Cooking Salade D’Onglet (Sorta)

I really enjoy reading Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook because the recipes sounds really interesting and I’m a fan of Bourdain’s. However, there’s a lot in there that isn’t super practical when trying to figure out what to make in any given week. Still, I try looking around stumbled upon a recipe for Salade D’Onglet (page 123) that I didn’t quite nail, but think will make for a good dish to work on moving forward.

Ingredients wise, the list is pretty basic, mostly things I was able to find at my grocery store. I didn’t have dark veal or chicken stock around (need to make some more chicken stock), so I used the stuff I had from the store. The real problem, though was that I could not find onglet or hanger steak at my grocery store. I probably could have asked the butcher, but I’m kind of on a time crunch when I get our food, so I wound up settling for a beef round Swiss braising steak. I have no idea how close that was to what I was supposed to get.

I also didn’t quite get the timing down for this one. Things have been a little crazy around here lately so, I didn’t get the meat marinating over night, but I did get four or five good hours in which he said would work. Aside from that, though, this is a pretty simple and easy meal to put together, it just has a fair amount of working parts when you take into account the marinating, sauce and dressing making and putting everything together. Still, it’s pretty easy.

I think I might have cooked my sauce a little too long or added too much soy sauce in one of the steps because the finished product turned out a little salty. Not, spit everything out on the plate salty, but still maybe a little too salty. Like I said, I’ve got some work to do to really nail this the next time, but I’m willing to try again.

Bonus Food Pic: The P&G Dip

p and g dipA few days after Thanksgiving this year, my wife, daughter, parents and I went to New Paltz to walk around and do some shopping. I was personally thankful for this trip because it gave me the opportunity to eat something aside from turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I liked how my turkey turned out, but I can only take so much of the same thing. We went to a place in town called P&G’s that we’ve been to a few times and always enjoyed.

I went with the P&Gs Dip and a side order of mac and cheese. The sandwich is described thusly on the menu: “Thin sliced roast beef with melted Provolone cheese on a garlic hard roll, served with dipping jus.” And it was just that! Beef, glorious beef with melty cheese dipped in beef juice? Yes, I’ll take that all day long. The mac and cheese was good too, but the real star of the side dishes we ordered were the eggplant fries served with marinara sauce. Holy crap, what a great idea that is and a great alternative to regular fries, especially when you’ve got a kid like ours who loves herself some fries. Gotta figure out how to make those at home now!

Cooking Burgundy Steak With Bow Ties

Even though I wrote about mac and cheese yesterday and I’m writing about a pasta dish right now, I actually try to keep my weekly menus to only one pasta dish per week. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s a general rule I go by. Of course, that makes it tough to come up with meals in the winter because all I really want to do is eat pasta with awesome sauce and soup and I can’t make soup because the baby doesn’t have a handle on that skill set just yet.

The particular pasta dish I chose a few weeks ago came from the Monday To Friday Pasta book by Michele Urvater. It’s called Burgundy Steak With Penne (page 134), though I used bow ties because I find them to be more festive. All you need to make this dish are carrots, mushrooms, an onion, oil, thyme, red wine, beef broth and rib eye or sirloin steak (I think I went with sirloin). I had most of the ingredients in my pantry and fridge so I only had to pick a few things up, which I like.

I also like how simple this dish is to put together. I got the pasta water going then worked on cutting up the vegetables and then the meat. You cook the veggies first, then add in the wine, herbs and whatnot. The meat goes in next and, really, that’s about it. Once the pasta is done, mix it all together and you’ve got yourself a meaty, veggie-filled, burgundy dish that I liked very much and would like to have again soon.

Cooking Martha’s Macaroni & Cheese By Way Of Smitten Kitchen

Macaroni and cheese is a real delight. Creamy cheese, starchy pasta and a myriad of other additions you can try. Heck, I even love Kraft Mac & Cheese and still make it for myself every now and then. But, sometimes you just want to dig into a steamy bowl of cheesy-pasta goodness without a lot else going on. That’s what I found and got when I came across Smitten Kitchen’s take on Martha Stewart’s recipe. The only changes I made to the recipe were using the remnants of a loaf of bread I had left over instead of white bread slices and not using Gruyere cheese because, much as I like it, it’s pretty pricey and I don’t make Martha money…yet.

