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A Comfort Food Classic for Cooler Weather – Beef Stroganoff

The weather has started to become noticeably cooler the last few days. While the temperature has stayed in the 70s or so during the day around here, it is going down to fifty at night, making it great to open up the windows and get some fresh air for a change instead of using the air conditioner. Once the weather starts to get this way, I tend to start to think more about making different comfort foods. Comfort foods in the fall naturally seem to gravitate towards things like soups, stews, roasts and the like. I decided yesterday seemed like a good day to try something I have not made a very long time – beef stroganoff. Traditionally, stroganoff is made with beef tenderloin. However, tenderloin is not something I buy usually more than once a year, and even then it is usually around the holidays. There are plenty of good substitutes that you can use to make stroganoff instead of spending a high price you might for tenderloin. You can use sirloin steak, London broil or even stew beef if you cut it thin enough. I decided to try this classic beef stroganoff recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which simplifies the recipes so that you can make a great meal in about twenty or thirty minutes.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and have if small, quartered if medium, cut into sixths if large

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound beef (tenderloin, sirloin steak, London broil or stew beef), cut into 1/2-inch long, 1/8-inch wide strips

1/2 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon butter

one small onion, minced (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup sour cream

8 ounces egg noodles, cooked in salted water, drained, and tossed with 2 tablespoons of butter

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed large skillet set over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering, but not smoking, about 2 to 3 minutes; swirl the oil to coat the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat without stirring for about thirty seconds. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and continue to cook them, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl.

Return the skillet to high heat, and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil; swirl the oil to coat the pan. Place the beef strips in the skillet. Using tongs, spread the meat into a single layer, making sure that the strips do not touch, and cook the meat without turning until it is well browned on the first side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the beef strips and cooked them on the second side until they are well-browned, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the beef to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add the beef broth to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon; simmer the broth until it is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the beef broth to the bowl with the mushrooms and the beef, scraping the skillet clean with a rubber spatula.

Return the skillet to medium low heat and add the butter; when the butter foams, add the onion, tomato paste and dark brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned and softened, about 6 to 7 minutes; stir in the flour until it is well incorporated. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and white wine; increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture until it has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk the liquid from the mushrooms and beef into the sauce and simmer it to incorporate all the liquid. Stir about 1/2 cup of the warm sauce in the pan into the sour cream, then stir this mixture back into the sauce in the pan. Add the mushrooms and beef back into the pan; heat everything to warm it through about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Adjust the seasonings with salt-and-pepper to taste and serve the stroganoff over the buttered egg noodles.

This recipe seemed a bit easier than some of the other side take a look at and allowed you to use more of ingredients you likely have on hand at home. Browning everything in the same pan as you go along with each step helps to build more layers of flavor from the dish. If you do not have any white wine available or do not like to use wine when you are cooking, you can always substitute more chicken broth or water. Mixing the sour cream with the hot sauce before you put it into the pan is a lot like tempering eggs, sour cream is likely to curdle if you edit directly to a hot liquid. To prevent this from happening, mixing it with a little hot liquid before you edit into the pan will help you to create a much better sauce. I thought the flavors of the dish were excellent and the meat came out nice and tender and very tasty. I simply used some stew beef that I had on hand, but I think a sirloin steak would work very well for this particular recipe. Stroganoff is traditionally served with noodles and I roasted some broccoli and cauliflower to go along with it to round out the meal.

That is 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 13, 2016 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner


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Say it With Steak – Pan Grilled Sirloin Steak with Ancho Chile-Coffee Rub

Finding different things to do with steak when you don’t have the option of grilling outside can be difficult sometimes. There is nothing quite like getting a steak nicely grilled, grill marks and all, and having the smell of the steak on your barbecue permeating the backyard. For those of us that do not have the grilling option, finding a good way to get flavor, grill marks and more out of a steak you make indoors is what you have to make the best of. For me, it usually means making use of a grill pan, finding a really good rub to put on the steak and doing some careful cooking to make sure the steak gets done correctly. There is nothing worse than overcooking a good piece of steak, considering how much they cost today. You can save a little bit if you can get yourself a nice sirloin steak, which I managed to do recently at our local farmers’ market. I got steak from Bishop Farms, a farm that promises no hormones, GMOs or antibiotics in the meat they sell. It was then a matter of finding a good way to cook it, so I decided to make use of part of this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for a grilled steak with ancho chile-coffee rubs and adapt for indoor use.

