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Category Archives: Eating Out

Who Needs a Reservation? Rao’s Meatballs with Marinara Sauce in Your Home

No matter what large city you may be in there are always iconic places that you know of that can be great to dine at. New York City is chockful of places like this and if you are a lover of Italian food, Rao’s is a place you likely know of and would love to visit. If you have ever had the good fortune of dining there yourself you are among the very lucky. Rao’s is well-known for being the toughest reservation to get in New York City, not only because they have a highly-regarded menu but simply because they have very few tables to go around and a pretty regular clientele that takes them. Just because you can’t sit at a table at Rao’s doesn’t mean you can’t take the opportunity to enjoy one of their Italian classics,  such as meatballs with their famous red sauce. The recipe, from the New York Times, provides you the opportunity to make this signature dish on your own, saving you time, money and frustration.

Rao’s Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

For the Sauce:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces salt pork, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons minced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 28-ounce cans imported Italian crushed tomatoes

6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces

Pinch of dried oregano

Salt and ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

1 pound ground lean beef

½ pound ground veal

½ pound ground pork

2 large eggs

1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 small garlic clove, minced

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups fine dry bread crumbs

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, lightly smashed

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat, then add the salt pork. Sauté the pork until the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the salt pork. Add the onion and sauté it  until it is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté it just until it is softened. Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Add the basil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the sauce for 1 minute more.

To make the meatballs, in a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, veal and pork. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley and minced garlic, then salt and pepper as desired. Add the bread crumbs and mix everything well. Slowly add up to 2 cups water, 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture is moist; all the water may not be needed. Shape the mixture into 1 1/2 -inch meatballs.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and sauté it until it is lightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes, then discard the garlic. Working in batches and taking care not to crowd the pan, add meatballs and fry them until the undersides are brown and slightly crisp, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and brown the other sides of the meatballs, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the cooked meatballs to paper towels to drain, and then add them to the marinara sauce. Mix the sauce and meatballs gently and serve.

This recipe is very simple and I have found that really great-tasting, classic Italian dishes are often this way. They don’t need to use a lot of complicated methods or fancy ingredients; they stick to basics and offer great flavor. You can use a basic meatloaf mix to make the meatballs for the mixture of fat and flavor they go for or stick to your own and just use basic ground beef if you like, but if you are trying to imitate the flavor of a Rao’s meal to try it out, I would try to stick to as close of the recipe as you can to see if it is something you enjoy. I did go the extra mile and purchased the more expensive San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe to see if it made a difference over what I traditionally used. The sauce was very tasty, allowing the basic tomato flavor to shine through with nice fresh basil adding to it. The meatballs also were very simple but had good taste to them as well. All you need after that is some pasta, nice crunchy bread, a good bottle of wine and some great mood lighting and you can recreate your own Rao’s experience in your dining room or kitchen. It is an easy enough recipe to make it part of your meal rotation.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on October 11, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner, Eating Out, Pasta, Sauce

 

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Make it Yourself – Not-Quite Chili’s Chicken Fajitas

No matter where you happen to live today the odds are pretty good that there is a Chili’s restaurant somewhere near you. They seem to get more popular all the time and there are always plenty of commercials on TV telling you about what you can get there. We have one that is about 2 miles from our home and ever since Sean was little he has been a Chili’s fan. In fact, whenever Michelle goes away on business, Sean and I have a ritual that we have done for years where we go to Chili’s one night to have dinner while she is away. The menu has changed quite a bit over the years but one thing that has remained constant are the fajitas. Chili’s became quite popular thanks to this signature dish, serving it in a sizzling cast iron dish or skillet with all of the fixings to go along with it. While I do like the fajitas there and some other things on the menu, the fajitas themselves are not that hard to make on your own. However, I wanted to duplicate the flavor that they have with the fajitas so I had to do some searching on the Internet. I found several different copycat recipes to try, and I combined a few of them to make the recipe I tried out, taking he bulk of the idea from Todd Wilbur.

Not-Quite Chili’s Chicken Fajitas

For the Pico de Gallo:

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup diced onion

2 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh cilantro

For the Chicken Marinade:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Dash onion powder

2 boneless, skinless chicken halves

1 onion, sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Dash ground black pepper

Dash salt

1/2 cup pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, for serving

1/2 cup guacamole, for serving

1/2 cup sour cream, for serving

1 cup shredded lettuce, for serving

6 to 8 6-inch flour tortillas, for serving

Salsa, for serving

For the pico de gallo, combine the diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and salt together in a small bowl until they are blended. Cover and chill the bowl.

