Mexican enchilada and turn it into a simple and fast one-pot dish. The recipe utilizes a can of cream of chicken soup combined with enchilada sauce to form a delicious binder that gives the dish it’s signature flavor – and it can be made with only one dirty pot to clean!

BEHIND THIS BITE
Stove Top Enchiladas

Instead of stove top enchiladas I should really call it chopped or shredded enchiladas. The taste is spot on, it's just not packaged into pretty little bundles of rolled tortillas. It's as if the whole dish got blown to hell and whats left is goulash that taste exactly like enchiladas.

I really like the taste and the simplicity of this dish, but it was hard to get a pretty photograph. It’s kind of just a blob on a plate, so I just piled it high with cheese and let the pictures rip. It mat not be as beautiful a dish as prime rib to photograph but the flavor was there and I will gladly make this again – especially when I am rushed for time.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Stove Top Enchiladas

Serves 4; 30 minutes
1 1/2 lb Chicken breast, boneless, cubed
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
1 C Red onion, diced
1/2 C Jalapeño, seeded, diced
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1 Can Cream of chicken soup, undiluted (10 oz)
1 Can Enchilada sauce (10 oz)
12 Corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
1 tsp Mexican oregano
2 C Pepper jack cheese, shredded

Cook chicken

In a large skillet or soup pot over medium heat cook chicken thighs in a little olive oil. Add chili powder and cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined. Cook chicken through, 8 to 10 minutes, remove to plate.

Sauté vegetables
Add more oil to pan if necessary then saute onion and jalapeño until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic, cook 1 minute more.

Finish
Add undiluted cream of chicken soup, enchilada sauce, tortillas and Mexican oregano. Return chicken to pan and stir everything together until well incorporated. Cook until simmering and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stirring often. Scoop into bowls, top with cheese, then serve.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Southern Style Poutine


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It seems that the Canadian dish poutine has become all the rage. Traditional poutine consists of french fries smothered in gravy and fried cheese curds. I have seen it a couple of times on the Food Network and to my surprise poutine is now featured on the special temporary menu at Buffalo Wild Wings – which I ate at last weekend.

The BWW version had cheese curds, gravy, pico de galo and probably something else I’m not remembering right now, overall, I thought it was pretty good. While I was eating it, I thought I could probably make an awesome poutine myself, as I thought more it hit me all at once – mine would be fries smothered in SAUSAGE GRAVY!!!!

A southern style poutine that replaces cheese curds with sausage – the culinary Gods had spoken and I was hearing them loud and clear.

I love biscuits and gravy. I love french fries. French fries and sausage gravy – that’s like culinary heaven! The gravy takes just three ingredients. Fries can be bought in the freezer isle baked. So really there is four simple items at work here and it’s a filling dish. I ate a huge plate and was so full I had to rolled to get anywhere for a couple of hours and then I needed a huge nap.

I highly recommend trying this.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Southern Style Poutine

I have made this sausage gravy recipe for the blog two times before. One for traditional biscuits and gravy and the other for a gravy smothered breakfast plate. It's delicious and simple and I thought it would work perfect for my Southern style poutine. I thought about doing something extra or trying something new, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it with this recipe in particular. It had been a while since I had made it and I could not wait to scarf a batch of it down.

I took all new pictures, just in case I use this gravy in another recipe soon - I’m thinking that this sausage gravy could be the replacement for cream of mushroom soup in a spectacular green bean casserole! – but more on that in a couple of months, when we get closer to Thanksgiving.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Southern Style Poutine

Serves 4; 25 minutes
1 lb Breakfast sausage
1/4 C Flour
2 C Milk
1 lb French fries
fully cooked

Brown sausage, add flour
In a skillet over medium-high heat brown sausage until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stirring occasionally, breaking up any large chunks. Sift in flour, stir until well combined and sausage is completely coated, let cook for 2 minutes.

Make gravy
Stir in milk and let mixture come to a light boil and mixture has thicken 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often. Divide french fries among plates, spoon gravy over fries, then serve.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

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I have never been a fan of squash. For the longest time I thought the only good use for squash was hollowing out pumpkins to make scary jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween or chucking rotten ones at passing hay rides in the fall.