I liked this recipe because you can do a lot of the prep work using a food processor. I threw a bunch of the stale bread I had in there for the crumbs and also chopped up most of the cheese that way. Aside from that, you don’t have to do much else besides measuring a few things out. The rest involves making the pasta and heating up some milk and other ingredients in which to melt some of your cheese. After that it’s just mixing everything together and tossing it into the oven. I used two different pans because sometimes I have trouble putting too much in a baking dish and get some spillage.

In addition to being a very cheesy, very tasty dish I appreciate how simple this is to put together. I also really liked how the buttered breadcrumbs turned out on top. They got just the right amount of crunchy, adding a nice extra texture to the dish. This recipe will definitely make its way into the rounds when I’m looking for a simple, great mac and cheese dinner.

Bonus Food Pic: Cheddar Cheeseburger At Burger Heaven

burger heaven Last week my wife and I traveled down into the city to meet with her doctor. We got the excellent news that she is cancer free. To celebrate, we met our friend Rickey for lunch. We didn’t have a plan, just met at a particular subway stop and walked around until we found a place. Burger Heaven happened to be that place.

Em and I split a black and white milkshake that was really tasty. Then, once Rickey got there we ordered and got our food pretty quickly. I went with a cheddar cheeseburger which was pretty good, though nothing mind blowing or spectacular. I actually kind of wish I had tried the Burger Heaven Burger which also had carmelized onions and special house sauce. There wasn’t anything wrong with the burger by any means, it just wasn’t spectacular either. I was surprised at how good the cole slaw was, though. I’ve had more bad slaw while eating out than good, but I’d put this strongly in the good column.

Cooking Steven’s Oven Baked Chimichangas With Homemade Taco Teasoning

My wife really wants me to join Pintrest. I’m still not exactly sure what that means and I don’t feel like joining another social network, so, for now, you won’t read about my pinning things. But, that doesn’t mean we all can’t reap the benefits of her interest in pins. She was looking around for recipes and came across Steven’s Oven Baked Chimichangas on Tasty Kitchen, sent me the recipe and now we can all talk about it.

Before actually working on the recipe itself, I decided to whip together some homemade taco seasoning. I wasn’t a big fan of the one I tried last time, so I did some searching and came across this one I did like over on All Recipes. It was just a simple matter of getting all the spices together, measuring them out, throwing them in a jar and giving the whole thing a good shake.

With that all set, I got to work on the chimichanga recipe itself. I got everything that was eventually going to be added to the meat in one bowl and then got the ground turkey cooking. After that was browned, in went the taco seasoning and then the bowl o’ ingredient. While that cooked, I shredded the cheese I’d need, then mixed part of that in with some sour cream and had my filling.

After that it was a simple matter of buttering both sides of the wraps, filling them with some of the mixture, wrapping them up and placing them on the baking dish. I’m not always the biggest fan of recipes like this because I find them somewhat tedious, but this one was just the right balance of work for me. When they came out of the oven, we were treated to some tasty chimichangas.

I’ll be honest, aside from burritos and tacos, I have a really hard time keeping track of what food is what when it comes to Mexican. You’ve basically got a lot of combinations of tortilla and meat with various cooking techniques. If I’m not mistaken, chimichangas as basically burritos cooked in an oven. Is that right? Whether it is or isn’t, I’m cool with the results.

Cooking Betty Crocker’s Coq au Vin

I’m a strong believe in the power of bacon. It’s such a delicious ingredient that it can elevate a boring dish or make an already awesome dish, like chili, even better. As such, when I was flipping through my copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and saw her recipe for Coq au Vin (page 286 or here), which is basically a pot roast but with chicken instead of beef and bacon. Plus, you cook it in a pan an not in the oven. But, aside from all that, it’s pretty much the same idea.

The only changes I made to the recipe were using boneless chicken breasts instead of miscellaneous poultry parts and I didn’t have the materials for a bouquet garni, so I just used dry spices from my spice rack. I know, I know, it’s not super French to do any of that, but what are you gonna do?

