Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chef's Salad

It's been super hot in the Chicagoland area lately, which makes turning on the oven or stovetop contrary to keeping the house cool.  You could step outside and grill dinner, such as this or this or this, but some nights you just want a huge ass salad as a dinner entree.  But you don't have to skip on the protein, enter the Chef's salad.  The origin of the name is debatable, to me it means throw a bunch of meat and cheese on some greens with your favorite veggies, top with a hard-boiled egg or two, and dress lightly with a tangy homemade vinaigrette.  The dinner salad...you can't this in Germany, according to the wife, who after days and days of eating nothing but sausage was craving a giant bowl of lettuce. 

Eat what you like.  Don't like radish? Don't add it.  Want to incorporate a different veg, meat, or cheese? Do it.  The ingredient amounts below are a rough guess, everything should be eyeballed to your liking.  Want the easiest directions on the perfect hard-boiled eggs?  Add eggs to a saucepan, cover with 1" of cold water.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, let boil for 30 seconds, then cover and turn off heat.  Let sit for 13 minutes, drain and add cold running water until the eggs are not warm to the touch, for a couple minutes.  The older the eggs, the easier they will be to peel.  

Chef's Salad
2 servings as main dish

6-8 C loosely packed mixed greens, washed and dried
1/2 C thinly sliced and halved cucumber, seeded
1/3 C grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
2 radishes, halved and sliced thin
3-4 slices turkey, julienned
3-4 slices ham, julienned
4" or so off a block of sharp cheddar, cut into small pieces
4" or so off a block of mozzarella, cut into small pieces
2-4 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and sliced
dressing of your choice, this one here is real good stuff

On two large dinner plates, start by adding a lettuce base.  The veg goes next, then meat and cheese, top with hard-boiled egg, dress lightly to taste.  Add some freshly cracked black pepper if desired, then get a fork and sit down and enjoy this big ass dinner salad. 

The tomato plants have been blowing up with the abundant June sunshine....can't wait to add the sweet little cherry tomatoes to salads and the juicy, oh-so-tomatoey beefsteaks to BLT's...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shrimp Po Boy

Only two names come to mind when I think of good ole fashioned Louisiana Cajun* cookin- Chef Josh Besh and the more well-known chef and TV personality Emeril Lagasse.  When I found myself craving a shrimp po boy the other day, I knew I would be looking towards these guys for some recipes ideas.

This is a very easy, super quick meal when you is hungry and need to eat something yummy from the deep south. 

Make sure you have some of this stuff- that very popular brand Tabasco isn't very tasty.  I like to keep a jar of Emeril's Essence on hand for times just like this- when you need to kick it up a notch- BAM! 

Shrimp Po Boy
2 servings

3/4 lb medium size shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 TB Essence
1 TB kosher salt
1/2 ts cayenne pepper
3/4 C AP flour
3/4 C yellow cornmeal
2 TB mayonnaise
hot pepper sauce
french bread or sausage rolls
tomato slices
pickle or cucumber slices
veggie or canola oil

In a dutch oven or large, deep skillet, get 1" of oil heating, it'll be time to rock-n-roll when the temp hits 360F.  If you don't have a thermo, you'll have to guess...which is not recommended.  

Your crustaceans should be at room temp and spread on a sheet pan or large plate, season them with 1 TB of the essence and 1/2 ts of the salt.  Combine the other 1 TB creole seasoning and 1/2 ts salt in a bowl with the flour, cornmeal, and essence.  When your oil is ready, dredge the shrimpies in the flour mixture and toss them around well, shaking off any excess before gently placing in the cooking oil.  Total cooking time will be about 4 minutes, flipping with a slotted spoon or spider halfway through- you may have to work in batches if you have a tiny ass skillet or are making more than 2 servings.  Once golden brown, remove to a plate lined with paper towel. 

Grill up some french bread or brat/sausage/dog rolls, slather on some mayo, top with chilled iceberg lettuce, then add the shrimps, some chopped tomato, thin slices of cucumber or chopped pickle, and most definitely a few generous dashes of your favorite hot pepper sauce.  Giddyup. 