A couple of years ago, I tried spaghetti squash for the first time and I actually liked the dish. It was one of the first squash recipes I had eaten that wasn’t purposely made sweet, and it allowed for its natural savory flavor to come out which is why I like it so much. Since then, I have made several spaghetti squash recipes, two of which, spaghetti squash and meatballs and lemon spinach spaghetti squash have been published here.

Recently my Mom made a simple acorn squash with just salt and pepper that I was reluctant to try. To my surprise, I liked the taste. I thought it was time to go out on a limb and decided to try it stuffed with one of my favorite pizzas combinations: sausage, mushroom, green pepper and onion. I knew that if I didn’t like the flavor of the squash I would for sure love the filling. Basically, it’s a pizza that replaced the crust with acorn squash.

In the end, I was pleased with the results. It was a lighter way of enjoying one of my favorite pies. The success of this recipe has me thinking about acorn squash a little more. Could it be that squash is growing on me in general? Maybe, but I’m still a long way from craving pumpkin pie.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

I overcooked the squash when I documented this recipe. I should have pulled them a few minutes before I did but the time got away from me as I was making the filling. It all turned out well in the end, but the squash was so soft it was tough shaping them up for the pictures. Al dente is definitely the way to go, at least for the sake of making the stuffing part a little easier. The flavor wasn’t effected, just the texture, that is why I decided to soldier on and complete the dish, photos and all.

I had funny moment later on that evening when I took these to Mom and Dad for them to have with their dinner. Mom was excited to try them but Dad wouldn’t touch ‘em. All those topping were still not enough to get him to experiment, he just doesn’t like squash.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4 to 6; 1 hour
2 to 4 Acorn squash halved (for 2 cut ingredients by half)
2 C Button mushrooms, sliced
1 lb Italian sausage
1/2 C Red onion, diced
1/2 C Green pepper, diced
1/2 C Pizza sauce
1 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Prepare and cook squash
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds. Rub with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a prepared baking sheet. Roast until cook through but still firm 30 to 40 minutes.

Make filling
In a saute pan over medium heat cook mushrooms until liquid is rendered, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes. Season at end of cooking. Remove from pan, set aside. Add sausage and cook through, stirring occasionally and breaking up chunks, 8 to 10 minutes. Move to one side of pan. Cook vegetables in empty half until soft, 3 to 4 minutes, season to taste. Return mushrooms to pan and stir everything together. Remove from heat.

Stuff squash, heat through

Increase oven temp to 425°. In cavity of cooked squash, coat with pizza sauce, stuff full with sausage mixture and top with cheese. Repeat until all squash are filled. Place stuffed squash on baking sheet, place in oven and cook until heated through and cheese is melted, 6 to 8 minutes. Then serve.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stuffed Pepper Soup


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Growing up, my Mom and Grand Mothers referred to green peppers as mangos, I always thought this was odd but I just learned to accept it as a family quirk. Turns out there is some history to it.

An article by Linguist David Bergdahl helped shed a little light on the mystery of the green pepper-mango-misnomer. He says that the name originate with the tropical fruit mango, which was first introduced to colonial America in pickled form. It was the only way it could be preserved long enough to last during the long journey from India. In the 1700s, the word mango became a synonym for pickling in general. One of the most popular “mangos” was a pickled, cabbage-stuffed green pepper. Overtime, the name mango stuck for green peppers, even in raw form, and the term is still used today as a reference to green peppers in the Midwest.

Ah ... the mango mystery is solved.

For this recipe, I take all the elements of a modern stuffed pepper and make it into a soup. I use Italian sausage instead of ground beef to add an additional layer of flavor to the vegetables and chicken broth. It’s the perfect soup to make with all the extra mangos, or green peppers, that are hanging around the garden this time of year.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Stuffed Pepper Soup

Like I said in the beginning, most people in my family called green peppers "mangos." This was never an issue until I moved to New York City. If you ask for mangos at Food World in Astoria, Queens you will be shown the mango fruit. If you then spot the green peppers, point and say “oh no, those mangoes” the little Caribbean produce man will then laugh hysterically and walk away. This will leave you feeling like an uncultured Midwestern dumb ass. I lived in the Big Apple for 12 and half years and every once in a while I would have a moments like this. It was a small price to pay for living in such an incredible city.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Stuffed Pepper Soup

Serves 4; 45 minutes
1 lb Italian sausage
2 C Green pepper, large dice
2 C Green pepper, large dice
1/2 C Red onion, diced
1/2 C Celery diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1 C Tomato diced
1 1/2 C Rice, fully cooked
1 tsp Italian seasoning
4 C Chicken broth

