Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steakhouse Sweet Potato with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Butter

One of the most popular posts on this blog is for a steakhouse baked potato.  Of course, there is more than one kind of potato that you can get at most steakhouses.  Let's not forget the sweet potato!  Recently, I actually had a craving for a sweet potato (which is unusual).  Then, I remembered how my brother, who taught me how to make this amazing whole wheat linguini with mushrooms and lemon-garlic gremolata, also made some amazing sweet potatoes for my family a couple of years ago.  I'm grateful that he gave me the recipe for these steakhouse sweet potatoes.

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Steakhouse Sweet Potato with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Butter 1 sweet potato per person, small to medium in size
1 teaspoon of butter for each potato

For the cinnamon and brown sugar topping 
(you can make as much or as little as you want with this recipe)
1 part sugar
1 part light brown sugar
1/2 part cinnamon
1/8 part cloves (optional)

For the whipped butter
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of half and half, milk, or water

1. Wash the sweet potatoes, coat the potatoes with butter, and wrap in tin foil.

2.  Bake potatoes at 350 degrees for about 50 to 60 minutes.  Great this picture shows me how badly I need to clean my oven.  Boo:-(

3.  Meanwhile mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.  If making a large quantity for a dinner party, divide into individual ramekins for each guest.

4.  Whip the butter with your choice of half and half, milk, or water using an electric beater or immersion blender.

5.  When the potatoes are cooked through and soft, cut a "+" in each potato.  Using your thumbs and forefingers push each corner of the  of the "+" to create a circular opening.  This pushes the loose sweet potato up so it looks fluffy.  This is a restaurant presentation secret that you can use with regular baked potatoes too.

6.  Using a melon baller, add a scoop of whipped butter.

7.  Serve with a side of the cinnamon and brown sugar butter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chinese Chicken Soup

I always make more soup in the winter than at any other time of year. I try to give into my cravings, but in a healthy way. If that isn't possible, (thinking hamburger and fries, or macaroni and cheese) then that craving becomes a scheduled "cheat" day of which there may only be 2 or 3 per month depending on my goals. This is my new approach to "dieting" as a life-style. It's working! When trying to lose weight, I also lean heavily on low-carb meals. So, what should you do when you are craving a hearty chicken soup, but don't want any grains or higher-carb vegetables involved? That's how this "Chinese Chicken Soup" recipe was born. I starting thinking about all my favorite chicken soups. When I thought about "wonton" soup, I knew I was onto something. I love wonton soup, but how could I achieve that comfort zone without the wanton? Answer, plenty of chicken, a good broth base, plenty of vegetables, and two 8 oz. bags of mung bean sprouts as a substitute for noodles.  Note: I make huge batches of soup so that I can freeze at least half.

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Chinese Chicken Soup
4 cups chicken stock, preferably (otherwise, use all low-sodium chicken broth)
4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
8 scallions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, pressed
8 baby bella mushrooms, or 4 medium portabella mushrooms sliced thin, and cut into bite sized pieces
1 (6 oz.) of snow peas, medium chop
2 (8oz.) bags of mung bean sprouts
1 cup of frozen chopped spinach
3 tablespoons of soy sauce (plus, potentially more salt depending on the stock/broth base)
1/8 to 1/4 white pepper to taste
1 pinch of chinese five spice
1 pinch of dried ginger
1 lb. of shredded chicken breast (cook fresh or use left overs)

1.  Gently clean off mushrooms, if necessary, and with a spoon scrap off the "gills." (I think you'll know what I mean by this picture).

2. Wash, gather, and chop the scallions, mushrooms, and snow peas.

3.  Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium high heat for two minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium low and add the chopped scallions.

5. Add garlic and mushrooms.

6.  Add snow peas.

7.  Add chicken stock (hold back 1/2 cup if you are cooking chicken rather than using leftover chicken), broth, soy sauce, pepper, chinese spice, ginger, and bring to a simmer.

7.  Mean while cook the chicken breasts, if you don't have leftovers.  Add 2 chicken breasts to a small pan with 1/2 cup of chicken broth, no spices needed.

8.  After 5 minutes (when the chicken looks like this) flip, cover, and cook for about another five minutes or until cooked through to 160 degrees.  (The chicken will continue to cook in the soup).

