Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole

I think, if my not-always-reliable memory serves me correctly, that this recipe was featured in the “Chopped Dinner Challenge” on the Food Network recently.

Yes, a quick check on their site confirms that my facts (and memory) are indeed correct.

alert the media. 

Anyhoo, tater tots, for the uninitiated, are ground up, formed, seasoned potatoes that are held in very high regard in this house. Very high regard. Very high. Very.

Capiche?

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This was a winner all around and will definitely be made again.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole – adapted from Food Network

  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Fresh ground black pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and onions and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add the peas, and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk and wine and bring to a boil, whisking. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken mixture.

Pulse the tots in a food processor with the thyme until medium ground. Scatter over the top of the casserole and bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Gorditas

I’ve said this before, but today, it bears repeating:

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men……”

Translated?

We (meaning J, Sabrina and myself) were supposed to embark on a 6 1/2 hour drive to Lubbock to take a tour of Texas Tech College tomorrow morning.

Supposed being the operative word. In typical mother fashion, I had it all planned out: Alexander was to be shipped off to a friend’s house, the pups’ care was arranged, hotel rooms were booked, our route was mapped out, and the tour was scheduled.

phew...

Then, at 7:30 last night, J came home with the news that he wouldn’t be able to make the trip with us because of work. No problem.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, ok, just because J can’t go, why don’t you and Sabrina hit the road “Thelma and Louise” style?

Without the gunfire, of course.

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Do you know what my father will do to me if I tell him I made that drive?

** shudder **

Gorditas – adapted from Food and Wine

These were fun, different, and tasty. They come together really quickly, and are a nice change from tortillas or taco shells.

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • Shredded chicken, salsa, sour cream and cotija cheese, for serving

In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and the 1/4 cup of oil. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 10-inch log; cut into 10 pieces. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, mold the pieces into flat disks a scant 1/2 inch thick.

Heat a large griddle. Add the gorditas and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Using the back of a spoon, lightly press an indentation in the center of each gordita.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the gorditas and fry over high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes per side; drain on paper towels. Top the indentations with chicken, salsa, sour cream and cheese and serve hot.

 

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Sauce

I received some outstanding news the other day. Exceptional news, really. I’m thinking that perhaps I should have taken out the front page of the WSJ for news of this caliber. If you’re thinking it refers to a merger, or an IPO, you are, unfortunately, incorrect.

This is better. Much, much better. Believe it or not, we have royalty arriving in about two weeks.

For real.

Time to buff the silver, dust the baseboards, polish the floors, and roll out the red carpet…. for the Queen Mother is coming to town.

Jolly good, if you ask me.

Dad is attending a function close by that The Queen would rather not be a part of, so she decided that instead of watching the tumbleweeds roll by in Vegas, she would come here for pampering, relaxation, and a darn good time. I’ve been planning out where to take her, as there are a few places I haven’t been to yet that I know she will enjoy. That is, IF she feels like associating amongst Austinites.

One never knows.……..

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I mean, my mother won’t exactly be down for a trip to Food Truck Alley. Cocktails on the roof at the W Hotel? That will definitely elicit a much more positive reaction.

Although some of the food trucks are quite good……..

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Sauce – adapted from Cat Cora

3 slices white bread with crust
1 cup milk
2 pounds ground beef (I used one pound beef, one pound ground lamb)
1 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped oregano
2 finely chopped tablespoons mint
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
Flour, for dusting
Freshly ground black pepper
Pita Bread
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, recipe follows

Cucumber Sauce:
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup seeded and small-diced cucumber
3 cloves minced garlic

Dunk bread quickly in milk and press the liquid out to dampen the bread.

Combine the beef, bread, onion, garlic, oregano, mint, vinegar, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Take a large spoon of the mixture and roll into a ball until all the mixture has been rolled.

In a saute pan, add the olive oil and bring it to 360-degrees F for frying. Dust the balls in flour and add to the oil. Brown on all sides, leaving room in the pan to roll them around. Pull from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Serve with pita and cucumber yogurt sauce.

Cucumber Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

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.

