Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

I have come to realize that in my life, for every success I achieve, there is a failure I must suffer..

Seriously.

Case in point: I really outdid myself making dinner last week. I prepared chicken fried steak, buttermilk mashed potatoes, cream gravy, and braised greens with bacon. J and the posse loved it.

And were still talking about it two days later.

Impressive, considering it was the first time I’ve ever attempted southern style cooking before. But it was one of those dinners that was well worth the time investment – and believe me, there was a serious amount of time involved.

And let’s not even get started on the mess……

Anyway, it’s a good thing that dinner was so good, because the next evening, I attempted a new recipe for cheese enchiladas. Another big time/mess investment.

Aaaaaannnnd suffice to say, I won’t be making them again.

Per the family’s request.

Ouch….

Chicken Fried Steak – adapted from Homesick Texan

Note: I found out the hard way that you really can’t coat the meat too far in advance – the flour gets gummy and then falls off while the steak is cooking.

  • 1 1/2 pounds top-round steak
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Cut the top-round steak into four pieces. Pound the steak with a meat tenderizer until flattened and almost doubled in size. Season the squashed steak on both sides with black pepper to taste.

Place the flour in a large bowl and add the black pepper and cayenne. In another large bowl, mix the eggs with the buttermilk.

Take a piece of the tenderized steak and dredge it in the flour mixture, turning it to coat. Then dip the coated steak in the egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip off. Dip it back into the flour again. Place on a wire rack and repeat with the remaining steak.

Pour enough oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, to reach a depth of 1/2-inch. Heat it to 300°F (149°C). Line a rack with paper towels. Take the coated steak and gently place them in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the skillet. You may need to work in batches. Be careful, as there will be a lot of popping and hissing when you add the steaks to the hot oil. After about 3 or 4 minutes, gently turn the steaks with tongs and cook for 5 more minutes.

Remove the steaks from the skillet and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. (If cooking the steaks in batches, you can opt to keep the cooked steaks warm in an oven set at 200°F (93°C) while you cook the remaining steaks.) Serve the steaks smothered in cream gravy.

Cream Gravy – adapted from Homesick Texas

  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat until warm. Stir in the flour and cook, continuously stirring, for a couple of minutes until a dark roux forms.

Slowly add the milk to the skillet, stirring with a whisk to mix it with the roux. Be sure to press out any lumps. Turn the heat down to low and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened, a couple more minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste. If the gravy is too thick for your tastes, you can thin it by adding more milk, a tablespoon at a time.

Our favorite Meatloaf

Meatloaf seems to incite very strong feelings within my family.

And by that statement, I mean they either love it (Dad, J and Alexander), thoroughly dislike it (Mom), or are completely neutral about it (Sabrina and I).

Because when meatloaf is good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad, it’s….. inedible. And believe me, I’ve made my share of inedible meatloaves.

Let’s not talk about it those versions …..

However, after much trial and error, I think I’ve finally nailed it. And even though I don’t have a picture, suffice to say this is the recipe I will keep coming back to again and again.

Our Favorite Meatloaf – adapted from Ina Garten

3 tbs olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup milk
2 tbs. ketchup
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
5-6 slices thick cut bacon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, milk, and ketchup. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with foil. Spread the ketchup evenly on top, and lay the bacon slices on top of the ketchup. Bake for 45 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through.

Our Favorite Sloppy Joes

Today certainly started off with a bang.

Or a buzz.

Or a buzz with a stinger attached.

Two of them, actually. 

This morning, while taking the dogs out, I discovered a wasp nest in the backyard – and before I knew what was happening, I was stung twice. Son of a frosted cupcake……. it hurt…...badI quickly ushered the puppies into the house, and promptly called our landlord.

The pest control people will be here tomorrow with a blowtorch.

I can’t wait…. I’ll be singing “Burn, baby, burn” while he sends them to a fiery death. 

Pretty dramatic, wouldn’t you agree?
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Our Favorite Sloppy Joes – adapted from Tyler Florence

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used chili sauce, it’s what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
12 parker house rolls

Set a heavy-based pot over medium-high heat and add a 3-count of olive oil. Add onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add ground turkey, season well with salt and pepper and brown well all over, breaking it up with a wooden spoon – about 7 to 10 minutes. Add ketchup, mustard, cayenne, brown sugar and tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Finish with a splash of red wine vinegar and season it once more before serving on parker rolls.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Are you ready for Memorial Day Weekend?

I’m……..not. Well, I mean I’m ready for the weekend, but not ready in terms of what we are doing/eating.

I think what is really throwing my groove off is the fact that my barbecue is out of order. Simply put, it was hooked up to a natural gas line in Vegas, and here in Texas it needs to be hooked up to a propane tank. I contacted the friendly folks at Weber BBQ and they very nicely informed me that I am out-of-luck. You can’t convert the gas line from one to the other.

Which, quite frankly, sucks.

Even though J bought a Big Green Egg (greatest invention ever, by the way), it’s more of a smoker than a grill. And although we share everything, I do believe the Egg is his.

You know how men are with their grills :)

Anyway, I loved the ease and simplicity of being able to go outside and grill just about anything and everything – pizza, ribs, beer can chicken, steaks – even toasting slices of pound cake for dessert.

I may have to buy a George Foreman Grill to get my fix.

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Shepherd’s Pie – adapted from Alton Brown

For the potatoes:

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup half-and-half (I used buttermilk)
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk


For the meat filling:

2 tbs canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth (I used red wine)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2.print.html?oc=linkback

Slow Cooker Carnitas

There’s an old expression I’m quite fond of:

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that mean the most.”

In this case, it refers to the fact that Alexander did two things this morning that meant a lot to me:

1. He actually put his clean sheets on.the.bed. Properly, I might add.

and

2. He picked up all his dirty laundry from the floor and put it in the hamper.

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I’m beginning to wonder if he bumped his head when he got up this morning……..

