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Potato Broccoli Cheese Soup

6 Jan

(Modified from the recipe in Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny.)

Prep & cooking time: About 40 minutes total
Serves about six

Ingredients:
– 1 tbsp salted butter
– 1/2 sweet onion, chopped (a half-cup or so of green onions would work well, too)
– 1/2 tsp dry mustard
– 3 cups chicken broth or stock
– 4 cups russet potatoes, peeled and diced (4-5 small-ish potatoes)
– 5 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
– 2 cups half-and-half (light cream)
– 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
– 1/8 tsp nutmeg
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire (optional)
– 1 tsp Tabasco (optional)
– salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add dry mustard, stir, and cook for about one minute. Add the chicken broth, stir, then add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, steam or boil the broccoli until tender, 5-10 minutes. Drain.

When potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to remove about one cup of the potatoes. Put on a plate and mash well with a fork, then return to the pot. This will thicken the soup.

Add the half-and-half to the pot, stir, then add in the cooked broccoli. Heat until very hot, but not boiling (boiling will cause the cream to curdle – doesn’t change the taste but makes the texture a little unattractive). Stir in the cheddar cheese until melted. If using, stir in the Worcestershire and Tabasco. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

This recipe would probably be excellent with some crisp-cooked crumbled bacon added in at the end, or added to individual bowls. I really haven’t found too many circumstances where bacon wouldn’t improve a potato-based soup.

A Cheese Sauce for Everything

17 May

This is a great, flexible recipe for cheese sauce that goes with, well, just about anything. Pour it over vegetables, mix it with refried beans for a great dip, pour it over pasta. It’s very cheesy without being too thick or overpowering. And, as you can tell by how everything is “two”, it’s WICKED easy to double or halve.

Makes about four cups.

– Two cups shredded cheese – a cheddar or cheddar/colby/jack mix is good. Basically, you want a hard cheese, not a soft cheese
– Two cups milk – whole or 2% is fine. Heck, you could even use half-and-half if you’re feeling especially decadent. I usually use 2%. I wouldn’t recommend skim.
– Two tablespoons salted butter
– Two tablespoons flour
– Two egg yolks, lightly beaten (discard the whites or use them for another purpose)
– Two tablespoons Worcestershire
– A dash or two of paprika
– Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until the flour and butter are completely mixed, creating a roux.

Very slowly add the milk, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until the flour/butter mixture is completely dissolved into the milk. Allow the mixture to warm and thicken for about one minute, then gradually whisk in the egg yolks (you don’t want the milk to be too hot or the egg will cook upon contacting the hot liquid, which is, well, gross). Keep whisking and allow the mixture to get hot, about two minutes.

Gradually add in the cheese a little at a time, whisking constantly, until it’s all incorporated and melted. Add the Worcestershire, paprika, salt and pepper, whisk and allow the mixture to become hot, but not simmering or boiling, which will curdle the milk.

If the mixture is too thin, add another handful of cheese. If it’s too thick, add a little bit of milk. You can also add other spices – cayenne pepper works well, for instance.

Pour over whatever needs some extra cheesy goodness, and enjoy!

Steak Dinner with All The Fixin’s

23 Feb

Last night Bill was in the mood to spend some time in the kitchen with me. One of my favorite things to do is cook with Bill – the two of us gravitate toward one another as we work our way around the meal preparation. We tease. We talk. We exchange pecks while passing each other to the stove or the fridge. We taste test (never trust a skinny chef). We bicker cheerfully about prep techniques and seasoning. In last night’s case, we did all of this while maneuvering around the camera-mounted tripod. The sum of our efforts always result in exponentially better meals; more so than if one of us and prepared it alone.

Last night, we surpassed even our own best efforts. Oh, lord, have mercy.

First, we went to the grocery store. I love shopping with Bill, though we inevitably end up spending twice as much as if I’d gone alone. We LOVE to eat, have I mentioned? We kept up a running discussion of just what, exactly, we needed to make our dinner perfect. For this meal, the cost was COMPLETELY worth it. Here’s the list of ingredients for copying our meal exactly. You’re going to want to do this. Trust me.

Cooking with Bill and Tiffany – Fabulous Steak Dinner With All The Fixin’s

Essential Equipment:
– cast iron skillet
– meat thermometer

Ingredients:
– 2 Fillet Mignon steaks, approximately two inches thick (these were probably, like, 10+ oz each)
– 1 bunch fresh spinach
– 1 lb baby potatoes
– 1 package sliced mushrooms (we used baby portobello)
– 1 bottle good-quality red wine (we used Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon)
– fresh cracked pepper (table pepper would work, too)
– kosher or pearl salt (table salt would work too, just be sparing)
– vegetable or canola oil
– olive oil
– butter
– crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
– 3 cloves minced garlic, separated
– Worcestershire sauce
– non-stick cooking spray

This recipe absolutely requires a cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have one, go out and buy one. They’re only around $25. I have one of these pre-seasoned deals, and I love it. Pioneer Woman made me do it. She’s handy that way.