Pan Grilled Sirloin Steak with Ancho-Chile Coffee Rub

For the Steak:

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 ( 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pound) boneless sirloin steaks, about 1-inch thick

For the Spice Rub:

1 dried ancho chile. stemmed, seeded and flesh torn into 1/2-inch pieces
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground coffee
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
Vegetable oil spray
For the steak, combine the tomato paste, fish sauce, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, cut 1/16-inch-deep slits on both sides of steaks, spaced about a ½ inch apart, in a crosshatch pattern. Rub the salt mixture evenly on both sides of the steaks. Place the steaks on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet; let the steaks stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
For the spice rub, toast the ancho chile, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns in a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, stirring the spices frequently, until they are just beginning to smoke, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the spices to a plate to cool for about 5 minutes. Grind the spices in  a spice grinder or in a mortar with pestle until they are coarsely ground. Transfer  the spices to  a bowl and stir in the sugar, coffee, and cocoa powder.
Sprinkle about half of the spice rub evenly over 1 side of  the steaks and press down to adhere until the spice rub is fully moistened. Lightly spray  the rubbed side of the steak with vegetable oil spray for about 3 seconds. Flip the steaks and repeat the process of sprinkling with the spice rub and coating with vegetable oil spray on the second side.
Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Drop a few drops of water on the pan and if it sizzles loudly when it hits the pan, the pan should be hot enough for your steaks. Place the steaks in the hot pan and sear the steaks on one side for 5 minutes without moving the steaks. Flip the steaks and cook them on the other side for another five minutes without moving them for a doneness of medium-rare. If you prefer the steaks medium, add one to two minutes to your cooking time to desired doneness. Remove the steaks and allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing them thinly against the grain and serving.
If you didn’t want to go through the effort of toasting the spices and then grinding them you could certainly use spices that are already ground, but the toasting does add a different flavor to the spice mixture and it works well. You get a much deeper flavor this way. I really liked having two different rubs on there as the combination of the tomato paste, fish sauce, salt, onion and garlic really adds something special to the steaks and then it gets topped off by the coffee and chile spice rub for a really good finish. Spraying the steaks with vegetable spray serves a couple of purposes as it will help you to keep the steaks from sticking to the pan but it also helps to bloom the spices a bit more so you don’t get a raw spice flavor. I think the rub will work well on any cut of steak you want to make, something expensive or inexpensive, and still give you great taste. I only made one large steak for the three of us for this meal but if you make the two steaks indoors you will need to cook them in batches so you can make sure you get a nice sear and don’t overcrowd the pan so the steaks steam. Of course, if you have a gas or charcoal grill you could always cook them outdoors and get great results as well. Any steak goes well with roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables, and I made some roasted broccoli and beets to go with the meal.
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 31, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner, Grilling, Herbs, Spices


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Simple Sides for Burgers and Sandwiches, Part 1 – Coleslaw with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing

Since I had made burgers and sandwiches a few times last week as items for dinner, I also wanted to come up with some new side dish options to go along with them. in my house, french fries are pretty much a must when we have burgers in the house so I either go with store bough fries or I make my own oven fries, which are also great. I do like to try different coleslaw recipes as well to give us something new. There are many variations on coleslaw recipes, and some use mayonnaise while others do not. I have tried each and some with mayo tend to be a bit too much, so lately I have been leaning more towards other options, such as this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for a coleslaw with bacon and buttermilk dressing. It is really more like a cabbage salad than a coleslaw and this one strives to be a little less watery than some other options by salting the vegetables first.

