Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tortillas de Patatas

This dish was one that actually grew as I did in a culinary sense, until I realized that there was a name for it and people made it on purpose.  Years ago potatoes became a regular ingredient in Omelets for me really out of lazyness if I threw the "hash browns" meat vegetables and eggs into one pan, flipped it (just to show off) then served it, I got to ham it up a bit and only had one pan to wash when it was all over... great!  After a while the omelet turned to quiche (Ok it was the 80s and 90s people ate quiche).  Then Tortillas de Patatas came into being, really another word for Fritata but I didn't know that at the time.  I would start by sauteing the potatoes in my Iron Skillet adding the rest of the ingredients then finishing the dish off in the oven.   I had been making this for years, not because I am a huge Fritata fan or anything, but just because it is easy and I can use some left overs in it.  When the In laws visit Potatoes are usually part of the dinner menu and since I fear running out of food a little more than death I make way too much of everything.  The answer to that is serve the same food the next day disguised as a unique breakfast.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article on Epicurious, I think anyway, for the life of me I can't find it now. that talked about the dish that I had been making for ages Torillas de Patatas.  The article described it in an almost romantic way talking about how humble shop owners in rural Spain would bake large skillets of this dish in the morning then set it on the counter and sell it by the slice to their guests when they came in to buy coffee (or more likely whiskey).  The prose painted a very picturesque Norman Rockwell  type of scene around this dish.  It really is a winner for a lazy breakfast or brunch kind of meal because it is as good at room temperature as hot so you can eat at a leisurely pace or (often in my case) have it for breakfast and lunch.

The whole thing is so simple and the ingredients, as I so often say, are just a starting point, really put what you want to in it the one in the picture went like in this:

1 TBS butter
1 cooked potato (I usually use leftovers so guess, about a cup)
1 clove Garlic
5 eggs well beaten
1/2 zucchini sliced
1 Leek cleaned and sliced 
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar in this one)
Salt and pepper to taste

This is all done in a 7 inch Iron Skillet.  Melt the butter then add the garlic then potatoes over medium heat and saute until warm.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, I use my fingers but you can use a spoon if touching raw eggs grosses you out.  Then put into a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  Take it out and let it rest for a few minutes then slice it up and it is ready to go.  If you have more guests double and use a bigger skillet... I love that in a recipe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pork Tenderloin Day 2

The Pork Tenderloin that Mr Man and I bought for our Anniversary dinner in my last post must have been from a Monstrous Pig.  Usually Kris and I split one and have very little if any left however this time we had a little more than half left when we finished.  I didn't check the weight on it this time, I am usually pretty good about that but I was shopping with Mr. Man so I was a bit distracted.

Kris and I are sometimes bad about using leftovers, I finish the meal, pack it all up and it sits in the back of the fridge until I grows enough "personality"  to file a formal protest then ultimately gets fed to the garbage disposal..  I couldn't let that happen to more than half a pork tenderloin.

The answer BBQ Pork Sandwiches!  The ingredients round 2:

Ginger Pickled Vegetables
2 Medium Carrots Shredded on a Mandolin (or by hand)
1 inch cube of Fresh Ginger shredded (same way)
1/2 medium White Onion sliced thin
1/2 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
2 TBS Honey

Ok, you ask the obvious question, "Why three types of vinegar?"

Simple, I was going to use rice vinegar but ran out and thought I would finish with cider vinegar but ran out so finished with balsamic...  Like I have said before this is a very forgiving recipe.  Cut the first three ingredients and put into a bowl then heat up the Vinegar(s) and Honey on the stove.  When it comes to a soft boil pour the mixture into the bowl with the shredded vegetables, add a little salt and set aside for about 40 minutes I put it in the fridge.

I am not showing off here, but we were out of every drop of BBQ Sauce in the house so... The Sauce:
1 cup Ketchup
1 Heavy TBS of Molasses
1/4  cup Bourbon
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder

Heat over medium stirring occasionally until sauce starts to thicken, maybe 20 minutes or so.

While the sauce is going it is time for the good part, the meat.  I didn't really measure but I have to say that I had about 2/3 of a pound of cooked pork tenderloin.  I started this part the best way ever... I diced a couple of slices of bacon into a small saucepan and cooked until it was almost done then sliced the pork into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch strips and sauteed that with the bacon for a minute or two then added the BBQ Sauce. 