I must also mention that this steak recipe is ruthlessly stolen and slightly modified from The Barefoot Contessa’s Steakhouse Steak recipe. It’s good karma to give credit where credit is due.

Now, to get down to bidness.

About two hours before you intend to start the steaks, you’ll need to marinate them. Start by pouring yourself a big glass of wine, thusly:

barefoot

Now, in a glass dish big enough to hold both steaks, combine 1 cup of wine, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste (Calvin also tossed in a couple of blurts of Tabasco, and sprinkled each steak with a bit of tenderizer and poked ’em with a fork). Place the steaks in the marinade, turn to coat, then cover and refrigerate until ready to cook – at least two hours. Flip ’em over every now and then to marinade them evenly.

marinated

Okay. Ready to cook? Take the steaks out of the fridge and uncover them to bring them up to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating, prep your baby potatoes:

potatoes

Wash ’em, pat ’em dry, cut the larger ones in half to even up the cooking, then put them in a large bowl. Toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, salt, and pepper. A little rosemary and/or dill is good, too. Pour them into an oven-safe baking dish and put them in the oven.

Wait ten minutes to allow the potatoes to roast. Have another glass of wine. Watch the Oscars. Dance around to 80’s music. Do your thang.

Next, place your cast iron skillet on the stove. Spray it with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray and heat it on HIGH heat for about five minutes. While the skillet is heating, remove the steaks from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Brush each steak on all sides with a light coating of canola oil. Then, either by putting cracked pepper and kosher salt on a plate, or by sprinkling directly onto the steaks, coat each side (including THE sides) with a light “crust” of salt and pepper, pressing and massaging into the meat (you dirty kids). I combined the salt and pepper into a small bowl, then grabbed little handfuls of it to rub into the meat. I’d say I used one tablespoon of salt (KOSHER, mind) and one tablespoon of pepper for each steak. Really, for this step you can NOT be afraid to get your hands dirty. Just wash ’em afterwards. You’re durable that way.

Place the steaks into the HOT skillet and sear on all sides (including THE sides) for 1-2 minutes each side. This will sear the steaks to a lovely dark color and adhere the seasonings like a “crust”. Here’s a shot of the steaks searing on their sides – kind of tricky if they can’t balance without being held:

browning

Once the steaks are seared, lay them flat in the skillet if they aren’t already. Top each steak with one tablespoon of butter (we used salted – don’t be afraid of the butter, it is your friend). Place the skillet into the oven with the potatoes and TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 400 DEGREES (this is important so you don’t overcook the steaks). I had the steaks on the top rack and the potatoes on the bottom rack.

Cook the steaks according to how rare you like them. You’re really going to need a meat thermometer to do this right, as you can’t really time them for the appropriate done-ness. I have one of these – cheap and accurate. We like our steaks medium-rare, which is 125 degrees on the meat thermometer (I think 115 is rare). Stick the probe lengthwise into the side of the meat to get an accurate reading in the center. I’d say the steaks were in the oven for ten total minutes, though we took them out two or three times to check them. Keep in mind, my darlings, these were ENORMOUS steaks – so big that Bill and I only each ate half of one, and the remainder will be some truly fabulous leftovers. So, what I’m saying here is, YMMV.

TRUST YOUR MEAT THERMOMETER. We took the steaks out of the oven at 125 degrees exactly. You’ll see how lovely the result was in a moment.

Now, the steaks need to rest for 10 minutes after removing them from the oven. Place the steaks on a serving platter, and sprinkle the desired amount of blue cheese or Gorgonzola (we used Gorgonzola) on each steak. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and set aside. Be patient. The steak needs to rest before it’s chewed up.

Now, TURN OFF YOUR OVEN but leave the potatoes in until the rest of the meal is prepared.

While the steaks are resting, it’s time to prepare the veggies. They’re both very quick preps and were done at exactly the 10-minute mark when we cooked ’em last night.

First, you take your spinach:

spinach

Wash it well and pat it dry. Place a large skillet on the stove, and over medium heat saute one clove of minced garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil. Once the garlic begins to brown and is fragrant, add the spinach in batches, stirring constantly to coat. Once the spinach is SLIGHTLY wilted and it will all fit into the skillet, cover the skillet, remove it from the heat, and allow it to steam and wilt.