Coleslaw with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 pound green cabbage (about 1/2 a head), shredded fine

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

1/2 medium onion, sliced thin

Salt and ground black pepper

Toss the shredded cabbage, the grated carrot and the sliced onion and 1 teaspoon of salt together in a colander or fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Let the vegetables stand until the cabbage wilts, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Rinse the vegetables under cold running water or in a large bowl of ice water. Press, but do not squeeze, to drain the vegetables. Pat the vegetables dry with paper towels. you can store the vegetables in a zipper-lock plastic bag at this point and refrigerate them overnight if you wish.

Fry the bacon pieces in a medium skillet set over medium heat until it is crisp and brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard the fat from the skillet.

Stir together the buttermilk, cider vinegar, vegetable oil, caraway seeds, dry mustard and sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Toss in the cabbage, carrots, onion and bacon in the dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then cover and refrigerate the bowl until you are ready to serve.

It is a pretty simple recipe that imparts great flavor. I actually used two different cabbages, green and purple, and I used a red onion as well for some different flavor. Salting here certainly draws a lot of the water out of the vegetables so they will not be as crisp and crunchy as you may like. It ends up with a softer, more pickle-like texture instead which was good, but I have to admit I missed some of the crunch. However, the flavor from the buttermilk dressing and the bacon was really good and a nice change for the coleslaw. You could certainly use a bag of coleslaw mix if you did not want to shred the vegetables on your own and I think it would work just as well here.

That’s all I have for today. Check back tomorrow for another side dish recipe. This time it will be some easy cornmeal crusted onion rings. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Cooking, Dressings, Salad, Side Dishes


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It’s Never Too Cold For Barbecued Baked Beans

I have actually made this recipe a few times over the last several weeks because we like it so much. Even though it may seem like a good summer side dish, I think good baked beans can go well with any type of beef or pork dish at all. I actually made these as part of my birthday dinner when we made pulled pork and I made them again just this past weekend for a family party we were going to. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and you do not need a ton of ingredients. All you really need is a lot of time in the oven or you can make them ahead of time if you know you have any occasions and refrigerate and reheat them.

Barbecued Baked Beans

4 slices bacon, chopped fine

1 onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound dried small white beans (2 cups), rinsed and picked over

8 cups water

1 cup black coffee

1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus extra for seasoning

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard

1 tablespoon molasses

Tabasco sauce or hot sauce, for seasoning

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until it is beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the beans, the water, the coffee, the barbecue sauce, the dark brown sugar, the mustard, the molasses, 1/2 teaspoon of Tabasco or hot sauce, and 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Bring the entire mixture to a boil,scraping up any browned bits. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Bake, stirring every hour, until the beans are tender, about 4 hours.

Remove the lid from the Dutch oven and continue to bake, uncovered, until the liquid has thickened to a syrupy consistency, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season the beans with additional barbecue sauce, Tabasco or hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste before serving.

This makes a lot of beans, with the serving recommendations of 6 to 8 people, but I think it can easily feed more than that, so if you know you are having a crowd than this is a great side dish you can plan on using. I think it goes great with pulled pork, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs, steak or even just is a great side for sandwiches. I used Navy beans for the recipe, but any white bean here will do and make sure you use dried beans for this and not canned. The canned beans will just turn to mush because of the long cooking. You do not need to pre-soak the beans either for this recipe since they are cooking for such a long time and will get tender on their own.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes to try. With the new year creeping up on us, I will have lots of new things to try out and share along the way. Thanks for following along and reading. Enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Cooking, Rice, Side Dishes


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Simple, One Dish Italian Dinners, Part 1 – Lasagna

Okay, anyone who knows me personally know I don’t eat pasta or cheese, but that does not mean I won’t make it for someone else to enjoy. Michelle and Sean both really like lasagna, and since we had Sean’s birthday meal not that long ago, he decided that he wanted to have some lasagna for his dinner. For me, this needs to be as simple of a recipe as it can be, and Cook’s Illustrated gave me just that in their cookbook with a straightforward meat lasagna with not a lot of ingredients that was easy to make.