I made sure the pork was covered but not "over sauced" then cooked them together for 10 or 15 minutes.  The sandwich is what you see... open a bun put the pork on then top with the pickled vegetables.  The question comes up, "so how was it?" 

Really good! but quite a bit of work for just the two of us, this one will be on for a summer barbecue with with friends but I don't see it for the quiet weekend meal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pork Tenderloin Day 1

Kris and I celebrated out 4th anniversary on February 18th, the celebration was pretty short I woke up at my typical 4:15 am and found Kris at the computer, "Happy Anniversary."

"You too Sweetie, I love you."

This Saturday we had our anniversary dinner among all shopping, car repairs and child birthday parties that occupy our lives these days.  While Kris took Miss Lu to a glow in the dark miniature golf party Mr. Man and I went to the store for dinner supplies.  The Menu, Apple Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Vegetables followed by Molten Chocolate Cake.  Nothing really fancy but nice enough and easy to do so Kris and I could actually talk while I made dinner.  I have talked about Pork Tenderloin in the past, it is an extremely versatile meat, just waiting to take on the flavor that you give it.  This one worked well twice!  The ingredients round 1:
1 Granny Smith Apple cut to a 1/4 inch dice
1 Cup Apple Cider
1/2 Cup of Bourbon
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cloves minced Garlic
1 tsp dried Rosemary
Salt, Pepper

Mix ingredients together and heat up until the sugar dissolves then add a Pork Tenderloin I put this into the refrigerator for about an hour while the marinated cooled down then back out when I got everything ready.  

Take the Pork out and sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper then strain about a cup of the marinate into a saucepan,  and add about 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Then start to heat the Marinate about to become Apple Cider, Bourbon Cream Sauce add about 2 tsps of roux to thicken and bring to a low boil.  Put your pork Tenderloin on the grill and cook the way you like it.  For me that is medium take it off the grill and let rest under foil for a few minutes.  Then well you see how it looks, it does taste that good too.  The Sauce is a bit on the sweet side, very nice on the meat.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tuna Steaks

I went to the store with the kids on my way home from sledding  last weekend, I needed to pick up some cheese (Mr. Man likes Kraft Sharp Cheddar slices) and milk, really not a big deal at all... unless you are me, with a 3 year old an and 8 year old in tow.  I stopped at the only Grocery store between the park and our house it is a Polish Grocery store but tries to cover everything and the produce, maybe a little pricey but really good.  So we go into the doors, the Produce section is first and the questions come from the two kids both wired for sound...

"What is this?"
"Orka is Freaky!"

"Daddy this looks Gross"
"Some people like Cactus Leaves honey"
"Dumb People!"

That went on for a while until they both had me afraid for my life or the little scraps of sanity that I have left.  I start racing/shopping, I have seen the "super hyper kids in shopping cart" game go bad it isn't good, the screaming, the hitting, the yelling at innocent passers and it can go down hill from there.  I pick up the speed and just start grabbing.  My mind goes something like this... "Blood Oranges, Wow Martini recipe!  Lettuce, Kris likes that... be quiet you two you don't like Artichokes... Oh look Kumquats, need those... Rabbit Liver Pate, not going to happen, Oh Tuna..."

Anyway, those of you with kids get the picture, I was racing through this quaint little store madly grabbing things that I might need desperately trying to get out the door before the "super hyper kids in shopping cart" game gets us a police escort.  By the time I get to the car I realize that my trip to the store for Milk and Kraft Sharp Cheddar Cheese Squares has netted me:

3 Blood oranges
1/2 pound of Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese
1 pound of Kumquats
5 Frozen Tuna Steaks
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 head of Lettuce
2 bunches of cilantro
a double handfull of shallots
Oh and  1 gallon of milk

Real good, now my best bet was to get it all put away before I had to admit that I spent $45 on the Gallon of milk I was going to pick up plus a couple of "impulse items."  As I was putting things away I was trying to consider what to do with some of the stuff.  Ok Kumquats... they are funny Cherry Tomato sized citrus fruit but really how many of them am I going to eat 2 maybe 3 in the next several months.  I start to think they might work well a pickle, so the meal idea comes: Grilled Tuna Steaks with Pickled Kumquats and Shallots.

Ingredients for pickle:
Juice from 2 Limes
finely grated peel from one of them
2 tsp Brown Sugar
5 Kumquats sliced thin
4-5 shallot bulbs sliced thin

Juice the Limes into a small saucepan and add the Brown Sugar, you may want to adjust to suite your taste,  bring to a boil.  Grate the Lime Peel into a small dish thinly slice the Kumquats and shallots then add the hot liquid and set aside for at least 40 minutes.  I made it a day ahead and chilled.

