Monthly Archives: October 2012

Bacon Blue Cheese Burger with Crispy Fried Shallots

OK, I feel like lately I’ve been cheating a little bit (on both the diet and the blog). Things have been hectic at work and preparing for a Gala Halloween party, so I’ve neglected the blog, and when I have posted, they haven’t been the most exciting of recipes. I haven’t had too many opportunities to cook or blog, but luckily I have some photos and recipes that I never got around to posting. Since my life is so hectic, I have an appreciation for other people’s hesitancy to cook elaborate dishes, particularly on weeknights. However, limited time doesn’t mean you can’t put together a great meal. Everyone in the family always loves burger night, but the adults, in particular, like spruced up burgers. Blue cheese and bacon are two of my favorite toppers, and they’re even better with crispy fried shallots or onions. I usually prep the burgers, Bryan handles the grilling (he is willing despite inclement weather), and while the burgers are cooking, I make the fried shallots or onions. I prefer shallots because they’re smaller and seem to stay crispier, but thin sliced sweet onion works well too. Serves 4-5

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-1.5 lbs. Ground Round or Ground Sirloin*
  • 4-5  Shallots or 1 Medium Sweet Onion – thinly sliced
  • 4-6 Slices of good quality Bacon
  • 4-5 Slices of good quality Blue Cheese (or about 1/2 Cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • About 1/2 Cup of flour
  • 2-3 Cups Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • Salt
  • Seasoned Pepper
  • Hamburger Rolls

* Some people, Bryan included, prefer to use Ground Chuck because it has a higher fat content and is less expensive. I prefer the leaner cuts of Round or Sirloin- yes, it’s that diet thing. For a good description of the different types of ground beef: http://www.eatlikenoone.com/difference-between-types-of-ground-beef.htm

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cook bacon on stovetop (or in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes), drain, and set aside. Season the ground beef well with salt and pepper, and form into patties – allow to rest while preparing the fried shallots. For the best juicy burger, do not overwork the meat, including when you are forming the patties. I typically plan for 1/3 lb. meat per person, but the growing teenage boys can easily devour a good 1/2 lb. burger. Heat oil in a medium stock pot to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating, pour milk into a small bowl and add shallots or onions – allow to soak for a few minutes. The milk will mellow the onions but also act as the binder for the flour. Add flour to a small bowl or plate (less mess with a bowl) and season the flour generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the shallot/onion slices in the flour until well coated. Working in batches, so as to not overcrowd, add the breaded shallots to the heated oil and cook until nicely browned; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and allow to drain. Heat the grill to medium; when the grill is preheated, put the burgers over direct heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side (depending on your grill). If the burger does not easily release from the grill, it is not cooked on that side. Do not press a spatula down on the burgers, and try to avoid flipping the burgers more than once. Add blue cheese to the top of burgers during the last 1 minute of cooking. Assemble burgers topped with bacon and fried shallots on a bun and serve immediately.

 

Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp

Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp with Blood Orange Risotto

This is one of the easiest, simplest dishes to prepare – it literally takes minutes. I always keep frozen scallops and shrimp (Trader Joe’s has excellent frozen seafood) on hand, but if you have fresh available, even better. The trick to pan searing is to not use too much liquid and to start with a hot pan. It’s also important to dry the seafood before searing – I just use a paper towel. If you want a little spice, you can add red pepper flakes when you begin sauteeing the garlic. You can also add some freshly grated ginger, or substitute lime juice for the orange. I served this with blood orange risotto – which wasn’t my favorite, so I won’t be including that recipe. It’s great with any type of rice or risotto, or over a bed of field greens. You can adjust your shrimp and scallop quantity based on the size of your seafood and how many people you are serving; I usually plan for 4-5 scallops and shrimp per person.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lb. Medium (16-20 shrimp per pound) Peeled and Deveined (uncooked)
  • 16-18 Large Sea Scallops
  • 1-2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Thoroughly dry the shrimp and scallops and season generously, on both sides, with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of a saute pan, add garlic and saute over medium heat until garlic just starts to brown. Turn heat to high. When pan is hot, add scallops and cook until well browned on one side. Add the shrimp to the pan, and flip the scallops. Flip the shrimp when browned on one side (only about a minute or so). Flip the scallops when browned on the other side. At this point you should have some good browned bits in the pan. Add about 1/2 of the orange juice and mix it around to deglaze the pan. Allow it to bubble and reduce – add more orange juice and allow to reduce if you want more of a sauce.

 

 

 

Fried Quail Eggs with Garlic Bacon Butter

Fried Quail Eggs on Ciabatta with Garlic Bacon Butter

Yes, I have discovered another food obsession – quail eggs. They are just so little, pretty, and delicious. For those of you who didn’t read my Japanese Style Eggs Benedict recipe, quail eggs taste just like chicken eggs. But because quail eggs seem a little more elegant, I wanted to do something a little different than the standard fried eggs, bacon and toast. In my freezer I had a log of the garlic bacon butter that I use for grilled oysters, so I thought that would be an excellent pairing for my mini fried eggs. Bryan and I both agreed that this turned out to be a match made in heaven. I think this would make a great appetizer dish, but the challenge would be to serve it hot, which means you would be glued to the kitchen. You could cook the eggs differently, but I like the look of a fried egg “sunny side up.” The quail eggs cook quickly, so you’ll want to drop your toast when you begin cooking the eggs. Serves 2.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 Quail Eggs (or chicken eggs)
  • 4 Slices of Ciabatta bread (or other good Italian bread)- toasted
  • 1-2 TBS. Garlic Bacon Butter (see below) at room temperature
  • 1 Scallion – chopped
  • 1 TBS. Olive Oil