Samosas

These little devils…… innocent as they may seem, they almost caused me to have a breakdown of sorts.

Interestingly enough, it was neither the filling nor the preparation of the dough that caused my inner turmoil.

It was forming them. 

I couldn’t get the hang of shaping them the way the recipe instructs… so rather than throw everything out the window, I took a piece of advice from Sabrina and made them into a mezzaluna shape.

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Which made me wonder…. is it possible to commit a cross-cultural offense by using an Italian shape for an Indian snack food?

Samosas – adapted from Saveur

Note: I baked these at 375 degrees instead of frying them.

3 cups flour
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
¾ cup ice-cold water
½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. canola oil, plus more
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 (1″) piece ginger, peeled and minced
¾ cup frozen peas, defrosted
¼ cup minced cilantro
¼ cup minced mint
½ tsp. garam masala
2 small green Thai chiles or 1 serrano, minced
Tamarind and mango chutneys, for serving (optional)

1. Make the dough: Pulse flour and butter in a food processor into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough forms. Divide into 12 balls; chill 1 hour.

2. Make the filling: Boil potatoes and carrots in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water until tender, 8–10 minutes. Drain; coarsely mash. Add 2 tbsp. oil to pan; heat over medium-high. Cook cumin seeds until they pop, 1–2 minutes. Add onion and ginger; cook until golden, 4–6 minutes. Let cool; stir into potato mixture with peas, cilantro, mint, garam masala, and chile.

3. Form and fry samosas: Working with 1 ball at a time, roll dough into a 6″ round; cut in half. Gather straight edges of 1 half-round together, overlapping by ¼” to form a cone. Moisten seam with water; press to seal. Spoon 1 tbsp. filling into cone. Moisten edges of cone with water; pinch to seal. Heat 2″ oil in a 6-qt. saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Fry samosas until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Drain on paper towels; serve with chutneys if you like.

 

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

My slow cookers are, by far, the hardest working appliances in my kitchen.

Well, aside from the wine opener, that is …..

Seriously though, my love for these amazing gadgets is well documented and very well known. Sabrina has stopped me on several occasions from purchasing yet another crock pot/slow cooker, because each time we are in a store I always come across a “new and improved” version of a model I already own. These versions usually have a totally cool upgrade, like an LED timer or something nifty like that.

And I get caught up in the moment, because I am so technologically hip, you know….

stop laughing Dad.

Anyway, with school starting this week, and J’s erratic work schedule, I will be relying on these babies more than ever.

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Suffice to say, this version of Tikka Masala will become my go-to recipe from now on. The only change I will make next time will be to add more chicken, as the sauce/meat ratio was a bit off for my liking.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala – adapted from dinners, dishes and desserts

  • 3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. Garam Masala
  • 1 tbs. cumin
  • ½ tbs. paprika
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chopped cilantro

In the medium bowl mix together onion, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, yogurt, olive oil, Garam Masala, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, and cayenne. Once well combined and smooth, add chicken and toss to coat.

Pour into the slow cooker, and add bay leaves. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low, or 3 hours on high.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbread or rice.

Cheesy Grits

Update: Thanks to my eagle eyed proofreader (aka Dad), I have corrected the grammatical errors and have hopefully fixed the YouTube link…..

I will tell you, right off the bat, that grits are NOT something I was familiar with until I moved to Texas. Previously, whenever I heard the term grits, I would think of the old TV show “Alice”…. and yes I’m dating myself here, as that show aired from 1976 to 1985…

Which was last week, right?

riiiight…..

Anyway, one of the waitresses, Flo – she was the one with the beehive hairdo – her favorite expression, while snapping her chewing gum, was “Kiss my grits!”

And while kissing grits does not sound very appealing, eating them certainly is. I realized, after a few bites, that they are strikingly similar to polenta, just in a much more coarse texture. And made all that much better with the addition of cheese.

Because isn’t everything better with cheese?

Cheesy Grits – adapted very liberally from serious eats

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water, plus more as necessary
  • 1 cup coarse ground grits
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. When done, turn off the heat, stir in 4 tablespoons butter and the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with pepper, and thin with water if the grits have become too thick.