Oh and for the love of God please don't go out and buy Kumquats just to make this.  This process is so forgiving, fruit and vegetables pickled this way are so great!  I could well have made a similar recipe with Red Onions, Orange Peels and Rice Wine Vinegar, or Vadalia Onions Cilantro and Lemon Juice... I was just using up my funny little fruit.  The pickled fruit adds such a light Spring like flavor to a meal.

The Tuna was easy,  I set a Tuna Steak in a dish on the counter with some Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper and some Lime Juice.  I heated up the cast iron grill and put the Tuna on for about 3 minutes on each side, it is pictured here with French bread slices topped with a little garlic butter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Kris and I aren't much for the Valentines day thing, she used to work for FTD (not a good experience from day one) plus she is an accountant so 40 dollars spent on flowers just doesn't make sense.  For Valentines day we spent the day keeping the kids in separate corners of the house so they wouldn't fight so much then had a family dinner.  My gift to my beautiful wife... I let her sleep while the kiddos and I made dinner.  Miss Lu, Mr. Man and I made Blood Orange and Ginger Marinated Tuna Steaks, Ratatoulle and (this is the one for today) Molten Chocolate Cake.  

Much easier than I thought, we made the batter about a half an hour before we started dinner, actually Miss Lu did most of it and Mr. Man did some, I just handed them stuff one piece at a time.  Once we had the batter made I put it in the fridge until dinner was over.

5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chips)
10 TBS Unsalted Butter
5 Caramel Candy pieces (store bought)
3 Large Eggs
3 additional Egg Yolks
1 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup Flour

Miss Lu separates eggs like a pro.

While melting the Chocolate, Butter and Caramel wisk the Eggs and Egg Yolks in a bowl to blend then add the Sugar, blend until absorbed.  When the chocolate, butter and caramel are all mixed set aside for about 5 minutes to temper then slowly add to the egg mixture.  After that is all incorporated add the flour then set aside covered (I put it in the fridge while we had dinner).

When we started dinner I put about 10 pieces of caramel into a small double boiler to let them temper and turned the oven on to 450.  Once dinner was finished I brought the double boiler to a boil then pored the batter into 5 ramekins (6 oz) and put them in the oven.  The cakes take about 12 to 15 minutes and it is hard to say when they are done... I took them out about a minute after the top turned from liquid to solid.  While they were in Miss Lu, Mr Man and I bruleed some strawberries, I cut a mess of them in half, sprinkled them with brown sugar and torched them with the kitchen torch (actually the kids did, I stood over them like a lunatic keeping the 3rd degree burns away for the evening).  Then we painted the plates with melted caramel, just a quick stripe for the ones that I photographed the others were a little more involved.

When the Cakes come out of the oven let them cool for a minute then use a knife to pull them from the side of the ramekin, dump them into your hand and set on the plates.  Garnish with a little powdered sugar. Oh and here is a little hint for eating... use the strawberries to scoop up the melty chocolate stuff.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cilantro Lime Orzo

Ha I did it! I did it!  This is one of those things that I have been working on for a while, the concept got stuck in my head several weeks ago and I wanted to make it.  I had a few poorly executed attempts but I just knew that it would work... so here it is Cilantro Lime Orzo.  I made it with the same chicken that I made in my last archived attempt on a frozen grill again, maybe that is the secret.  Here is how it worked... Ingredients:
3/4 cup Orzo
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic minced
2 Heavy TBS Finely Chopped Cilantro
1 1/4 cup Chicken Broth
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

This one is best to start by chopping the Cilantro and Garlic... to get the 2 TBS of cilantro washed it well, picked the leaves off the stems then I chopped up most of a bunch of cilantro.  The garlic was a simple... peal, smash, mince, you know the drill. Set those aside.  Take your Orzo and start roasting it in a dry saucepan until it starts to toast a little then add the olive oil and minced garlic, I didn't time this part  but once you are sure this hot add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil then lower to medium heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes.  Let it stand for a few minutes and your side dish is ready to go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Egg Rolls