Meat Lasagna

Tomato Meat Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

Cheese Filling:

14 ounces (1 3/4 cups) ricotta cheese

2 1/2 ounces (1 1/4 cups) Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (4 cups)

12 no-boil lasagna noodles

For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the ground beef, salt, and pepper, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and only rendered fat remains, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until the flavors meld, about 3 minutes. Set the sauce aside.

For the cheese filling: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the basil, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Spread 1/4 cup of the meat sauce evenly over the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles in a single layer on top of the meat sauce. Spread each noodle evenly with 3 tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture and sprinkle the entire layer with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce over the top. Repeat the layering of the noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese and the meat sauce 2 more times. For the final layer, arrange the remaining 3 noodles on top and cover the top completely with the remaining meat sauce.. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the cheese is spotty brown and the edges are just bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes longer. Cool the lasagna for 15 minutes before serving.

It was much easier to make this way using the no-boil noodles, but if you prefer to make your own noodles then you should go right ahead. I know everyone has their own family lasagna recipe, but if you are making your own for the first time and need one to start with then this one is pretty good to use because it is easy to follow and gives you good results. you can serve this with a simple side salad and some homemade garlic bread and you are good to go for the night. I know we’ll be making it again since Sean and Michelle love it so much.

That’s all I have for today.Check back next time for another recipe and see what comes along. I still have lots to choose from. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Pasta, Uncategorized


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A Throwback Dessert for the Holidays: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple upside-down cake is not something I would think of making very often. Let’s be honest – most of us who are old enough probably associate it with seeing it at parties our parents had when we were growing up in the seventies. You may not even have a good memory of it thanks to the tinny taste of the pineapple from the can and the super-sweet juice that came with it. All of that being said, Michelle had said to me not the long ago that she might want to give the dessert a try. As fate would have, when I walked into the grocery store last week fresh pineapples were on sale. I bought one and set about finding a recipe, and this one from Cook’s Illustrated seemed to be the best to use and the easiest to make.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Topping:

1 medium fresh pineapple (about 4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

1 egg white at room temperature

1/3 cup milk at room temperature

Lightly spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside.

For the pineapple topping, combine the pineapple and brown sugar in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally during the first five minutes until the pineapple is translucent and has a light brown hue, about 15 to 18 minutes. Empty the fruit and the juices into a mesh strainer or colander set over a medium bowl. Return the juices to the skillet, leaving the pineapple in the strainer. You should have about 2 cups of cooked fruit. Simmer the juices over medium heat until it is thickened and beginning to darken and the mixture forms large bubbles, about 6 to 8 minutes, adding any more juices released by the fruit to the skillet after about 4 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and the vanilla. Pour the caramel mixture into the prepared cake pan. Set it aside while preparing the cake batter.

For the cake, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set it aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, cream the butter and the sugar at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, add the vanilla and beat to combine. One at a time, add the whole eggs and then the egg white, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Reduce the speed to low; add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until it is incorporated. Add half of the milk and beat until it is incorporated; repeat the process, adding half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining milk, and finish with the remaining flour. Give a final stir with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that the batter is combined. The batter will be thick.

To bake the cake, working quickly, distribute the cooked pineapple in the cake pan in an even layer, gently pressing the fruit into the caramel. Using a rubber spatula, drop mounds of the batter over the fruit, then spread the batter over the fruit and to the sides of the pan. Tap the pan lightly against the work surface to release any air bubbles. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then place an inverted serving platter over the cake pan. Invert the cake pan and platter together and lift off the cake pan to release the cake. Cool the cake to room temperature for about 2 hours, then cut into pieces and serve.