Oh, I also cooked the bacon after chopping it up instead of doing the pieces whole and then breaking them down. Again, this is just easier for me, I don’t know if there’s a downside, but I haven’t hit one yet. Before chopping that up, I peeled and cut the carrots and also got the flour mixture ready (I try to do veggies and whatnot before meat for obvious contamination concerns).

With that done, the bacon pieces went into the pan. After they were browned and done, I got them out then dipped the chicken in the flour mixture and got the pieces cooking in the bacon fat. The recipe says you should move them to one side and then cook the thawed pearl onions and mushrooms, but I just mixed everything together and let them get together. You then add in the rest of the ingredients and let it all cook together for a while.

I was really impressed with this dish. Sometimes I’m not sure about making international dishes from the Betty Crocker book because they might not have the original balance of spices and herbs, but this dish turned out to be pretty great, though whether or not it’s traditional Coq au Vin, I have no idea. But, the combination of bacon, pan fried chicken, pear onions and herbs was a delightful one. I’ll definitely give this recipe another whirl or two during the cold winter months ahead.

Bonus Food Pics: French Onion Soup & A Ruben At Fox Fiddle

The week before last I didn’t write any posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. I played it coy a bit, but as I explained over on Pop Poppa in my Photo Diary posts, I was actually commuting into the city with my dad and mother-in-law to visit my wife who was in the hospital post-surgery. Everything went well and she’s back home healing up.

Of course, you’ve still got to eat and after a few days of hospital cafeteria food, we decided to head out and get something. We were originally going to go to Chickpea, but it happened to be pretty full and I saw the sign for Fox N Fiddle and redirected us thataway. It’s an Irish pub which meant there would be two things there that I wanted: non crappy food (or at least less crappy food, depending on how Irish it really was) and beer.

I wound up getting a few Samuel Adams’ winter seasonal beers, then had a crock of French Onion Soup and followed that up with a Ruben. I probably wasn’t the best judge of anything that day, but I thought both the soup and sandwich were pretty darn good. I left very satisfied and didn’t feel like it was too expensive, which can easily happen at places in NYC.

Turkey Day Remembered: Everything Else!

Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without the sides and desserts. I’ve already talked about brining and cooking the turkey, making breakfast and preparing the stuffing, but that’s not all we had. My mom made her famous mashed potatoes that I just can’t go through a Thanksgiving without. Em also made a recipe that we got from FoodNetwork.com called Brussels Sprouts Gratin that was super good and will probably find its way into my regular vegetable side rotation.

Em also tackled the pies, but took care of them the night before, so they were good and done and ready to go when we were done eating. She made Smitten Kitchen’s Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie which was a pretty fun twist on the traditional pie (it includes canned candied yams) and a family recipe for Pecan Pie.  She also made cranberry sauce as well, something that I’m still not sure how I feel about (not a big cranberry fan).

Lastly, I made some gravy using the Betty Crocker Cookbook (page 442) that allowed us to utilize our brand new gravy separator. I’d never used one of these things before, but they’re pretty handy. Not sure if I’ll use it for anything other than Thanksgiving, but it’s not like it takes up that much space.

And there you have it, that’s how our Thanksgiving went down. I’ve said this before, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of turkey. Still, I thought the brine made for a very moist and flavorful turkey. I love those mashed potatoes, as always, and was pleasantly surprised with how interesting and good the stuffing tasted. Even the side dish we found at the last minute wound up being a real winner, so all in all I’d say we hit Thanksgiving out of the park. Thanks to Em for being an awesome cooking partner and my folks for coming and enjoying themselves and our food!

Turkey Day Remembered: The Bird

And now, back to the bird! I figured it would be appropriate to post this two weeks after the actual Thanksgiving meal. Man, I can’t believe it’s already been so long since Turkey Day. Anyway, 20-30 minutes before we planned on cooking the bird, I pulled it out of the brine, patted it dry and stuffed it with the stuffing. The bird then went into the roasting pan on a rack and some halved onions and went into the oven as per Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe.

The only change we made to that recipe was not doing the butter and lemon under the skin thing, but going with a trick we learned from Martha Stewart last year that involves soaking cheese cloth in white wine and butter and then putting that on top of the turkey in the oven for the first two hours of cooking. It was a super easy process that resulted in a pretty good looking and tasting bird.

