Post Number 200! An Update and A Recipe.

Hello there, and welcome back to my little blog. I know blogs are so early 00’s but I still read them, so I figure other people out there do too. (And thank you for doing so!)

So, life update. I’m still working like crazy at both jobs. I did make a conscious decision to take fewer hours at my second job, but I still end up working quite a few days a month there. I’m still waiting to hit that Powerball. No word yet.

The cats are good boys. Dean is getting super chubby despite the fact that I do NOT over feed them – I just feel like some cats are pre-disposed to be chubs.

He’s super cute though. Even when he is grumpy as hell.

Made a few changes around the house – I got a new stove! My old one was giving out on me last year, which I finally noticed the week I was baking all my Christmas cookies. Of course. So between holiday gift cards, cash, and a little help from mom and dad, I was able to get a new stove. Best part? Convection. Fancy!

I’m still getting the hang of her, however. I was used to the old stove that didn’t get as hot or cook food as fast. I gotta keep on my toes with this one!

Dad also helped me refresh the living room with a new coat of paint. It had been a pretty butter yellow for years but I was ready for a change. I wanted something a little neutral but dramatic, and I thought a medium beige-ish gray would be perfect.

And it is.

And finally, my biggest life update: there’s a boy. In my life.

Yes, a boy. We’ve been dating since October. I like him. That’s all you get.

Onto the recipe! I had this one in my brain for a couple of weeks and took advantage of a day off recently to give it a go. It’s easy enough to pull together on a week night yet just ‘fancy’ enough to serve to someone special for an at-home date night.

I love corn served alongside scallops, I think the sweetness of the corn complements the succulent butteriness of the scallops, and the pop of heat from the roasted poblano pepper gives the puree a great kick.

I started with a few ears of corn, four or five. Shuck and remove silk, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a little salt and pepper. Grill on high for approximately 10-12 minutes until roasted on all sides.

Grill the poblano pepper for a few minutes on all sides until the skin is blackened and blistered.

Remove from grill and place in a zip top bag or a covered bowl for a few minutes until the skin softens and you’re able to remove it easily. Remove the stem and seeds, and dice the pepper. Remove the corn from the grill and cut the kernels off the cobs.

Place half of the corn in a blender and puree until smooth.

Edit: This is where my pretty new stove’s super-hot burners kinda bit me in the butt, I had to move so fast to make sure nothing burned that I couldn’t take any more photos of the action. Whomp whomp.

Add pureed corn to a medium saucepan, stir in remaining corn and diced poblano. Add 1 TB butter, a splash of cream or half and half, 3 TBS parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Heat on medium low until the butter melts and the mixture bubbles slightly.

In a large saute pan, heat a few tablespoons of butter until melted. Pat the scallops dry and season with a little salt and pepper. Add to the pan with melted butter and cook on both sides until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with the corn and pepper puree.

I served it alongside these easy sautéed green beans.

Yum. Tender, perfectly cooked scallops. Sweet, creamy corn with just a touch of char, and the perfect amount of heat from the poblanos. I highly recommend this one before the corn is all gone for the summer.

Sautéed Scallops with Roasted Corn and Poblano Puree

  • Large Scallops, 4 per person
  • 4-6 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 5 Tb butter
  • 3 Tb grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tb half and half, milk or cream
  • salt and pepper
  • Other seasonings, as desired for corn puree (I used a little of this.)

Brush a light coating of olive oil over the ears of corn and season with salt and pepper. Grill corn until roasted on all sides, approximately 10-12 minutes. Grill poblano until charred and softened, approximately 10 minutes. Place poblano in a zip top bag and allow to cool. Remove blackened skin from the outside, remove seeds and stem, and cut into small dice.

Remove corn kernels from cobs. Puree half of the corn in a blender until smooth. Pour the puree into a small saucepan, add the remaining corn kernels and diced pepper, 1 TB butter, cream or half and half, parmesan cheese, and desired seasonings. Stir over medium low heat until incorporated and the mixture starts to bubble lightly.

Melt remaining butter in a pan over medium heat. Pat scallops dry on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Sautee scallops in pan until brown and just cooked through, approximately 3-4 minutes per side, depending on size of scallops.

Serve scallops immediately over corn puree and enjoy.

 

 

 

Chicken, Stuffing, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole: My Favorite Comfort Food

My mom used to make this casserole a lot when I was growing up. Matter of fact, I remember specifically requesting it for my birthday on more than one occasion. And we’re talking, like, into my 20’s. She found the recipe on the back of one of those cans of french fried onions — you know, the kind people use to make that awful green bean casserole at Thanksgiving? (Cream of Mushroom soup? No.)

The first time she made it, it blew my tweenage mind. It was some of my favorite things in one dish! I was never a picky eater growing up (quite the opposite, in fact), but I especially loved anything with or involving box mix stuffing.