Taking the time to peel, core and chop a fresh pineapple is very worth it for this recipe and makes all the difference. The fresh pineapple taste and smell, to me, is so much better than what you get from a can and preparing the pineapple only takes a few minutes. The rest of the recipe is very easy and produces great results. You get the nice caramelized pineapple with a light cake and it was much better than any of us remembered it. I actually did the whole recipe in my trusty cast iron skillet. I cooked the pineapple and the caramel in it, cooled the pan with the caramel, pressed in the pineapple and poured in the batter. I think it came out just as well as it would in a cake pan, saved me a little cleaning and came out of the pan just as easily as it would a cake pan.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I tried out a couple of more Thanksgiving recipes yesterday, so I will post those before the big day on Thursday. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Cakes, Cooking, Dessert


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Meals with Family and Friends Part 4 – Pan-Seared Rib Eye Steaks with Red Wine Sauce

One of my favorite meals to eat is just a simple steak dinner. Of all the cuts, I have to say that I think my favorite of all is the rib eye. it has a little more fat than some other cuts, but this does help to give it tremendous flavor and when it is cooked just right it melts when you cut it. Serve it with a nice pan sauce and a couple of good sides and you can have an elegant meal any night of the week. I made some steaks last night when we had a friend visiting and chose to make some nice rib eye steaks I had picked up at. I just followed this simple recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and made a nice pan sauce to go on the side.

Simple Pan-Seared Steaks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 (8 to 10-ounce) boneless strip steaks or rib eye steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick

Salt and pepper

1 pan sauce recipe (to follow)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with paper towels and season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.

Lay the steaks in the pan, leaving 1/4 inch between them. Cook, without moving the steaks, until they are well browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and continue to cook until the meat registers 115  to 120 degrees (for rare) or 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), about 3 to 7 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving platter and tent them loosely with aluminum foil to rest while you prepare the pan sauce, if using.

Very, very simple. My preference is always to cook the steaks to about medium so they are still nice and pink inside. Letting them rest while you make the pan sauce will help them come up to just the right temperature and doneness. This particular sauce I made does require a little preparation beforehand, so you can make the wine reduction earlier before you cook the steaks.

Red Wine Pan Sauce

Wine Reduction:

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped fine (about 2 tablespoons)

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 medium white mushrooms, chopped fine (about 3 tablespoons)

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 cup red wine


1 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup beef broth

3 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Ground black pepper


For the red wine reduction, heat the carrot, shallot, mushrooms, bay leaf, parsley and wine in a large nonstick skillet over low heat; cook, without simmering (the liquid should be steaming but not bubbling) until the entire mixture is reduces to 1 cup, about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and return the liquid (about 1/2 cup) to a clean skillet. Continue to cook the liquid over low heat, without simmering, until the liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Transfer the reduction to a bowl.

For the sauce, follow the recipe for the Pan-Seared Steaks, transferring the plate with the steaks to a 200 degree oven to keep them warm. To the same skillet used to make the steaks (do not clean the skillet or discard any accumulated fat), add the shallot and cook over low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Turn the heat to high; add the chicken and beef broths. Bring the mixture to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the pan bottom with a wooden spoon until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 6 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, gently whisk in the reserved wine reduction and any accumulated juices from the plate with the steaks. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until it is melted and the sauce is thickened and glossy; add the thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

The red wine sauce for the steaks turned out very nice and adds some great flavor to the steaks. Of course, you can always skip the sauce completely and just go with the steaks, but I think it added something quite nice to the meal. I served the steaks with the fall vegetable risotto recipe I posted last week and some pan roasted asparagus and sautéed spinach,  a recipe I will post later this week. For dessert that night, we also had the fallen chocolate cake that we have made before to completely round out the meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I raided the freezer this weekend and took some things out to make this week, so look for recipes using wild salmon, pizza dough, Italian sausages, boneless chicken breasts and some spare ribs, among others. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Sauce


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Back to School: A Cook’s Illustrated Stir Fry Primer

I make a stir fry dinner about once a week, mainly because it is one of the easiest meals you can put together in a short amount of time. While any stir fry can come out tasting okay, you want yours to taste great every time you make one so it seems different and special. While it’s true that a stir fry often stems from trying to use up the leftovers in the refrigerator, you can also put some planning and strategy into what you use and how you make it. In the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, they have a wonderful article on steps you can take and follow to make a great stir fry every time.