For the marinade, combine the lime juice, water, vegetable oil, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, liquid smoke, salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and onion powder together in a large bowl. Place the chicken halves in the marinade and toss the chicken to coat it with the marinade. Cover the bowl and chill, allowing the chicken to marinade for 2 hours.

Pre-heat a grill pan to high heat. Pre-heat a separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and saute the onion for about 5 minutes until it is softened. Combine the soy sauce, water and lime juice together in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the onions. Add the black pepper and continue to saute the onions until they are translucent and dark on the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Salt the onions to taste.

While the onions are sauteing, grill the chicken in the grill pan until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. When the chicken is done, remove it from the grill pan and slice it into thin strips. Add the chicken strips into the pan with the onions and toss the two together. Serve the chicken with the pico de gallo, shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream arranged on a separate plate on top of a bed of the shredded lettuce. Serve the salsa on the side, if desired. Steam the tortillas in a moist towel in the microwave for about 30 seconds to heat them through and serve them on the side as well.

I also added some yellow, orange and red peppers to the onions and sautéed them together as Chili’s often does, but if you are not a fan of the peppers feel free to leave them out. Also, you could easily substitute beef or shrimp for the chicken if you prefer. The beef can hold up to marinating overnight if you wanted to make it while the shrimp could follow the standard recipe. Also, if you want to get really fancy and serve it all in a sizzling pan like Chili’s does, you could always heat up a separate cast iron skillet or pan in the oven while you are cooking and dump the chicken and onions into it when you are done so you get he nice sizzle to go along with the meal. Overall, I think the flavors of the fajitas were pretty close to what you get in the restaurant. The soy sauce and liquid smoke seem to make a difference in the flavor of the chicken over other fajitas I have made in the past. Other than those two ingredients I didn’t see anything that was different from what I have done before so I think they must be the key to the taste. Sean really enjoyed them and said they tasted great, so you can save yourself a trip to the restaurant and some money and make them cheaper on your own. I would try this one again as a good alternative to the standard way I make fajitas.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner, Eating Out, Poultry

 

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Perfect Summer Picnic Fare | SAVEUR

Perfect Summer Picnic Fare | SAVEUR.

While summer is still upon us you should take the opportunity to get out and go on a nice picnic for the day. All you need is to pack up your supplies, grab a blanket and try out some of these great picnic fare recipes from Saveur and you will have everything you need to have a fun summer picnic that you will always remember. If it’s too hot or rainy, plan a picnic indoors and have some fun! Check it out!

 

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Saturday Takeout at Home – General Tso’s Chicken

Friday and Saturday nights all over seem to be the nights that people really go for takeout, at least in my neck of the woods. I think most people do not feel like cooking when it comes to the weekend after a long week of work, school, afterschool activities, chores and everything else you need to take care of on a daily basis. While simply calling the local pizza place or Chinese takeout is a great option that everyone turns to now and then, you can make some of your favorite takeout items right at home without spending a lot of time or money and they will taste even better than what you are paying for at a restaurant. One of my personal takeout favorites has always been General Tso’s chicken at the local Chinese restaurant here. You get the combination of a sweet and spicy glaze and sauce coating breaded chicken that tastes amazing and you would never think it is something you could duplicate at home – but you can quite easily. I found this recipe from Saveur for General Tso’s chicken that is easy to make and tastes just as good if not better than what comes in those little white containers.

General Tso’s Chicken

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock

7 tablespoons cornstarch

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

6 tablespoons tomato paste

5 tablespoons light soy sauce

4 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

2 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

3 1/2 cups plus 9 tablespoons peanut, vegetable or canola oil

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

16 chiles de arbol

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Whisk the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, the rice vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tablespoons of the light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the dark soy sauce and 3 tablespoons of water in a bowl; set the sauce aside.

Place the remaining cornstarch and both of the remaining soy sauces, the chicken pieces, 3 tablespoons of the oil and the egg yolks in a large bowl and toss them together. Pour 3 1/2 cups of the oil into a large skillet, flat-bottomed wok or Dutch oven. Heat the over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces, tossing them occasionally, until they are cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain and set them aside. Repeat the process until all of the chicken is cooked. Discard the oil in the pan and wipe the pan clean.

Return the pan to high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the ginger, garlic and the chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until the mixture is fragrant and the chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved sauce; cook until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and fry, tossing constantly, until the chicken pieces are evenly coated with the sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and top with the sliced scallions.