Brown sausage
In a soup pot over medium high heat, brown sausage until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stirring occasionally and breaking up chunks. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

Make soup

In sausage drippings saute green pepper, onion and celery until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic cook 1 minute more. Stir in rice, tomatoes, reserved sausage, Italian seasoning and chicken broth, bring to a simmer and cook 20 to 25 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

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Mashed potatoes are a dish that is universally loved by all. Probably because they can be eaten by almost everyone. No teeth are required and therefore no chewing. Anyone from babies to the elderly have the ability to wolf them down.

They are relatively easy to make and come in instant form, which I do not recommend, but if the choice between instant potatoes and starving were to arise, I’ll take the instant spuds. They also compliment nearly every type of main course, but that is true about potatoes in general, regardless of preparation.

Personally, I love to mix vegetables with mashed potatoes, particularly – sweet corn. As a child I would skip the gravy all together when Mom paired them with corn and just spoon a heap right onto a mound of mashed potatoes then swirl them together. To this day, that is my favorite way to eat them.

I like my mashed potatoes wispy as apposed to chunky and butter is a must. I don’t mind them made with skins or with cheddar cheese sprinkled in — those are just preferences though. I’ll eat mashed potatoes anytime, hot or cold.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I made mashed potatoes for a Thanksgiving meal I documented almost 2 years ago and I figured it was time to do them again. I wanted these to be buttery and extra creamy — so buttery that they didn’t need any gravy. A full stick of butter and a cup of sour cream helped me accomplish the "no need for gravy" effect with these potatoes. They were rich and decadent.

This recipe is really how I prefer my mashed potatoes, like I said in the intro, wispy and creamy and these are just that. They could be made chunky with less mashing and milk and they would still turn out delicious. These potatoes were salted in the beginning and no other seasoning was needed. I could have thrown in black pepper but for the purposes of presentation I left the pepper out, which is rare for me but it didn’t matter – these were still delicious.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Serves 12 to 14; 40 minutes
5 lb Potatoes
peeled, diced
3 Tbs salt
1 stick Unsalted butter
1/4 to 3/4 C Milk
1 C Sour cream

Cook potatoes
Put potatoes in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover potatoes by at least 1 inch. Stir in salt. Place pot over high heat, bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender and heated through, 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain, mash, serve
Drain potatoes. Return to pot, add butter and a splash of milk. Mash potatoes until creamy and smooth with a potato masher. Add milk to desired creaminess. Stir in sour cream, place in a bowl and serve.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cucumber Gazpacho


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This gazpacho was the final step in the evolution of a simple and creamy cucumber salad. Originally it was just that - a cucumber salad. Next, I used it as the creamy cool vegetable element of a tostada. Then I got crazy, took it a step further and made a palette cleansing soup that turned out delicious.

It’s also a great way to get rid of extra cucumber if the garden is still teaming with them or they are on sale at the local grocery.

I loved this recipe.

It features great flavors that work well together. It’s really fresh but has some tang with the pickle brine and ranch seasoning. I’m proud of this one and can’t wait to make it again for a catered dinner or late summer pot luck.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Cucumber Gazpacho

This was probably the last cucumber recipe I'll make for the blog this summer, I'm starting to get burned out on them. There are still tomatoes and peppers out there that need to be cooked so there is plenty of other garden bounty to work with, but the winter squash is coming on and it’s already starting to populate counters, so it might be time to switch over to fall-garden mode. I have two recipes planned already, one with spaghetti squash, the other with acorn squash. Stay tuned for those.

As always the last part of summer seems to have flown by. Football is in full swing and the high temperature here in Fort Wayne won’t even reach 70 on Friday. Halloween decorations are on the shelves at most chain stores and it won’t be long before the leaves are a brilliant red and yellow. I hate to see summer go, but the beauty of fall awaits along with my soup pot - it's time for comfort food!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Cucumber Gazpacho

Serves 12 to 14; 25 minutes
1/2 C Sour cream
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1 pkg Ranch seasoning
1/4 C Pickle brine, strained from jar of bread and butter pickles
1/2 C Red onion, diced (divided)
10 Cucumbers seeded, diced (divided)
3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

Make base
In a blender, mix together half of the cucumber, half of the onion, ranch seasoning, sour cream, mayo and pickle juice. Blend until mixture is liquefied. Pour into a large bowl.