A good stir fry usually starts with three basic components – some type of protein, vegetables and some type of sauce. Of course, you can vary this to fit any type of taste, but ideally you want to try to mix up texture and color as much as you can to create a vibrant, enticing plate. Another thing to remember is that while having lots of color can make the plate look nice, having too much can really clutter things up for you. If you can limit the types of produce you use to three at the most it will help avoid this and advance the flavor of your dish.

For proteins, you want to keep the quantity to around 1 pound of whatever you choose and select tender cuts that will soften up faster with this type of cooking. Sirloin tip steaks, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or shrimp are just some ideal examples that you can use. To make things even easier for yourself, try freezing your protein before cutting it so you can slice easier and get more uniform cuts. Generally about 30 minutes of freezing should suffice. You also want to make sure you take some time to pre-treat the protein you are using. it can really help to tenderize the protein and give it more flavor.Try soaking the protein for 15 minutes in 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water. Don’t go longer than the 15 minutes or it will start to break down the protein too much and be sure you rinse the protein off before you start marinating it.

You want to marinate the protein in some type of salty liquid. This will help to brine the meat and boost the flavor. Just make sure you drain it well before you cook so you can make sure the meat will brown nicely and not steam in any excess liquid. Soaking the meat for 15 minutes in just 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or fish sauce can make a big difference. For shrimp, salty marinades can be a bit overwhelming. Cook’s Illustrated recommends using a simple mix of 3 tablespoons of oil, 6 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes to get great flavor from the shrimp.

For vegetables, again you want to stick to about a 1 pound limit of whatever combination you choose. Some vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, snap peas or cauliflower, need longer cooking times, about 3 to 7 minutes. Softer vegetables like mushrooms, onions, snow peas, peppers or asparagus need only about 1 to 3 minutes of cooking time. Smaller, more tender vegetables such as frozen peas, scallion greens, water chestnuts, tomatoes, bean sprouts or greens like spinach only need 30 to 60 seconds. Try to cut everything to a uniform size so that it all cooks evenly.

Lastly, you want to have some type of sauce to cook it all in. The sauces you buy in the jars in the store may work fine for some people, but I find them to be very sweet and loaded with salt. You can very easily make your own sauce in a minute or two with a few ingredients. A classic sauce, which I used in the chicken stir fry recipe below, has chicken broth, dry sherry, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch and sesame oil.

I followed this simple recipe for a great chicken stir fry, but you can follow the same pattern for beef, fish or even tofu.

Easy Chicken Stir Fry


1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup dry sherry

3 tablespoons hoisin or oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon sesame oil


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

6-8 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/3 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/3 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices

1 small onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/3 cup frozen peas

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, grated

For the sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil and heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken slices, breaking up any clumps, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover it to keep it warm. Repeat the process with another 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil and the remainder of the chicken. Remove the chicken to the bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add another 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. Add the broccoli and cook until seared, about 3 to 5 minutes.Remove the broccoli from the skillet and add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until seared, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the carrots and add the onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until seared, about 1 to 3 minutes.Remove the onions and peppers from the skillet and add the frozen peas to the skillet and heat until seared, about 30 to seconds.Add the broccoli, peppers and onion back to the skillet and toss.

Clear the center of the pan and add the garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Mash the mixture until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds, then mix it into the vegetables. Return the chicken to the pan. Whisk the sauce to re-combine, then add it to the skillet and toss constantly until the liquid is thickened, about 30 seconds. Pour the stir fry into a serving bowl and serve with white rice or fried rice.

There are a few other tips you may want to follow when making a stir fry. First, as I have said before, while it is nice to have a wok, I don’t think they are very effective for cooking at home. unless you have a professional stove with the right kind of burners, a round-bottomed wok won’t work nearly as well as a large skillet when it comes to browning. Second, don’t put too much in the pan all at once. A crowded skillet won’t give you the searing that you want for a stir fry; it is just going to steam everything. Take the time to cook everything in batches and you will be well rewarded with nice browning. Third, try not to stir everything too much. I know it’s called a stir fry and everything tells you that you should be stirring constantly, but the thing is that most stoves don’t give you the kind of heat you get at an Asian restaurant’s stove or flat top so by moving things around all the time you don’t allow them to brown well. Give them a chance to cook and stir infrequently. Finally, remember that you don’t have to cook everything fully during the searing process. You want to remove items just before they are done. Everything is going to finish cooking in the end when you add it back into the pan with the sauce.