This recipe started a couple of weeks ago, Kris and wanted to make one of our favorite meals Kaldomers.  It is a family recipe that Kris brought to our relationship and has the advantage that I am not really good at making it so I don't play the role of annoying bossychefguy when they are on the menu.  So I do my best to follow Kris' lead when we make these, which is really nice for both of us.  This dish requires a couple of ingredients that we don't usually have in the house, ground pork and white cabbage.  When we are done we have the softball sized center of a head of cabbage and as much ground pork as I over purchased.  Anyway I try to use the "extra" ingredients before they become dried up compost at the back of the fridge.
So I used the "leftover" ingredients in Eggrolls, I had some eggroll skin on hand (ok it may be odd that I think of 7 ounces of cabbage as odd ingredients but think of eggroll skins as perfectly normal, but that is the way I roll)  anyway these were easy to make... the ingredients:

8 oz of ground pork
2 cloves of minced Garlic
3/4 inch cube of fresh Ginger grated
4 oz of chopped Shrimp
1 very full cup of chopped white cabbage
1 carrot grated
6 eggroll skins, plus a couple of extras to tear (I am a bit ham handed)
Egg wash made from 1 egg and a splash of water.

Put the Pork a large skillet and as it cooks add the next 5 ingredients cook until everything is done, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the stove top and let cool until the mixture is cool enough to handle.  Lay out the skins, one at a time and stuff with a large Tablespoon of mixture then roll like a burrito,  To seal the eggrolls you need to use the eggwash to hold them together, just spread a little along the edges of your eggrolls.  As you are rolling them heat up some corn oil up to about 350 and but the rolled eggrolls in two or three at a time and cook for about 5 minutes... I had to put a spoon on them to hold them under the oil while they cooked.
These are really good, maybe a little heavy with the ginger, that depends on your taste, you can decide that. I realy like fresh ginger, it is almost impossible to overdo for me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turning Points

There are turning points in all of our lives, usually not where we expected them. Had I picked a different major in college, or if I had held out for a job in Chicago when I was 22 instead of moving to Ohio I imagine that my life would be largely the same. Many of those "big" decisions don't really make a whole lot of difference in our lives, at least in my experience. Instead it has been the little things that have lead to BIG changes.

Once when I was in college I came back to the dorm after spending the day looking for a summer job, I had been unsuccessful at best, and was a little discouraged. I walked into the Cafeteria and at the door was a friend of mine, Toni, she said to me, "Hey Brya
n fill out an application, we got work this summer."

"Ok... whatever" I picked up the application, rolled my eyes at Toni then put my name on the schedule for peeling potatoes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, yes the interview process what that tough back then. Anyway I have often thought of how different my life would have been if I hadn't filled out that application or if I had decided to skip lunch that day. I may have never worked in a kitchen... what would I be doing now?

That isn't the little choice that I want to talk about today, it is another seemingly little choice with much bigger consequences
, a little over five years ago there was a woman that that I met on a website, no not what you are thinking it was a parenting website. We had talked a little on message boards. I found her to be interesting and intelligent we agreed on most subjects that came up and were supportive of each other. We were also going through our divorces at about the same time. She (if you ask her) sent me HUGE signals that any idiot would see as flirting. Not being just any idiot I didn't see them at all.

On February 6, 2005... Superbowl Sunday I worked up the nerve to send her an email.
I was spending the day with my oldest daughters we were going to run around the City for a few hours then come back to my crummy post divorce one bedroom apartment in Chicago eat like pigs and watch two teams that none of us cared about at all play a sport that we are only mildly interested in. I may have mentioned this, am the kind of guy that remembers the food at special occasions or important events in my life... that day Taco Pie, Chicken Wings, Chips, Salsa and Root Beer.

The email that I sent Kris went something like this:

" Kris... Me not stalker, you seem smart and nice and smart too... do you want to be friends?"

Give me a bit of a break here, I hadn't asked anyone out in over 15 years and I wasn't good at it then, really, I was doing my best. I remember sitting there in my kitchen with my eloquent prose in front of me, finger on the mouse, arrow hovering over "send" then I did it... I clicked. Immediately I thought "OH MY GOD CAN I TAKE IT BACK?!?" But I couldn't, thank you God, one clumsily worded email and a click on "send" and the path of my life changed.

The girls and I went out a few minutes later and were gone most of the day when I returned home I started cooking our bad for you feast and went to check my email once I got them settled. I had a reply! to sum it up; to Kris, I didn't seem like too much of a creepy stalker guy with bad writing skills.