*Is this Cajun or creole?  Is there a difference?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parmesan Garlic Oven Fries

Need something to accompany your grilled animal during this outdoor cooking season?  A brat, burger or rack of ribs would be lovely with these fries.  They would pair well with a lot of  meals, all 365 days of the year.  Much healthier than fried potato, plus you don't have the mess or have to spend so much on frying oil.  Yes, you can get really good fries that aren't handed to you in a bag through the drive through window.  DIY is always better, you know that. 

Like my hundos, I prefer my fries crispy.  Placing them on a rack instead of laying them down on a pan increases hot airflow around the individual potato slices, so you get crisp fries without having to flip them around halfway through the cooking time.  That's easy. 

Parmesan Garlic Oven Fries
2 servings

1 large baking potato
2 TB canola or veggie oil
1 ts garlic powder
2 TB finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 ts kosher salt
1/4 ts freshly cracked black pepper

Fire up the oven to 425F.

Using a mandoline, slice potato lengthwise into 1/4" fries.  Or, using your sweet ass knife skills, slice potato into 1/4" fries.  Dry potato slices well with paper towel, then place onto a sheet pan.  Coat with oil of your choice, then sprinkle with the garlic, cheese, and pepper.  Toss everything around to coat evenly, being careful not to break any precious fries.  Place the potato slices onto a rack on the same sheet pan, spacing so they are not touching.  Bake in the middle of your oven for about 18-22 minutes, keep a close eye on them during the last five minutes, remove when they have reached your desired level of crispiness.  Season with salt while still hot and enjoy them very soon after that.  

A mandoline will turn a spud into uncooked lengths of tuber in ten seconds, but if you have a sharp knife and a steady hand you can get there no problem.  Freedom fries on Flag Day? You betcha.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lemon Pasta with Pan-Seared Shrimp

We've had a lot of help lately in trying to retain as much of our sanity as possible.  A new baby + a new house = lots of things to do, so tasks that are usually considered important (such as sleeping or cooking) aren't getting much attention right now.  Thankfully, Clare has wonderful Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles to assist with the chores, so we can sleep while the weeds get pulled, the walls get painted, the lawn gets mowed, and the dinner plates get food on them.  Our meal last night was deliciously prepared by Restaurant Quality, a great find from a favorite- Ina Garten, aka Barefoot Contessa. 

Four ingredients.  That's all you need.  Really.  And it's so good, that's the handwritten note at the top of the printed recipe, 'so good'.  I'm not counting olive oil, salt and pepper as part of the four ingredients, you should never run out of those.  Or the undisputed king of all cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano....there should always be a sliver of that in your fridge.  Speaking of which, go buy some now, as there was an earthquake last week in the Parma region of Italy which damaged a lot of the aging wheels, so prices might escalate?

Ina prefers to roast the shrimp in a 400F oven for 6-8 minutes, I decided to quickly sear in a hot skillet for 3 minutes per side.  Your choice!

Lemon Pasta with Pan-Seared Shrimp
4 servings

2 lbs medium sized shrimp, (18-20) peeled and deveined
1 lb angel hair pasta
4 TB unsalted butter, melted
2 medium lemons, juiced and zested

Place the shrimp on a sheet pan and drizzle with good EVOO, season lightly with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. 

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe dish, add 1/4 C good EVOO, 2 ts kosher salt, 1 ts freshly cracked black pepper, and the lemon juice and zest, mix well and set aside. 

Cook the pasta with salted boiling water, reserving a 1/2 C of the cooking water.

In a hot skillet, cook the shrimp on each side for about 3 minutes, until cooked through and no longer pink.

Combine the cooked pasta, lemon-oil-butter mixture, and shrimp, stir thoroughly.  If needed, add a bit of the reserved pasta water if things look a bit tight.

Serve with some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, a wedge of crusty bread and a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc.  Well, that's what we did, you can choose your own accompaniments.

Do you like lemon pasta? Here's a tasty one with pistachios