Of course you can do things in many combinations or try different sauces instead of this classic sauce if you want something different. You can vary things up each time by using different seasonal vegetables as well to make things different or top the final product with scallion greens, toasted seeds or nuts or whatever herbs or oils you may find appropriate or like. The combinations are endless here, so you can have a  lot of fun with it.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some new recipes I have tried recently, including a very simple Italian bread salad and a great bay scallops I used recently. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Pan-Fried Crab Cakes and Oven Fries

I have posted crab cakes and oven fries recipes on the blog before, but I did make them a little differently this past week when we had them for dinner. This time, I decided to use the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, which I find I used for many different things. It has lots of great recipes in it, both basic and a little more technical see you can cover just about everything. The cookbook also has a lot of great hints as far as equipment, kitchen accessories, techniques, and more. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a cookbook batting compresses everything. The crab cakes recipe that I used is pretty basic and easy to follow.

Pan-Fried Crab Cakes

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over to remove cartilage and shell fragments
4 scallions, green parts only, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, dill, or basil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-4 tablespoons plain dried breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Salt and ground white pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges
Tartar sauce (recipe to follow)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently mix the crab meat, scallions, parsley, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, and Old Bay in a medium bowl, being careful not to break up crab lumps. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in the egg with a rubber spatula until the mixture just clings together. If the cakes do not bind, add more breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, until they do.

Divide the crab mixture into four portions and shape each portion into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches thick. Arrange on a prepared baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Place flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Lightly dredge the cakes in the flour. Keep your loyal in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Gently lay the flowered cakes in the skillet and cook until the exteriors are crisp and browned, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or sauce.

I’ve always found that the key to really good crab cakes is having less breadcrumbs, less filling and more crab. Most of the crab cakes you seem to get when you go out to a restaurant are just filled with breadcrumbs and don’t have much crab in them at all. Also, I have found many places tend overcook them so you really only need about four minutes per side just to crisp them up. Jumbo lump crabmeat can be quite expensive, so if you want a cheaper alternative you can certainly buy pasteurized crabmeat. That is what I used this time and I think the recipe turned out just fine. Another key is you really do need a good nonstick skillet to use to make these. There is nothing worse than trying to flip the crab cake that is stuck to the bottom of the pan. I served the crab cakes with that recipe that I also got from this cookbook for the tartar sauce. It’s really easy to make and it’s certainly better than anything you’re going to find in a store.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and let sit to blend of flavors together, about 15 minutes. Stir again before serving. The sauce can be refrigerated and stored for up to one week.

I didn’t have sweet pickle relish on hand, but I did have bread-and-butter pickles so I use them instead, I minced a few up and added a tiny bit of pickle juice to the mixture and I think it came out great. I also cut back a little bit on the mayonnaise as I am the only person leads tartar sauce in our house so this way we didn’t end up with a lot left over. The final piece of the dinner was one of Sean’s particular favorites for the night, which were the oven fries. I’ve tried making oven fries in the past with mixed results and this recipe is very similar to one I have tried before.

Oven Fries

2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 10 to 12 even wedges
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475°. Place the potatoes in a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; set aside. Line the second baking sheet with triple layers of paper towels and set aside.

Drain the potatoes. Spread the potatoes out on the paper towel lined baking sheet, then thoroughly Pat dry the potatoes with additional paper towels. Rinse and wipe out the now empty bowl. Return the potatoes to the bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the oil baking sheet, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for five minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are spotty golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula and tongs, scraped to loosen the potatoes from the pan, then flip each wedge, keeping the potatoes in a single layer. Continue baking until the fries are golden and crisp, about 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating the pan as needed if the fries are browning unevenly.

While the fries bake, line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Transfer the baked fries to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve.