I know, it’s terrible. I should feel dirty just saying it.

But I don’t. Stuffing mix is awesome, especially when you’re short on time or don’t have the room to bake a pan of home made stuffing or you just need something quick to serve alongside your main course.

Or if you want to make this casserole. It’s the most delicious mess you’ll ever put in your oven (and your mouth). It takes a little bit of work to put together, but you can easily make it a day or two ahead of time. You can take a couple of short cuts with it, too – use rotisserie chicken, or pre-made cheese sauce (WHY, precious?); but I would refrain from using frozen broccoli — it might get too watery.

First step is to cook your chicken. I used boneless/skinless breasts because that’s my go-to protein, but you can do a mixture of white and dark meat if you prefer. Even roast it with the skin on, just remove it before dicing up and adding to the casserole.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients – cut and steam the broccoli and set aside, make the stuffing according to package directions (stir in half of the can of the french fried onions at the end), make the cheese sauce and let it thicken a little bit.

Once your chicken is cooked through, dice it up, assemble the whole glorious mess, top with the remaining onions, and bake, covered, at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

Remove the cover and return to the oven for a few more minutes for those onions to get brown and crispy. Let cool and serve.

Oh heck yeah. Tastes like 1991. (What does 1991 taste like, you ask? AMAZING.)

Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheese Casserole with Stuffing

Serves: 8

  • 1 box stuffing mix
  • 1-11/2 lb boneless skinless chicken, roasted and diced into cubes
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets, steamed until fork tender
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups milk (stick with 2% or full fat)
  • 1 can french fried onions, divided
  • 2 TB unsalted butter (plus more for stuffing)
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions. Stir in 1/2 can of french fried onions. Set aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until slightly brown and the flour is cooked out. Add paprika and stir together. Add milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. Stir for 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add shredded cheese and continue to whisk until completely melted. Stir in dijon mustard. Cook cheese sauce for 3-5 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly. Add salt and fresh ground pepper as needed. Set aside.

Assemble the casserole:

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread the stuffing mix in the bottom of the dish. Top with steamed broccoli florets (you can absolutely chop your broccoli smaller than I did, hide it for those kiddos if you need to!). Spread roasted and chopped chicken over the broccoli. Pour cheese sauce over the entire casserole. Top with remaining french fried onions. Cover casserole with lid or foil and bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes. Remove lid and return to oven for 5-10 more minutes, until onions have crisped and browned slightly.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (or longer, this stuff’s like molten lava), and serve.

Yes.

Cubano Sandwiches: My Weekend Project

In the day-to-day minutiae that has become my post-operative diet, I do get the occasional craving for a certain food or meal. I try to stay as vigilant as possible, but I’m not averse to treating myself to something tasty from time to time. This weekend was one of those times, and I blame Jon Favreau. Last week I watched the movie Chef on Netflix, forgetting just how much food porn was involved. If you haven’t seen Chef, you should. It’s totally funny and adorable, and one of my favorite movies of 2014. The soundtrack is pretty swinging, too. But the best part about the movie? The Cubanos.

Have you ever had a Cubano? It’s a hot pressed sandwich brought to the states by Cuban immigrants in Florida. It’s a soft fluffy roll, spread with good old yellow mustard and stuffed full with roasted pork, deli ham, swiss cheese, and pickles, and traditionally toasted on a flattop grill, or a plancha. It’s heaven on a bun, and damn it, I wanted one this week. So, while I was avoiding the arctic tundra outside, I set to making Cubano magic this weekend.

We start with a mojo (mo-hoe), or citrus marinade for the pork roast. Zest one grapefruit, two oranges, and two limes, juice all the fruit, and toss it all with the pork roast along with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Allow to marinate for about 25-30 minutes. Truss pork shoulder with string (or do like I didn’t and leave it in the string it comes in, silly goose), sprinkle all over with Goya Adobo seasoning, and spread minced garlic over the top (I honestly prefer the jarred garlic for this). Roast at 400 for an hour and a half to two hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 140-145 degrees (or however done you prefer your pork).

Cover with foil and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside. The pork can be made ahead of time – you can even make this as a main dish and use the leftovers when you’re in the mood for Cubano goodness.

Mmm, pork. Porky pork pork.

Now, time to make the sandwiches! Grab your other ingredients. 

Sliced deli ham, deli swiss cheese, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sliced dill pickles, and a soft roll. I used small club rolls to keep the sandwiches surgically-altered-stomach-friendly, but any soft roll will do.

Cubanos assemble! Spread each side of the roll with mayo and mustard, and layer the pork, ham, pickle, and cheese from bottom to top. Top with remaining half of roll. (Note: I heat the roasted pork and ham in a pan slightly before assembling, to make sure the sandwich is warm all the way through.)