Slow Cooker Carnitas – adapted from bon appetit

6 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
6 oz. beer (any mild flavor)Pinto beans, guacamole, corn tortillas, salsa, and queso fresco, for serving
Place pork in bowl of slow cooker and season with black pepper, oregano and cumin. Place onion pieces around pork, and pour in the beer. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 8 hours.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork, and place on a baking tray. Preheat the broiler, and broil the meat until it is slightly charred all over, about 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with pinto beans, corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, and queso fresco.

Some really great dinner recipes…and two desserts

If you remember (and I’m quite sure your memory is much better than mine these days), a few weeks ago I mentioned that I have been cooking and baking every.single.night, but also have been seriously lax in procuring photographs of the finished product.

And I just realized, seriously, that we have not eaten out in three weeks. I even asked the posse for verification.

They verified.

Astounding.

Well, I finally got my act together and made my list.

I even checked it twice :)

Vegetable Strata – gourmet magazine via epicurious

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped scallion (I used shallots)
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips (about 2 cups)
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips (about 2 cups)
  • enough Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes to measure 9 cups (about 1 1/2 loaves)
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • Tabasco to taste

In a large skillet cook the onion, the scallion, and the mushrooms in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, add the bell peppers pepper to taste, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated and the peppers are tender. Arrange half the bread cubes in a buttered large shallow (4 1/2-quart) baking dish, spread half the vegetable mixture over them, and sprinkle half the Cheddar and half the Parmesan over the vegetables. Arrange the remaining bread cubes over the cheeses, top them with the remaining vegetables, and sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, the mustard, the Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste, pour the egg mixture evenly over the strata, and chill the strata, covered, overnight. Let the strata stand at room temperature for 15 minutes and bake it in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is puffed and golden and cooked throug

Sesame Noodles with Chile Oil and Scallions – Bon Appetit

  • 4 scallions, whites and greens separated, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Sichuan pepper, coarsely chopped (I used regular black peppercorns)
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Cook scallion whites, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden brown, 12-15 minutes; let chili oil cool in saucepan.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

Whisk tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and 2-3 tablespoons chili oil (depending on desired heat) in a large bowl; season with salt. Add noodles and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and drizzle with more chili oil.

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja – serious eats

  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup sliced, pimento-stuffed Spanish olives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive brine

Season meat generously with pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the meat in a single layer (working in batches if necessary) and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is well browned, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer meat to slow cooker.Add broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, red pepper, garlic, and cumin to slow cooker. Season with pepper and stir to combine. Cook on low until tender, about 8 hours. Shred meat using two forks. Add olives and olive brine and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with pinto beans and rice.

Mario Batali’s Chicken Saltimbocca – Food and Wine

  • Eight 3-ounce chicken cutlets, pounded 1/8-inch thick
  • Ground pepper
  • 16 sage leaves
  • 8 slices of prosciutto
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup vin santo (I used white wine)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs. butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Season the cutlets with pepper and place 2 sage leaves on each cutlet. Wrap each cutlet in a slice of prosciutto, pressing to adhere. Spread the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in flour, dusting off the excess; transfer to a baking sheet.
Set a rack over a baking sheet. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add half of the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the rack. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and chicken.
Add the vin santo, stock and lemon juice to the skillet and boil over moderately high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, 4 minutes. Whisk in the butter. Pour half of the sauce into a bowl. Add half of the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until hot, 2 minutes. Season with pepper; stir in half of the parsley. Transfer the chicken to plates and pour the sauce on top. Repeat with the remaining sauce, chicken, and parsley.

Dark Chocolate Brownies – Pioneer Woman
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs. vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over low heat, whisking occasionally until smooth and melted. Sprinkle in cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar and vanilla until just combined. One at a time, stir in the eggs. Gently stir in the flour until halfway incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking pan. (Square pan will result in thicker brownies.) Spread to even out the top and place in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes, then check the brownies with a toothpick. If it is overly gooey/messy, return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes.Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into small squares.

 

Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for pan
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 8 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour Bundt pan; set aside. Whisk baking powder and 3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Combine sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl; using your fingertips, rub together until lemon sugar is well blended.
Add 1 cup butter to lemon sugar. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula, until mixture is light and very fluffy, about 4 minutes longer.
Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake cake until golden brown and beginning to pull away from sides of pan, 60-70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; remove pan and let cool completely.

6 Hour Chili

And so it begins…..

“It” being the laborious, tedious, and oftentimes painful process of selling your home.

ugh

I won’t complain, though, because this day is something I have been eagerly awaiting for over two years. And the end result will be the posse and myself moving far, far away from Sin City.

In approximately 91 days…….not that I’m counting or anything….

More details on that later, I promise. It’s a really good story.

So instead, let’s talk about chili – especially this chili. It’s been a family favorite for quite some time now, and I was actually able to capture a photo before it was devoured.

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Not an easy feat when you have two hungry teenagers glaring at you from over the counter.

6 Hour Chili – adapted from Williams Sonoma

  • 5 lb. ground beef
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz.) chopped tomatoes with
    juices ( I puree this so there aren’t chunky pieces of tomato in the final product)
  • 8 tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 12 oz bottle of beer
  • Sour cream, chopped red onion, grated,
    cheddar cheese and/or chopped fresh cilantro
    for garnish

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, brow the beef, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a slow cooker.

Add the garlic, yellow onion, tomatoes with juices, chili powder, oregano, cumin, pepper, cornmeal and beer to the slow cooker and stir to blend. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Skim the fat off the surface of the chili. Stir well, then ladle the chili into warmed bowls and garnish with sour cream, red onion, cheese and/or cilantro.

Serves 8 to 10.