There seems to be a couple of keys to the recipe that made it turn out better for me this time than the past. First, I tried to cut the potatoes as evenly as possible so everything would cook at about the same time frame. Soaking the potatoes for the required amount of time really makes a big difference as it pulls out a lot of the starch from the potato and helps to keep them from sticking to the pan. Adding the oil to the pan and a little bit to the potato not only helps with the sticking but helps with the browning process. Finally, covering the potatoes with aluminum foil for five minutes at the beginning of cooking allows the potatoes to steam so you can then crisp them up the rest of the cooking time. I certainly think it was a pretty successful effort this time out.

That’s it for today. Time for me to get back to work after spending yesterday evening at Citi Field watching the Mets game. I’ll have another recipe for you tomorrow so check back and see if it’s something you are interested in giving a try. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and hopefully you were not in the rain as we are here in New York. Enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Cookbooks, Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Sauce, Seafood


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A Star’s Brownies with a Side of Cole Slaw

I thought I would just post a few simple recipes that I’ve made in the past week for today. The first is one that I came across in The New York Times and it is a recipe that I’ve seen in other places on the Internet. I am sure many people are familiar with Katherine Hepburn’s brownie recipe and may have seen it in other places. I thought it would be a nice simple dessert to make for one evening so we gave it a try.

Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies

1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325°. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Add the sugar, flour, nuts (if using), vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into a greased 8 x 8 square pan. Bake for forty minutes. Do not overbake as the brownies should be gooey on the inside. Let the brownies cool completely and cut into bars.

It was a very simple recipe that took no time at all to prepare. This makes it great as an option to make for a quick dessert as you may have the items around the house had any time. I am not a big brownie fan myself, but I have to admit that they came out quite nice. They were nice and crisp on the top and soft and chewy on the inside. You could serve them with a bit of vanilla ice cream on the side or just some simple homemade whipped cream and you have a complete dessert in no time at all.

The second recipe I have for today is one I am made when I had made Sloppy Joes was earlier in the week. I wanted to make a side dish to go along with them and I felt like having some coleslaw, but I wanted to try a little bit of a different recipe. I found this one through Williams – Sonoma on their website and it sounded pretty good to me. I try not to make a lot of coleslaw recipes that use mayonnaise, only because it seems to me that they tend to use a lot of it and it waters down the side dish. This one doesn’t used to much, and I actually cut down the amount in the recipe itself anyway.

Williams – Sonoma Coleslaw

1 head green cabbage, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more, to taste
half cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 carrots, peeled and julienned

Place the cabbage in a large bowl, sprinkle with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and toss well. Transfer the cabbage to a colander and let drain for thirty minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, granulated sugar, lemon juice, celery seed and vinegar, and season with the salt and black pepper. Add the drained cabbage and carrots and toss to coat them evenly with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

As I said, I have made a few adjustments to this recipe. First, I used a bag of coleslaw mix that included the green cabbage, red cabbage and julienned carrots already done so I did not have to deal with the slicing. However, I did salt the cabbage ahead of time to help draw out some of the moisture. Instead of using the half cup of mayonnaise, I only used a quarter cup and I think the recipe turned out just fine. I liked it a lot better without all the mayonnaise and it does cut down on some of the fat involved in the recipe itself. It makes great side dish for nearly anything, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued spare ribs, chicken, pulled pork or any type of sandwich that you may be making.

That’s all there is to the recipes I have for today. I do plan to go shopping this weekend to get some things in for some new recipes I would like to try this week. I have picked up some recipes from The New York Times, Williams – Sonoma, Cook’s Illustrated, America’s Test Kitchen, The Food Network and some others sources, so I have a lot to draw from right now of meals that we can choose. I do hope to get some new things up but more blog within the coming days. Check back and see what’s going on and see if there’s anything that you like. As always, if there is anything you would like to see, or have any requests of recipes, just drop me a note in the comments section or you can send me an email and I’ll be happy to get back to you. Until then, enjoy the rest of your spring weekend and enjoy your meal!



Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Cooking, Dessert, Salad, Side Dishes


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