Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rick’s Saturday Morning Leftover Asparagus Frittata

I don’t know about you, but we like asparagus, but often it’s just the two of us, so we’re left with a pretty green pile of leftover cooked asparagus that is too nice to throw out. We often have it on a Thursday with our fish (usually salmon, a nice combo), so the solution we have come up with is to have it for brunch or lunch on Saturday in an eggy cheesy thingy that is somewhere between an omelet and a frittata. This is also a good time in the day to eat it because asparagus for some weird chemical reason is a wine killer, so better to have it in the morning or noon hour, unless you are one of those people who drink early (you know who you are!)

I actually was inspired to make this by a recipe from Provence when my daughter was studying in Aix. Their omelet had the asparagus and the grated cheese mixed right into the egg batter, which seems to break all the rules, but it works as long as you watch your heat both top and bottom since this one starts on the range top and finishes in the broiler, and may have to go back and forth a few times to get it solid without burning the bottom (or the top, for that matter.) Don’t get too hung up on the amounts. Use what you have left over, and add more or fewer eggs.

So except for the burning at the bottom potential, and sometimes getting the thing out of the pan, this is simplicity itself, but takes your total concentration for a few minutes.

1 Tb Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb butter
4 or 5 large eggs
1 cup cooked asparagus (more or less) chopped into small pieces
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I know it isn’t French, but that is actually what they use in Provence for some reason. Use real Parmesano-Reggiano if you can. It is worth it.)
1 Tb cream or milk (I use skim and it’s fine, trust me)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl beat the eggs with your biggest whisk or an egg-beater until they get a little fluffy.Then add the chopped asparagus, the grated cheese, and salt and pepper, and stir.

Swirl the oil around in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium high heat, and when the bottom is covered add the butter and cook it just until it starts foams. Turn the heat down to medium and dump the contents of the bowl into the pan.

Now you have to be vigilant. Jiggle the pan very gently and slowly on the burner for a few minutes. You will need to lower your heat to that sweet spot where the bottom is getting brown, but not sticking and burning. The batter should start to firm up and bubble a bit, and this is when you want to take it off the stovetop and put it under the broiler for a brief time. It should fluff a bit like a soufflĂ©. Don’t let the top burn. You may have to go back and forth from broiler to range top to get it firm but still moist. You can do this. It should finish in the broiler till it gets a nice light brown finish, and voila!

Take it off the heat and work a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen it up. Pop it out and put it on a pretty plate. If it sticks a bit and comes out not entirely in one piecce, worry not, it will still be delicious. You may have to reassemble it some (for example, the photo at the top is from today and it needed just a little bit of arranging.  The photo at bottom is from another time and came out clean in one piece.  It's a mystery). As Julia said about getting an omelet out of a pan, you have to have the courage of your convictions. Serve this with buttered toast. It feeds the two of us amply, but with the toast could easily feed three or four. Enjoy.
(Photos by R. L. Floyd)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rick's Gooey Inauthentic Chicken Enchiladas

These are a family favorite, but they have no claim to any regional authenticity. For one thing, I use flour rather than corn tortillas, and for another I load them with sauce, and to add further insult, they are also much bigger than usual since I use burrito-size tortillas.

For shortcuts you can use leftover chicken (or turkey) or buy a rotisserie chicken and chop it up. For the salsa you could use good jarred salsa. I use 2-cup packages of Mexican-blend grated cheese, but you can grate Cheddar (not sharp) or Monterey Jack. Be alerted that you will need a really big baking pan to get these big boys all in. I use my roasting pan. You could do it in two pans if you need to. Feeds eight normal people (or four Floyds)

For the filling:
8 Burrito-size flour tortillas
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 large chopped white onion
12 oz homemade or jarred salsa
1 cup of grated cheese (Mexican blend, cheddar, or Monterey jack)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin (cominos)
1Tbsp chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo (optional, makes it pretty hot)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
2 garlic gloves chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup grated cheese
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
chopped Romaine or Iceberg lettuce

To make the sauce: Make the sauce first, because it needs to cook down a bit. In a two-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and stir in the garlic and oregano for a few seconds being careful not to burn it. Add the chili powder and cumin and stir constantly for about a minute until you get a thick paste. Then slowly drizzle in the stock while stirring. You want to incorporate the other-ingredients into the stock. Stir in the tomatoes and the chipotles and bring the pot to a boil, then turn your heat down to get a good simmer.Let the sauce simmer and cook down while you assemble the enchiladas. It will not thicken too much, but don’t worry since it will spend another half hour in the oven.

To assemble the enchiladas: In a large mixing bowl mix chicken, onion, salsa, and 1 cup cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a large baking pan. Put a tortilla on a plate and fill with one-eighth of the filling, rolling each of them one at a time, and placing each of them into the baking pan with the seam side down to hold them together.

To cook. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas so that it moistens the tops of all the tortillas.Sprinkle 1 cup grated cheese over the top of the enchiladas, and put the pan uncovered into the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the enchiladas from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes. With a spatula put an enchilada on each plate, put chopped lettuce on either side of it, and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.
(Photos: R.L. Floyd)
(This was the first recipe to appear on my other blog, Retired Pastor Ruminates, on August 11, 2009, and still one of the most popular)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rick’s Five-Bean Super Bowl Chili con Carne for a Crowd

(Note: This one appeared at Retired Pastor Ruminates on October 9, 2009, but I thought I'd drag it over here for the Super Bowl this weekend. I apologize to any Vikings fans for any pain I may cause them for mentioning their team right now.)