Next you take your mushrooms:

shrooms

Wash them and pat them dry. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is melted, add the mushrooms and stir to coat. Add one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and stir to coat. Keep stirring until the mushrooms have softened and the sauce has slightly thickened, about five minutes. Cover and remove from heat.

Now remove the potatoes from the oven. Uncover the steaks. Cry a little at their loveliness. Dish up the steak, potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Arrange prettily on a plate and take a picture, like so:

platefulperfection

DO YOU SEE THAT PERFECTION? Feel free to click on the picture and view a larger size to bask in all of its glory.

Serve with your steak sauce of choice (though it doesn’t need it), maybe some sour cream and butter for the potatoes, maybe some salt and pepper for the spinach and mushrooms. Oh, and more wine. Celebrate the gastronomical glory that is steak.

You’re welcome.

(Cross-posted at Snerkology.)

Grandma’s Triple Top-Secret Potato Salad – Revealed!

31 Dec

People are passionate about their potato salad. Everybody claims they have the “best” recipe – either their own, or their mom’s, or their grandma’s, or what have you. Individual potato salads are subject to strict critique by the consumers. They might say outright, “This is good, but it’s not as good as such-and-so’s,” or they admit, “This is the best darned potato salad I ever did eat!” Or they internally scrutinize and judge and analyze just what might that secret ingredient be that they detect.

ingredients

If you make a good one, you know it because it’s requested for every family dinner and every potluck, and it disappears quickly. If you make a bad one, you know it because you have leftovers when the day is done.

chopped

My childhood summers featured this dish very prominantly. My grandmother would make a batch just about every week, and I have to tell you (get ready), it IS the best recipe and IS the best potato salad you’re ever going to eat. And it took me a long time to perfect it. You see, this recipe had no measurements. Just a list of ingredients whose amounts you would add and adjust and taste and assess throughout the process of making the potato salad. I don’t know how Grandma made it EXACTLY the same every time, but she did.

whisked

I made a batch tonight, and as I went along I tried to note just how much of each ingredient I used. I probably don’t have it exactly right here, but I’m taking a shot at it. Your experience and preference may vary, so feel free to adjust the amounts toward your preference. Like a “yellower” potato salad? Add more mustard! Like it a little dryer? Add less mayo! Like it a bit more tangy? Add more vinegar!

You catch my drift. Okay, here goes!

potatosalad

Grandma’s Triple Top-Secret Potato Salad – Revealed!

Ingredients:

– 5 lbs yellow or golden potatoes
– 4 stalks celery
– 1/2 of a medium sweet onion
– 5 eggs
– 2/3 of a 32 oz jar of mayo… what is that, about 21 oz? Almost three cups? Let’s just say three cups – we like our potato salad “wet”. (Yes dears, that’s what I said… THREE CUPS OF MAYO. What, you didn’t come here for HEALTHY food, did you?)
– 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
– 3 heaping tbsp sweet pickle relish
– 3 heaping tbsp yellow mustard
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp onion powder
– salt and pepper to taste (the potatoes absorb the salt, so don’t be shy with it!)

Peel all the potatoes, cut them in half, and place in a large pot. Cover with water about 2″ above the potatoes, splash in a bit of vegetable oil, and throw in a couple of tablespoons of salt. Boil until fork-tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain and allow to cool.

While the potatoes are boiling, hard-boil the eggs (I keep them at a rolling boil for fifteen minutes). Drain and allow to cool.

While you’re waiting for the potatoes and eggs to cool, chop the celery and the onion and place them in a very large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, oil, vinegar, relish, mustard, sugar, onion powder, salt and pepper.

When the potatoes and eggs are cool, roughly chop them (about 3/4 inch pieces for the taters, smaller for the eggs), and add to the bowl with the celery and onion. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, and gently fold to incorporate without mushing up the potatoes. Pour from mixing bowl into a large serving dish. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Makes at least 6-8 servings.

You will die of the taste sensation, I guar-an-tee.

Sauteed Summer Squash

9 Mar

– Three medium yellow summer squash
– Two medium zucchini
– One can diced tomatoes
– Two cloves garlic, minced
– One half sweet onion, chopped
– Two tbsp. balsamic vinegar
– Two tbsp. olive oil
– Italian seasonings
– Salt and pepper to taste

Slice squash and zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sautee garlic and onion until transparent. Add squash and zucchini and sautee until desired tenderness is achieved. Pour canned tomatoes over vegetables and stir; add italian seasonings, salt and pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Reduce, uncovered, over medium heat for approximately five minutes. Serve as a vegetable side dish or main dish served over rice or noodles.