9.  Shred the chicken with two forks.

10. Add the frozen spinach to the soup pot.

11. Add the shredded chicken to the soup.

12. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and serve.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quick Apple Crisp

My husband and I don't eat a lot of desserts, but when we have dinner parties we always serve dessert.  Even so, most of the time I don't make a dessert, because the majority of my efforts go into the main course.  In these situations I buy a good quality ice cream, and serve it with a Pepperidge Farm pirourette wafer.  It is a simple dessert that never fails to please.  Since my husband likes ice cream so much, I have also learned to make that at home.  Trust me, there will be ice cream posts in the near future, I'm sure.  Once in a while though, I go back to an old standard that I have tweaked from a Pampered Chef recipe AND I serve this with ice cream or homemade whipped cream:-)

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Quick Apple Crisp
7 green apples
8 to 9 oz of yellow cake mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus extra to butter the casserole dish
juice of one fresh lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a medium size bowl with 4 cups of cool water.

2. Wash apples. Peel and quarter apples one at a time. Make 1/8 inch slices from each quarter, and place in lemon water to prevent browning. If I double or triple this recipe I use an apple peeler/ corer slicer.  You can see a picture of what this recipe looks like "doubled" in an old post here.

3. When all the apples are peeled and cut, drain the apples, and place in buttered 2 quart casserole dish (mine measures 6 1/2 inches by 9 inches).

4. Sprinkle apples with 8 to 9 oz of yellow cake mix. (I used 1/2 of a 16.2 oz box and stored the remaining cake mix in the freezer for next time).

5. Start with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and drizzle evenly over the top of the crisp.  After 30 minutes of baking you can always add more.

6. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar over the cake mix.

7. Place apples in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  At this point you can continue to bake for another 30 minutes and serve warm, or remove from the oven and finish baking 30 minutes before serving time.  (I made this one day ahead, let it cool, covered it with plastic wrap, and placed in the refrigerator overnight. The next day I took the crisp out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for about an hour so I didn't shock the casserole dish going from a cold refrigerator into a hot oven. I added a couple more tablespoons of butter to a few dry spots where butter didn't absorb into the cake mixture.  Just before we served the main course, I put the crisp back in the oven for 30 minutes.  We served the warm apple crisp with a scoop of homemade "Cinnamon Ice Cream"). YUM!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Prime Rib Pizza

For our Christmas dinner this year we decided to make prime rib.  This is a relatively new tradition started by my parents, so I was excited to continue the tradition (so was Chuck who made the request:-).   This year Christmas dinner was just my husband and I which was unusual, but I loved it.  We ended up with two slices of leftover prime rib.  Now this posed a challenge to me.  How could I repurpose this wonderful leftover meat into another meal worthy of prime rib?  My brain started clicking through the possibilities as I was thinking about my pantry, and what I already had in the refrigerator.  Then an idea came to mind of which I couldn't let go.  An idea caused by a "perfect storm" of ingredients on hand.  I had three quarters of a "master boule dough recipe" in my refrigerator, a bag of red potatoes from a friend's farm, left over garlic butter zip sauce that goes with my pan-seared ribeye, a red onion in my pantry, left over onion ring coating from the steakhouse supper recipe,  and of course the left over prime rib.  Sounded like the perfect ingredients for a *CPK-type of pizza to me.  Was it ever!  My husband and I agree that this pizza was one of the top three "best bites" of the holiday season.  That's how good it was.

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Prime Rib Pizza
1 lb portion of the master boule dough recipe
3 to 4 tablespoons of garlic butter zip sauce
1 recipe for parsley and rosemary potatoes (listed below)
1 recipe for steakhouse onion rings (slightly adapted and listed below)
12 oz (or more) of left over prime rib
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
cornmeal, grits, semolina (something coarse for pizza peel)
fresh chopped parsley for garnish

1. First, make the master boule dough recipe if you don't already have some made.  Or, defrost a frozen 1 lb portion overnight prior to pizza day.

2.  Next, make the garlic butter zip sauce if you don't already have some made.  Keep in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until baking time.

3.  Prep and bake the parsley and rosemary potatoes.  These can be made earlier in the day or even the day before pizza day.

For the potatoes (sightly adapted from CPK's Rosemary Chicken and Potato Pizza Recipe)

3 medium red skin potatoes
2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 teaspoon of salt

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place all the ingredients except the potatoes in a medium sized bowl.

- Peel and slice potatoes about an 1/8 of an inch thick by hand with a knife or with a mandolin.

- Place potato slices in the marinade and coat evenly.