Finish
Add reserved cucumber, reserved red onion and tomatoes to gazpacho base, stir together until well incorporated. Serve cold.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Creamy Horseradish Sauce


Printable version
This is a redo of a recipe I made a couple of years ago. It was the sauce for a roast beef sandwich. Here, I use it on prime rib.

When I get the opportunity I like to re-shoot recipes that I have created before June of 2012. It was then I started shooting every photograph with my DSLR camera as well as using the same lighting technique for each shot.

Before then, I was only shooting the final photographs and the artsy food styled shots with the DSLR. I should have been doing it all along, but this is a creative process and with all creative endeavors, it evolves.

Another evolution in the work started around February of this year. Before then most of the pictures contained in the information graphic were take from directly above, or from a bird’s eye view.
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
I found that taking the final shot at a 3/4 view with an infinity back ground (like the horsey sauce above) gave the graphic more depth and allowed the final shot of the dish to pop right off the page. Most of my recipes contain this technique now. My photography will continue to evolve, and I have a new-found love and respect for the art form having spent the last two years trying to improve my skills.

BEHIND THIS BITE
This sauce was part of a large meal prepared recently and it was made for prime rib, but as it says in the graphic, it’s pretty tasty on any type of beef. It’s really a variation of a southern white barbecue sauce with the addition of horseradish and dijon mustard, turning it into something very similar to Arby’s horsey sauce. It’s great to have around for a little extra pizazz whenever beef is on the menu.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Makes almost 2 Cups; 5 minutes active; 30 minutes resting
1 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C White vinegar
1/4 C Sour cream
2 Tbs Horseradish
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs Kosher salt
2 tsp Garlic, minced
2 tsp Black pepper

Make sauce
In a large bowl, mix together mayo, white vinegar, sour cream, horseradish, dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prime Rib


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Prime rib is my favorite centerpiece for special meals. With an average income like myself, it’s an expensive cut of meat, so it’s reserved for Christmas, weddings or important occasions. I consider it the best of the beef world. First of all, it’s a giant steak, so when cooked right it is tender and juicy, but because it is so large it is cooked slow like a roast. Unlike a chuck or round roast which must be broken down by the heat to become tender, the rib roast needs only to be brought to the desired temperature of doneness.

There is nothing more satisfying than grabbing a hunk of prime rib and sinking your teeth in. It’s almost primal or animalistic, but I have to say, it’s one of my favorite culinary experiences.

The rib roast I make for this post is very basic as far as the seasoning, it’s easy to make a special seasoning for the crust, but it's such a little part of the overall meal that it isn’t really necessary. All that is needed is a proper coat of salt and pepper. The natural flavor of the prime rib needs no help - it’s spectacular with just the enhancement of some good ol' S&P.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Prime Rib

I ordered this prime rib from Egolf's IGA in Churubusco Indiana. I grew up in this small Indiana town and I actually worked at Egolf’s during high school and summer breaks in college. The little grocery store that serves a town of only 2,000 has one of the best meat departments in all of Northern Indiana. The customers walk up to the meat case and choose the cut they like, an employee then weighs, prices, and wraps it in butcher paper. Any cut can be ordered and the meat cutter will prepare it properly for you.

The store and it’s service is a throwback to a time where customer service mattered and quality meat products were a focus. You will never find a one pound tube of ground beef at Egolf's, or a pile of steaks wrapped in plastic on styrofoam trays. The ground beef is ground fresh daily and the steaks are hand cut and hand picked by the customer. It’s a real blessing for a foodie like me to have such a quality place to buy food just a short drive down the road.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Prime Rib

Serves 12 to 14; 5 hours
6 to 7 lb Rib roast, boneless, tied
Salt and pepper, enough to coat entire surface of roast

Season, rest
Remove rib roast from package and liberally season with salt and pepper, cover and let rest until it reaches room temperature,  2 to 3 hours.

Sear and roast
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large pan over high sear the roast on all sides so that a nice crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to a roasting pan with a rack. Place in oven and cook until a thermometer inserted into the center of roast reaches 125° for medium rare. 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove and let rest for at least 15 minutes, internal temperature will rise at least 10° while resting. Slice and serve.