Now, heat up your grill, griddle, or pan. I used my good old panini press. If you have a press with flat plates use that instead. If you don’t have a sandwich press, you can make these between two pans, using a couple large cans to weigh the top pan down. Spread the outside of the sandwich with some softened butter (I KNOW. You can skip this, but your bread might not be as toasty good as one would like.), and press on the grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and gooey.

Yum.

Slice in half and serve your new favorite sandwich.

Cubano Sandwiches

  • 3 lb Pork Shoulder Roast
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 limes
  • 2 oranges
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tsp Goya Adobo seasoning
  • 2 TB jarred minced garlic
  • Soft sliced rolls
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Sliced domestic swiss cheese
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Softened butter for toasting

Place pork roast in large bowl. Zest all fruit and set aside. Juice fruit and pour into bowl with pork and toss with zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Truss pork and place on roasting pan. Sprinkle Adobo all over roast. Spread minced garlic on top of pork and roast in oven at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the roast reads approximately 140 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside.

Heat a slice of pork and ham each in a small pan until warmed through and slightly browned. Spread mayonnaise, then mustard over each half of roll, top bottom half with pork, ham, pickle, and cheese, and top half of roll. Spread softened butter on outside of roll and toast sandwich on a panini press or sandwich grill for 3-5 minutes until the roll is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.

The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.

I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.

And I was right.

I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed, with juice (mash them up a little with a fork or potato masher)
  • 1 cup merlot (use something you would drink. This is a personal favorite.)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • Salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch or two of sugar (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.

2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.

3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like. 

  • 1 medium potato, cut into large dice
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 TB grated parmigianno regianno
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.

Serve.

Simple Supper: Linguine with Fresh Clams

Did you ever inexplicably get a craving for a dish that you never had in your entire life? And were kind of convinced you’d never like anyway so never bothered to try? That’s how this happened. I was sitting at work one Friday afternoon, wondering what to make for dinner, when suddenly the urge for linguine with fresh steamed clams came over me. Not canned white clam sauce, but fresh steamers, still in their shells, piled on top of a plate of buttery, lemony linguine, with just a hint of crisp pinot grigio in the sauce.

“Mmm,” Said my imagination.

“Growl,” Said my stomach.

So off I went to my local Wegman’s after work to gather my ingredients. Lo and behold when I got to the fish counter, I find that they don’t sell clams by the dozen, but only by bags of 50. Now, I can pack away some food, but FIFTY clams? Plus pasta? Not happening. I grumped away from the counter (yes, grumped. It’s a verb), picked up a baguette, a nice hunk of cheese, and a bag of grapes for dinner and vowed to make the dish of my daydreams another time.

A few weeks later on my day off, with visions of linguine still in my mind,  I headed to the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market in the hopes that my luck would be better with their fish mongers. And it was. I picked up a couple dozen middle neck steamers, and I got my produce for half the week while I was there, to boot.

I got the clams home and immediately put them in a bowl of water in the fridge with some oatmeal for a few hours. This helps the clams spit out any sand or grit that might be in their shells.

When it was time to make dinner, I put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. I grabbed my favorite braising pan, added a few inches of water, and brought that to a boil as well. I added the clams to the second pot and covered them.

Once the shells were all opened I removed the clams from the water and set them aside. I drained the water from the pot, dried it quickly, and returned the pot to the medium high stove top. I added butter and oil to the pan & let it melt & come to temp.

I added some diced shallot and garlic and sauteed for a few minutes. Once the shallots are translucent to slightly browned, add the red pepper flakes (if desired), then white wine and fresh lemon juice.

Shell half to 3/4ths of the clams and add them to the sauce. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce, adding the fresh lemon zest and parsley, and salt and pepper as needed. Finish with another tablespoon or two of butter. Toss the remaining clams (in shell) and serve.

I made a garnish of parsley, lemon zest, a little bread crumb, and extra virgin olive oil to go on top, but I’d probably skip it next time. It didn’t need it.

Linguine with Fresh Clams

1/2 lb linguine

2 dozen fresh clams in the shell

1 large shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 lemons, zested and juiced

2 TB fresh parsley, chopped fine

1/2 tsp red pepper flake (optional)

1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)

4 TB unsalted butter

4 TB olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Steam clams in a small amount of water until just cooked, drain, and set aside. Melt 2 TB butter and 2TB olive oil over medium high heat. Sautee shallots and garlic until just browned. Add red chili flake if desired. Add lemon juice and white wine, stir to combine. Toss in pasta and parsley. Remove clams from shells (leave a few in for presentation) and add to pasta. Add remaining butter and olive oil, heat through and serve.