- Arrange potato slices in a singe layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

- Bake potatoes for approximately 45 minutes. (Check on the potatoes 3/4 way through to see if some slices should be flipped or moved for even cooking). Potatoes should be cooked through and only slightly browned. Any that are too brown (I see a few) the cook gets to eat.  Yum!

(this recipe may make the potatoes slightly saltier than you would like if you ate them one their own but think of them as a substitute pepperoni).

4.  About 1 1/2 hours prior to pizza baking time prep and fry the onion rings.

For the Steakhouse Onion Rings
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch rings
2 cups milk whisked with 1 large egg in a shallow bowl
1 cup flour mixed with 1 cup corn starch
enough olive oil for about 1/4 inch in a frying pan (to come up about 1/2 way on each ring)

- Soak the onion rings in the milk mixture for 30 minutes.

- Toss each ring in the flour, milk/egg, and flour again.

- Heat oil until "shimmering" and fry in a single layer about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to paper towel and season with salt. I have a very large frying pan so I was able to cook this in two batches. (Keep warm if possible in a toaster oven)

5. About 20 minutes prior to baking time, preheat oven preferably with a pizza stone meant to withstand preheating to 550 (or 500 if that is your oven's maximum).  Interesting note: once my oven was preheated to 500, I discovered I could go to 525 by pushing the up arrow one more time.

6.  Sprinkle boule dough with flour and cut off a 1 lb piece.  Divide in half.  Roll out each half on a lightly floured surface to a large "personal" pizza size.  Let rest briefly and continue to roll out larger to a pretty thin pizza. My preference is an oval shape, slightly squared, so in the end, the pizza can be served in six pieces (by cutting in half horizontally, then 2 more vertical slices at the 1/3 marks).  There are many different kinds of pizzas. This is meant to mimic a thinner wood-fired pizza as opposed to a deep-dish or pan-pizza (both of which I love).

7.  Once the dough is at the proper size, sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza peel, place dough over the cornmeal and prepare the pizza.  Cut small chunks of garlic butter and spread evenly around the first pizza.  This is your sauce and it will melt and disperse the flavors.

8.  Disperse 1/4 of the amount of cheese over the "butter sauce," layer with half of the potatoes, another 1/4 of the cheese, and half of the prime rib.  This type of pizza is light on cheese compared to a deep dish or pan pizza.

9.  The pizza is ready to cook.  I made huge mistake of "jerking" the pizza off the peel to get it on the stone. Even though the pizza landed on the stone, half the ingredients flew forward off the pizza and landed on the stone.  YIKES.  REMAIN CALM. PULL OUT THE OVEN RACK, PUT THE INGREDIENTS BACK ON THE PIZZA, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, whew.

10. As the first pizza is cooking prepare the second in the same manner (be careful though, you don't want your pizza sitting on the peel too long, it's harder to remove it).

11. Remove the first pizza from oven with pizza peel (much easier), place on cutting board, load it up with half of the onion rings, and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.  Cut in half horizontally, then vertically at 1/3 marks making six small slices.  I'm not sure why but I didn't cut the first pizza right.  Check out the second pizza for an accurate picture.  Trust me though, it didn't affect the taste.

This is the first time ever I could get my oven hot enough to bake the pizza with the ingredients all at once.  When I was living in California and had sensitive smoke alarms I would par bake my crust then add ingredients and bake again. You can read a little about that is this older pizza post.

12.  After learning my lesson, I eased the pizza off the peel onto the stone with the help of a spatula.  With Julia Child's voice in my head, "you must have courage to flip the egg," I nudged the pizza onto the stone.  Success!  Set the timer so you don't forget about the second pizza as you are enjoying the first one!  When done, add fresh chopped parsley, onion rings, slice and EAT!  My mouth is watering just remembering this pizza.

*CPK or California Pizza Kitchen gave me my first pizza epiphany in my foodie journey.  Looking back, I think that is strange since when I was 21 years old I actually had my first wood fired pizza in (Turin) Torino, Italy.  I think I must have been to young to appreciate what I was eating, since it didn't make much of an impression.  However,  a few years later I tasted my first CPK pizza that rocked my world - the Rosemary Chicken Potato Pizza would be my favorite pizza for 10 years until I had the Portabella Mushroom Goat Cheese Pizza from Bahama Breeze (which they don't make anymore cry, cry, cry - actually CPK doesn't make the chicken rosemary potato pizza anymore either).  Luckily, both are emblazoned in my memory and I WILL perfect these pizza recipes.  I will definitely be updating this older pizza post with this newer technique.


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