I have to say that the sauce was spot on as far as taste and texture. It was just like what you get with your takeout order, even though instead of chile de arbol, which I did not have on hand and rarely see around here, I used some Thai garlic chili sauce instead. I think you would get a more authentic flavor with the chile de arbol if you use them, but this was pretty close. The only difference I made from the recipe other than that was that I was using breaded chicken thigh pieces that I had left over from a meal earlier in the week so it was a bit of a cheat for me but I think it worked well. The difference with leftovers was that the coating of the chicken did not go all the way around the chicken pieces as it would if you followed this recipe exactly, but it was still good. Serve this with some white rice or fried rice and you have a great takeout meal all of your own.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Eating Out, Poultry, Sauce, Stir Fry

 

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Copy That! A Copycat Recipe of Chili’s Chicken Crispers

When it comes to family restaurant chains in our area (and there seems to be many more than we need, in my opinion), Chili’s seems to reign as the one that we frequent. Sean has always liked the food at Chili’s since he was little and is well-known throughout our family for his affinity for their cheese fries. Almost as much as he likes those, he and Michelle also both prefer the classic chicken crispers that you can find on their menu. I decided recently that I was going to try and find a copycat recipe for this particular recipe and see if I could make them at home and if they would even be close to what you get at the restaurant. I found the recipe on Chili’s at Home, a blog that features their recipes, and it seemed pretty easy to do so I gave it my best shot.

Copycat Chili’s Chicken Crispers

For the Batter:

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 cup self-rising flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

For the Chicken:

Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening for deep frying

10 chicken tenderloins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the batter, combine the beaten egg, the milk, chicken broth, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk the ingredients until they are well combined. Add the 3/4 cup of the self-rising flour and the cornstarch, whisking into the mixture until the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

To cook the chicken, Heat the vegetable oil or shortening in a deep fryer or large Dutch oven until the oil registers 350 degrees on a deep fry or candy thermometer inserted into the oil. Place the all-purpose flour in a medium shallow bowl. Coat the chicken pieces with the dry flour and then dip the chicken into the batter, making sure to coat it completely. Allow the excess batter to drip off and repeat the process with the remaining chicken. When the oil has reached the proper temperature, place 3 pieces of the battered chicken into the hot oil and fry the chicken for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the chicken is well browned. Drain the fried chicken pieces on a paper towel-lined plate and repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Just a couple of things about this recipe. First, if you can’t find self-rising flour near you, you can easily make your own. Take 1 cup of all-purpose flour and whisk in 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and you will have your own self-rising flour. Second, you don’t have to use chicken tenderloins for this; I only had some boneless chicken breast on hand, so I cut them into small strips and used those, so we actually ended up with more than 10 pieces. I have to say that I think this recipe is pretty much spot on. The coating seemed exactly like what you get at the restaurant. I read elsewhere that Chili’s actually uses an MSG as an ingredient, so the chicken broth is a solid substitute to give you the flavor enhancement without the MSG. The coating is light and crunchy and the chicken is cooked through perfectly. I served this with tater tots and the obligatory corn on the cob. You could easily make your own favorite dipping sauce or use whatever you like to dip them in. I actually made Chili’s avocado-ranch dip to use, which is one of our favorites as well, but you could just use ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, hot sauce or whatever you like best.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Appetizers, Cooking, Dinner, Eating Out, Poultry

 

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15 Takeout Recipes You Should Know How to Make at Home – Bon Appétit

15 Takeout Recipes You Should Know How to Make at Home – Bon Appétit.

Ever since I got back from vacation I haven’t had much time to try out any new recipes I have been busy with work and other commitments, but I hope to get back to it in the next day or two so I have something new to share with everyone. In the meantime, here is a posting from Bon Appetit that you may enjoy. Everyone loves takeout, but here are a few recipes from Bon Appetit that you can try to make some of your takeout favorites, like shrimp fried rice and spring rolls, right in your own kitchen to save you some money and give you great tasting dishes all of your own. Check it out!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Dinner, Eating Out

 

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15 Carnival Recipes You Can Make at Home – Bon Appétit

15 Carnival Recipes You Can Make at Home – Bon Appétit.

Half the fun of going to a carnival or street fair is all of the different foods they have available. It seems like the food that you can get there is found in no other place and has a certain taste to it thanks to the event all on its own. Bon Appetit has put together 15 recipes here of famous carnival foods that you can enjoy right in your kitchen to being back the tastes, smells and memories. All you need are some rides and carnival games and you are all set. Check it out!

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2014 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Eating Out, Snacks

 

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Jennifer Probst

a little bit naughty a little bit nice

Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

simple cooking recipes

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