Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Not Roast in Your Pot?

Dear Readers,

I grew up in a reasonably gourmet household where mom’s dinners consisted of meals like bouillabaisse and blue cheese and herb stuffed chicken breasts. I don’t ever recall the smell of a pot roast wafting up the stairs to my bedroom where I sat at my desk doing homework.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little. I’m sure there was a pot roast or two in my time. Mom is half German and makes a wonderfully delicious sauerbraten which I love. However, because both of my parents enjoyed testing their skills in the kitchen with different flavor mashing and layering of ingredients, I grew up thinking that foods like baked chicken and American pot roast were common and boring. Those were the things I’d eat when having dinner at a friend’s house, not MY house. Mom and dad made fancy foods, except for the very occasional fried egg & cheese sandwich mom would throw together when we were in a hurry to be somewhere. (She somehow even made those more delicious then they were supposed to be.)

Now that I’m grown up and have a passion of my own for experimenting with food, I’m starting to reverse my negative thoughts about roasting meats. Just this season I’ve decided that you CAN make a fancy roast. It doesn’t have to be boring with dry outer layers and just brown gravy, carrots, and potatoes. I’ve been testing recipes for lamb roasts, pork roasts, and yes, even (my most dreaded) pot roast. I usually marinate and grill or pan sauté meats and make delicious sauces by adding ingredients to the drippings, so you can imagine I’ve been treading on some very new territory.

Here is a pot roast recipe that I found and modified and then really enjoyed. The amount of horseradish seems excessive but don’t be scared! The flavor mellows as it cooks in the dutch oven leaving a really delicate and awesome flavor in the meat. I don’t eat starches but paired the main dish with garlic sautéed green beans and it was really fab.

Truly & tastefully,

Horseradish Pot Roast
4 pounds beef chuck roast, boneless
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
12 ounces low sodium beef broth (3 ounces reserved for thickening the sauce)
½ cup prepared horseradish
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Pot Roast Prep:
Pre-heat oven to 325. Salt and pepper meat on all sides. In a Dutch oven or large pan with a tight-fitting oven proof lid, sear meat in oil over med/high heat until all sides have a nice brown crust. Turn burner off. Pour liquids over the meat and toss garlic and onions into the pot. Cover entire top of the roast with a layer of horseradish. If you love horseradish, feel free to use more, as stated the flavor will mellow and give the meat a lovely flavor. Put lid on pot and stick in the oven for about 2. 5 hours. Once done, thicken the juices by placing the pan back on the burner and removing the meat. Mix 3 ounces of reserved beef broth with 2 tablespoons of flour and wisk it into the boiling liquid until it thickens. Slice the roast and pour on the gravy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Skillet Chicken Parm

Dear Readers,

This is my first winter in the burbs and it’s not quite as convenient to just “run out and get something at the store” as it was in Brooklyn. Here, I actually have to jump in my car and drive a few miles to get to the grocery as opposed to just walking 3 blocks down the street. So there have been and will be times when I literally can’t run out because they shut the roads down due to inclement weather. NYC never shuts down; it’s the city that doesn’t even sleep. It’s a whole new world!

On Tuesday afternoon I left the city in hopes of beating the oncoming snowstorm home. I was doing really well for the first hour and then big clumpy snowflakes began to fall and I started to get a little bit nervous. Being mostly a subway rider for the past nine years, I really don’t have skills at driving on snowy, slippery roads. By the time I got back to my neighborhood, there was about an inch of white on the ground and I was so happy to park my car and get into the house.

But wait! I left the city early so I was home in time for dinner which meant I actually had to make dinner which I don’t usually do on the nights I drive back from the city. Hmm. There was NO way I was getting back in my car and driving up and down mountainous back roads to get to my grocery store, so I had to think fast.

Luckily, I keep a pretty well stocked fridge now that I don’t have the luxury of just stopping by the market on the way home from work every day. There are always things like cheese, sausages, olives, vacuum sealed meats, eggs, and other sundries that tend to keep for longer periods of time. I’m also inclined to keep a few jars of gourmet sauces on hand in the pantry for when I’m in a pinch. (Besides, even skilled cooks don’t necessarily want to do everything from scratch every single day.)