This is an old Super Bowl favorite of ours. I made it last night. I know, it wasn’t the Super Bowl, but both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers played like it was, and the Minnesota fans cheered and carried on like it was. All it was was Bret Favre playing against his old team on Monday Night Football.  My son had invited some of his teacher friends over, so I figured I needed to pile on (notice the football metaphor) the food.

This is a good dish for a crowd. You can make it ahead and let it get happy on a back burner, so if your guests are arriving at indeterminate intervals, it’s perfect.

You will need a very large heavy cast iron casserole or Dutch oven for this one. It makes a lot of chili.

3 tbs vegetable oil
4 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
1 bell papper, sliced (I used red but green is OK and cheaper)
2 or 3 small hot peppers, deseeded and chopped (I used long red hots, but jalapenos are fine. Just don’t use habeneros or the heat will overwhelm the subtlety of the other nice flavors)
3 lbs ground beef (I used Black Angus 80-20, but you can go leaner if fat freaks you out, but you will lose some flavor. If you use turkey, just don't tell me.)
6 tbs chili powder
2 tbs ground cumin (comino)
2 tbs paprika (use smoked if you have it, but only use 1 tbs)
1 tbs fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper (if you have it)
2 tps salt (I used Kosher, but it doesn’t matter)
1 beer (not dark, whatever you have in the fridge. I used Corona)
1 35 oz. can of good tomatoes, whole or pureed
2 tbs chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo
1 14.5 oz. can beef broth or your own beef stock
1 15.5 oz. can red kidney beans
1 15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans
1 15.5 oz can pinto beans
1 15.5 oz. can small red beans
1 15.5 oz can black beans.
The kernels from an ear of cooked fresh corn, or its frozen equivilent.

Chopped fresh cilantro, chopped white onion, sour cream and grated Mexican or Cheddar cheese for garnishes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Heat the oil in your big pot or in heavy-bottomed big skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and peppers for about ten minutes stirring occasionally. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the ground beef, stirring until it is brown and there is no pink at all. This is a lot of meat so it will take a while.

Turn the heat back to medium, add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, black and white pepper and salt and stir to mix. Pour the beer over it (it will foam impressively) and stir to mix. Let that simmer for ten minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, chipotles, and beef broth, breaking the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon if you use whole ones.

Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Let this cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. Then stir in all five kinds of beans (undrained with their juices), and bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from sticking. Stir in the corn and cook for ten more minutes.

I put out bowls and let people ladle themselves what they want, and I put the garnishes in small bowls and let people doctor their own. Serve with tortilla chips.

The natural accompaniment is cold beer, but red wine works fine, too. I drank an inexpensive tempranillo from Spain with it last night and it was a nice match. Enjoy.

(Photo: R.L. Floyd)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rick’s Oven-Braised Straccato (Pot Roast) over Polenta

1 Tb. olive oil
1 3 lb. chuck roast, tied with twine ( I like Black Angus)
1 medium onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)
1 cup hearty dry red wine
2 cups beef stock plus more if needed.
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried sage leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper

This is basically a pot roast.  Eliminate the tomatoes and garlic, substitute dried thyme for the sage, add a bay leaf, and you have my basic pot roast recipe. That one I would serve over mashed potatoes, but this one I like over polenta. A straccato is a regional Italian pot roast, and this is my take on it. Let’s call it a North Jersey pot roast!

This is easy but takes a bit of time, which is what braising is all about.  I cook it all in my cast iron Dutch Oven, but you could do it in any fireproof pot that can go from the range to the oven. You can also cook the whole thing on the range top, but I like the even heat of the oven. I made this yesterday, put it in the oven at 4 p.m., went and had my daily nap, and it was all ready to eat by 6:45 (it needs to sit for a bit). Even better make it the day before, slice the cooled meat, heat up the sauce, and you are ready to go.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Heat the oil over medium high heat and swirl it around until it covers the bottom. Dry off your roast with paper towels (it won’t brown if it’s damp) and sprinkle it liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Then using tongs, or two wooden spoons, put it in the pot and brown it on all sides (don’t use a fork, because it will release the juices and you want them in there). Depending on your heat this will take between ten and twenty minutes, but the trick is to get it a very dark brown without burning it, so pay attention (which is what good cooking is all about).

When the roast is nice and brown, take it out and put it aside on a plate, and reduce your heat to medium.  Put in your chopped onion, carrot and celery, and stir with a wooden spoon now and again until the veggies are also nice and brown (but not burnt!), about ten minutes.

Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute or so, then add you wine, beef stock, herbs and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let it cook for about ten minutes.

Then lower the meat on top of the veggies.  The braising liquid should come about half way up the meat.  If it doesn’t add more stock, but don’t put too much liquid in, because you want to braise it and not boil it.

Bring it back to a good boil, put the lid on it, and put it in the oven.  A 325 degree oven will typically keep a simmer just about right for braising, though you may need to adjust your heat according to variations in your oven temperature.

You want to cook this for about 2 and 1/2 hours total.  After about an hour, check the pot, lower or raise the oven temp if needed, and flip the meat over. If the liquid is low top it off with some more stock.

After two and one half hours, check the meat. It should be nice and tender but still firm enough to cut.  Put it on a platter, tent it with foil, and let it sit for fifteen minutes. While the meat is cooling, put your braising liquid on the range top and simmer it to reduce the sauce, stirring now and again. Remove the parsley sprigs, taste and season for salt and pepper.

Slice your meat against the grain and plate it over the polenta or mashed potatoes, then ladle the sauce generously and enjoy.  We had this with steamed brussel sprouts last night for a hearty winter meal, but a green salad would work fine.  A dry red wine will be just right. We drank a Masciarelli, a nice inexpensive Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, that is our current house red. This makes a nice, pretty easy, meal on a cold winter night that will be a crowd pleaser.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)