Greek Veggie Wrap

28 Jan

One whole tomato, diced and drained (quartered grape tomatoes work well, too)
One whole cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise, then quartered lengthwise, de-seeded, then chopped
12 black olives, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced, de-seeded, and diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and diced (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (balsamic is also good)
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
lettuce of choice
Cucumber or ranch dressing

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl except feta, lettuce, and dressing.  Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.  Wrap ingredients in a flour wrap, flour or corn tortilla**, flat bread, or pita bread.  Top with feta, lettuce and dressing (if desired).

greekpita

Makes a bunch of servings.  It’s also great when tossed with shredded lettuce as a salad. It’s best when eaten within two days of making it.

**For gluten-free, use a corn tortilla.

Tomato, Leek and Potato Bake

25 Jan

1 1/2 lbs potatoes
2 leeks, sliced
3 tomatoes, sliced
3 fresh rosemary sprigs, crushed
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 1/4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees
– Grease a five cup shallow ovenproof dish.
– Scrub and thinly slice the potatoes, layer them with leeks and tomatoes in the dish, scattering some rosemary between the layers and ending with a layer of potatoes.
– Add the garlic to the stock, stir in the salt if needed and pepper to taste, then pour over the veggies.
– Brush the top layer of potatoes in olive oil.
– Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the potatoes are tender and topping is golden and slightly crisp.

Spaghetti Squash

25 Jan

(updated 3/3/10)

1 spaghetti squash
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp garlic powder, divided
salt
pepper

– Halve raw spaghetti squash with a sturdy sharp knife, scoop out, and discard the squash poop with a spoon. (Editor’s note: “Squash poop”! BWAA!)
– Place halves into individual microwave-safe bowls.
– Sprinkle half of the garlic powder, plus salt and pepper to taste, into the halved squash.
– Fill the squash halves with chicken broth.
– Cover each bowl tightly with plastic wrap (I recommend Glad Press-n-Seal, regular Saran Wrap just melts away).
– Microwave squash on HIGH for five minutes at a time. Test squash at each interval by pushing a fork into various areas of the inner part of the squash. The squash is done when the fork goes all the way through the squash with no resistance.
– Example: One half of a small squash (fit into a cereal bowl) was done at thirteen minutes. I had to microwave each half separately because I can’t fit two bowls at a time in my microwave.
– Use a fork to scoop and separate squash strands, add any other ingredients you like at this point. Parmesan, Romano, or Pecorino, Feta, are all excellent additions to this dish, as well as, meat, sausage, veggies, olives, the list is endless.
– WARNING **** If you use a loose tomato based sauce DO NOT add it immediately to the squash; this makes the squash runny, mushy, and unpalatable. Instead garnish the dish with a little bit of sauce atop the squash, and then offer more sauce on the side, in a separate dish.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

25 Jan

6 medium potatoes, baked
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
3 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped
Hey, I didn’t say this stuff was *healthy*.

Cut baked potatoes into 1 inch cubes (leave skin on – I’m using red potatoes). Place half in a greased 13×9 baking dish. Sprinkle with half the salt, half the pepper, and half the bacon. Top with half the sour cream and half the cheeses. Repeat the layers. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with green onions when you remove it from the oven.

Editor’s note, later: I used maybe two cups of the sour cream, and maybe 1 1/2 cups of both of the cheeses. Otherwise, there’d be like way more of that stuff than actual potatoes.

Zucchini Tomato PERK with Pasta Spirals

25 Jan

I actually came up with this recipe right out of my little own head. You really need to trust me on this – it may sound like a somewhat odd combination of ingredients, but it’s truly, truly good. PERK stands for Peperocini/Edemame/Roasted Red Pepper/Kalamata Olives. I’m so cute.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced (optional)
2 tbs. cold pressed olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 medium summer squash, sliced thin
1 can Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes with Balsamic, Basil, and Olive Oil (or two medium diced tomatoes, two tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. basil, 1/4 cup water)
1/4 cup light white wine, or chicken broth
1/2 cup shelled cooked edemame (prepare frozen edemame in microwave according to package directions)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
2 peperocini peppers, de-stemmed, drained, and diced (optional)
salt and ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
whole wheat pasta spirals

In a large skillet, saute garlic and onion in olive oil until golden. Add zucchini and squash, saute until softened. Add canned tomatoes, edemame, olives, roasted red peppers, peperocini peppers, and wine or broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, and rinse with warm water.

Add corn starch dissolved in water to sauce/zucchini mixture, a little at a time and stirring constantly, until the mixture has reached desired thickness. Serve over warm pasta spirals.

To make this a “One-Pot Wonder”, simply cook the noodles first and drain, then use the same pot to prepare the recipe, stirring the noodles back in at the end.