So in my fridge I found a block of fresh mozzarella cheese and a package of chicken. Ding, ding, ding! The idea hit me. Why not try and make something like chicken parmesan on the stove top so it didn’t take too much time to prepare? I don’t know why I have never thought of this before; it was so easy and so delicious. I had a jar of my favorite fancy pasta sauce on hand as well as the ever present shredded parmesan in my fridge. I basically had everything I needed to fake it. The dish wasn’t traditional chicken parmesan: I didn’t use breading, didn’t pound the chicken breasts, and I didn’t bake the meal in the oven. But in under an hour I had a meal that was tasty, melty, and molto Italiano. Try it for yourself. Manga!

Truly & tastefully,

Skillet Chicken Parmesan
Bone & skin-less chicken breasts (however many you’d like…I used 4 large filleted into smaller pieces)
½ cup fresh chopped basil (or parsley)
16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese sliced in rough slices
½ cup shredded or powdered parmesan or Romano cheese
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Large jar of gourmet pasta sauce

So easy! Heat the pan and roll the olive oil in around the in around the bottom once it’s hot. Sautee the chicken breasts over medium to high heat until the surfaces are golden brown and the juices run clear. Turn the heat to low and lay mozzarella pieces over the chicken pieces and then spoon sauce over the cheese. Cover the pan and let the chicken simmer on low heat until the mozzarella cheese melts and the sauce warms. Once the cheese is melted, remove the lid, sprinkle the fresh basil and grated parmesan over the dish and plate!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sausage is Souper!

Dear Readers,

I must admit, I’m currently experiencing what’s commonly known as the post-holiday blues in a serious way. That magical time of the year between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and New Years Day is over. All the parties, all the special food, all the visiting with loved ones you don’t see very often has fizzled down into the doldrums of the chilly winter here in the Northeast. To that I say, bah-humbug!

BUT winter is a really great for preparing and eating the heavier foods you don’t want to eat in the summer because it’s too hot to have the stove or oven on too long. With temperatures in the low 30s yesterday I thought it would be a great Sunday for soup.

You’ll find as you get to know me, I don’t often follow recipes. I usually know if I can make something just by tasting it. My husband used to tease me because when we go out to eat together, I’ll go completely silent if my dish is delicious to concentrate on the flavors so I can to try and decipher the recipe. He used to laugh about that, until I started making the same dish for him just as well or even better. Now he just gives me my time to taste and eagerly awaits the day I make it for him at home.

Such is the case with the sausage meatball soup I made yesterday. I didn’t use a recipe and I haven’t actually eaten sausage soup in years. The thought of it just popped into my head and I thought I’d try it out to see how it would taste. The results were delightful…try for yourself.

Truly & tastefully,

Sausage Meatball Soup
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, loose – not in casing (or you can take it out of its casing in a pinch)
3 cups fresh chopped baby spinach
2 large shallots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
64 ounces of chicken broth
1/2 cup powdered parmesan or Romano cheese (or more to taste)
Pepper and salt to taste (keep in mind you probably won’t need a lot of salt because of the cheese)
· **Optional ingredients for the carb. hungry – 2 potatoes diced into bite sized chunks, a large can of drained and rinsed hominy

Soup Prep:
Sit down and relax for the first activity, it’s a bit time consuming but well worth it. Roll the pound of loose sweet sausage into little bite sized meatballs. They should be able the size of a quarter, if a quarter was spherical. Brown the sausage meatballs in your soup pot, you shouldn’t need oil because the sausage is fatty, but if they start to stick just pump a few squirts of cooking spray into the pot with the sausage. for a couple of hours. Somewhere near the end of that 2 hour simmer time frame, add the ½ cup of parmesan. You want to make sure to add the cheese when the soup is not boiling or it will melt and stick to your pan and serving spoon. About 10 minutes before you’re about to serve, stir in the chopped spinach and serve when the spinach has wilted. **If you want to add the carb-ie ingredients, put the diced potatoes and hominy in the pot at the same time as you add the chicken broth.