This is one of the moments that my life changed in a huge way, my hand on the mouse as afraid to click send as not to. I don't know exactly what would have happ
ened if I had chickened out (and I was close) but I know a few things, If I hadn't met Kris I wouldn't be as happy, I would probably still be alone, I never would have met Miss Lu, Mr. Man wouldn't even be here and the world would be just a little bit darker place today.
The meal I made the day my life changed with the click of a mouse:
Taco Pie a recipe that my friend Amy gave me about 20 years ago

1 lb. hamburger

1 pkg. taco seasoning

1- 8 oz. container of sour cream

1 onion, diced

packaged crescent rolls

1 pkg of shredded cheddar cheese

taco chips(Doritos)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown hamburger and add diced onion right before completely browned. Unroll crescent rolls and press in pie dish as the crust. Prebake for about ten minutes in oven then pull back out. Place seasoning in hamburger as your were making tacos. Put seasoned hamburger in prepared pie crust. Mix in sour cream. Next spread out cheese then crush up and put on the taco chips. Cover and bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake 15 more minutes.

"Did I have any reason to be so nervous?" you ask, Kris says "no" she was quite fond of me and liked the way I wrote on the parenting website. Both of us were struggling with our own divorces at the same time and it all just seemed right. However, after we exchanged photos I was talking to Issa, my co worker and one of my best friends, I mentioned that I had a date that next weekend.

Issa said, "Ah, but what does she look like?" So brought him around my desk and showed him the picture that Kris had emailed. He just patted me on the shoulder and said, "I wouldn't get my hopes up my friend," then walked out of my office.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peanut Chicken

I Really wanted to make this dish to either entice or frighten the kiddos, chicken, peanut butter and daddy's weird sauce from last week! The reaction I got however was a resounding "whatever" I'm kind of getting used to it now anyway. Actually I am not really sure why I got this dish stuck in my head but sometimes that happens to me and the only way to make it stop is to cook the damn thing andbe done with it.

I started in the morning with the marinate I mixed Sesame Oil, Minced Garlic, Rice Wine Vinegar and Peanut Butter (not well measured sorry) I whisked those together and put in two Chicken Breasts to soak for most of the day.

for the sauce:
2 cloves of garlic minced
about a 1 inch cube of fresh ginger grated
1 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS corn oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup of my clementine ginger sauce (plumb sauce would work fine too)
2 TBS soy sauce
Asian noodles
1 medium carrot peeled and sliced
1 small zucchini sliced
Start by heating the oil in a saucepan then add the garlic and ginger, when the pan is good and hot add the chicken breasts and lightly brown on each side. After that add the rest of the ingredients (except noodles, carrots and zucchini) and whisk together.

As soon as this is combined put the noodles carrots and zucchini into a saucepan of simmering chicken broth for about 5 minutes until tender then drain them. Put Some of the peanut sauce into a saute pan and add the noodles... saute until the chicken is done (about 5-7 more minutes). Julianne the chicken once it is done and set it on the noodles and top it all with a little bit of the sauce. I may have let it thicken a little too much but next time I will add a little bit of chicken broth at the end to thin it out some but overall the dish is a winner

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This month, February, I have done pretty well so far with this blog, I know that is pretty easy to say on the 2nd, by that I mean I have some recipe/menu ideas laid out for the next 26 days. Nothing carved in stone or really even scribbled in ink but some ideas to work with. I made one of the dishes last night... really good... but after we finished Kris and I were both saying. "I want something else." Neither of us could quite say what, there just seemed to be something missing. Then I went completely off my list... so much for planning and organization.

This last weekend when I was shopping I saw strawberries for $1.98 a pound and they looked beautiful. I know, anyone would think "cheap strawberries, January 30, Chicago, nothing good can come of that. I ignored that little voice, I do that sometimes. Anyway a little while after our "I need something else to finish this meal" conversation I thought I would give the strawberries a try. They were exactly what I should have expected, not bad but not sweet WOW close to sour. Miss Lu and I decided to (what else) dip them in chocolate. I had some chocolate left from when I made lace cookies then added a Hershey's Bar and the last of our chocolate chips to that and melted it all down in a makeshift double boiler (Pyrex bowl on a saucepan).
I showed Miss Lu how to dip them then made a run for the camera, the phrase "It's almost ready... where is the camera" has become pretty familiar in our house. I took a couple of pictures, then reviewed them and when I looked back up she had finished coating them all. Then I got the look, "don't worry about it daddy the seven year old girl can take dessert while you say bad words at the camera." Not exactly what she said, but close enough.

So how was it? This is the formula: 1 pound of cheap/sour strawberries + every miscellanies scrap of chocolate in the house = the best dessert so far this winter!