Turkey Day Remembered: Betty Crocker Bread Stuffing

Much like the recipe I initially chose for pumpkin pancakes, the one I chose for stuffing wound up being all kinds of wrong for what we were eating. It didn’t help that I somehow missed several ingredients on that original recipe. Worried, I turned to my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and came across the very simple and easy-to-make recipe for Bread Stuffing (page 280).

As you can see from the pictures, the recipe is pretty simple and luckily fit in our bird with some left over that I set aside in a separate container for my mom who is a vegetarian. The only deviation I made from the recipe here was using Pepperidge Farm Honey Oat bread instead of white bread (which we never have in the house anyway). I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here, but that added sweetness really brought out some great flavors with this stuffing and I’d recommend giving it a try next time you’re looking for something to stuff your bird with.

Turkey Day Remembered: Pumpkin Pancakes & Turkey Sausage

With the turkey brining and the pies cooked (I’ll post about those tomorrow), we actually had a pretty good amount of time to make things happen in the morning. I thought it would be fun to make some pumpkin pancakes and cook up some turkey sausage. I found a particular pumpkin pancake recipe on Food Network’s site that sounded pretty good, but then I realized that it was for like 15 people and I couldn’t figure out the math on how to make it for four people. So, I quickly found one on my phone that I wrote down on a piece of paper and didn’t save. As such, I don’t remember exactly how I made them, but you can see the ingredients above.

I actually mixed the dry ingredients together the night before to get things ready. Then, in the morning, I broke out the big mixer and got the dough made which wasn’t any trouble. However, I’m apparently incapable of making a worthwhile pancake on the correct heat and kind of screwed them up. My wife said I didn’t have the heat right, either too high or too low, I honestly don’t remember. They weren’t terrible, but they also weren’t great.

For the sausages, I just tossed them in a cast iron pan and got them going. A few were pink inside, so I goofed up on that too. I was not happy with how breakfast turned out, but luckily it didn’t ruin my mojo with the rest of the cooking. More on that tomorrow!

Turkey Day Remembered: The Brine

Hi gang, you might have noticed that I didn’t do any posting last week. We had some family stuff going on that was more important than writing about food (and I like writing about food, so you get the idea). Anyway, I know everyone’s moved on from Thanksgiving and is now focusing on Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and the like, but I wanted to do a few posts about what we made for Turkey Day, partially because, as I mentioned, I like writing about food and also so I can remember next year what I did this year because we had a pretty damn good meal if I do say so myself.

Longtime readers might remember that I actually handled the turkey last year when we were at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. That was a straightforward bird-in-the-oven process, but this year we decided to try brining the turkey beforehand. I did some looking around in various cookbooks and on some different websites, but decided to go with Alex Guarnaschelli’s Thanksgiving Turkey Brine as posted over on Food Network’s site.

Before last week, I’d heard of a brine, but never made one. That basic idea is that you soak meat (or whatever you’re going to eventually cook) in a water based solution with several other spices, herbs and kinds of food you want the subject to take on. In the case of Guarnaschelli’s turkey brine, I liked that it included two full bulbs of garlic, soy sauce, molasses, honey and a pound of salt. The only change I made was using some dried thyme instead of fresh because I couldn’t find the latter at my grocery store.

The process was actually pretty simple. The first step involves boiling three quarts of water and then pouring it over the salt. I knew this would involve a lot of water and wasn’t sure if I had a bowl large enough, so utilized both of my larger stock pots. After that, you just add in all the ingredients, clean off your turkey and start soaking.

I bought one of those Styrofoam beer coolers to brine the turkey, but it looked a little small and awkwardly shaped, so instead I went with a collapsible, circular cooler we have lined with a large plastic food bag we found at the grocery store. I poured a bag of ice in the bottom of the cooler, then put the bagged turkey inside and finally, carefully poured the brine into the bag. Once it was all in, I closed the top with a twist-tie and then added more ice around the bag. With that all done, I moved the cooler into the bathtub just in case we sprung a leak. The turkey soaked over Wednesday night and went into the oven on Thursday. To see how that turned out, stay tuned!