Slice off the top 1/3 of the quail egg shells and pour each egg into a small ramekin (check for and remove any shells pieces). In a medium sized saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add eggs to pan and cook to desired doneness. *The trick to good looking sunny side up eggs is to baste the white parts of the eggs only – this gives you a well cooked egg white, with a yolk that remains bright yellow and soft.* While the eggs are cooking, put a generous layer of butter on the toast and sprinkle with chopped scallions. Top the toast with the cooked eggs and serve immediately.

Garlic Bacon Butter:

  • 3 Slices Good Quality Smoked Bacon (Applewood or Hickory)
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – peeled
  • 1 TBS. Dried Italian Herb Blend (or your favorite blend of herbs)
  • 2 TBS. Fresh parsley (or 1 TBS. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 TBS. Dry White Wine (optional)

Cook bacon until crispy; allow to drain on a paper towel. Put bacon in food processor or blender, add butter, garlic, herbs, cayenne, salt and pepper Blend until all ingredients are completely incorporated.

.

Scrape down sides of bowl of processor. With machine running, add wine and blend for another 30 seconds. Cut a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper (enough to cover a 2″ x 6′ log of butter) and lay on a work surface.

Scrape butter mixture onto wrap/paper. Form butter into a log about 2″ in diameter. Wrap and chill until firm (about 2 hours in refrigerator or 30 minutes in freezer). This freezes very well.

The Ultimate Tender Pork Chops

The Ultimate Tender Pork Chop pictured with Soy Glazed Sugar Snap Peas

Let me begin with a diclaimer: these pork chops are not greasy – bad photography made the chops and the peas look like they’re swimming in oil. After my recent experience of my kids loving the pork tenderloin roast that I made, despite their claims that they don’t like pork, I decided to pawn off another pork dish on them. My childhood memories of pork chops were not fond. My Dad always liked them served with applesauce (not my fave) and I think the reason why is because it made them seem less dry. My mom was a fabulous cook, but her pork chops did not represent her best work. I do like pork chops that have a bit of a crust, or are at least browned on the outside, but they have to be tender inside. The key to this recipe is to brown the chops and then finish cooking in the oven with the addition of liquid to keep the chops tender.  For liquid you can just use water, but if you want a little added flavor, you can use white wine or chicken broth. I use thick center cut boneless chops, but you could use a different cut if you prefer. To insure tenderness, cook for the full hour. Serves 4-5.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 Thick Center Cut Boneless Pork Chops (or trimmed regular cut)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Italian Style Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 2 tsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Boiling water (or other liquid)
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. In another bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Generously season pork chops with salt and pepper. Dip each chop in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumb mixture until well coated on all sides.

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil and add the chops. Brown the chops on all sides. Transfer chops to a baking dish and add boiling liquid. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.

 

Marinated Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken Breasts

This is my go-to chicken breast recipe. I’ve made these so many times, but have never really measured anything for the marinade – I always just eyeballed it. Even though it’s a simple recipe (great for a weeknight dinner, or when you have to feed a barbeque crowd), I figured it was worth sharing. So, I went to the trouble of measuring things out the other night when I prepared this, and the kids said it was best grilled chicken ever…huh, maybe I should measure more often. The lemon flavor in this is not overwhelming, and in my opinion, neither is the garlic flavor, but you can certainly adjust for your taste. The acidity of the lemon juice is what keeps the chicken tender and moist, so I wouldn’t skimp too much on that. Also, I used minced garlic from the jar (a weeknight cheat), but it’s even better with fresh garlic. The same is true for the herbs. This chicken is great for leftovers; I will often make chicken salad with the leftovers, or slice the chicken and add it to a salad. I usually slice my chicken breasts in half so that I end up with two thinner pieces (you can also buy thin cut breasts), but it’s not necessary – I just prefer thinner cuts. You could also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or even bone-in skin on chicken. If you have time, allow the chicken to marinate for up to 4 hours. Most of the time I make this chicken, I only have time to let it marinate for 20-30 minutes, and it still has great flavor. Serves 4-6 (if making more, add proportionally to the marinade so that all chicken is covered when marinating).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (about 2-3 lemons)
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic – finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 TBS. Dried Italian Herb Blend (or combination of  parsley, oregano, and basil – if using fresh, double amount)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme (if using fresh, double amount)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Rosemary (if using fresh, double amount)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare the marinade by combining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs in a non-reactive bowl. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat and slice in half (if desired). Add the chicken to the marinade and mix to coat all of the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 20 minutes, but up to four hours if you have time. Heat a barbeque grill to medium. Put chicken on the grill and pour some of the marinade over the chicken (this will cause it flame up, so be careful). Grill on one side until nice grill marks are achieved, flip chicken and pour on a little more marinade over the top. (I don’t like to add any more marinade after this point because it held the raw chicken and needs to cook off fully). Overall grill time is about 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts. Serve immediately or allow to cool and refrigerate for a later use.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts served over a Greek style Salad