Swiss Steak ala Alton Brown

Sporadic blog post alert…

My schedule is absolutely insane the next two weeks, so I’m relying on your good graces and a few one-dish wonders to see me through.

It’s not that I bite off more than I can chew, it’s just that piano players are in demand this time of year.  I’m talkin’ seven rehearsals, four gigs, two performances, the children’s Christmas program, and a guest speaking engagement I volunteered to do without checking my calendar first (!) — which includes playing the piano.  Basically “a partridge in a pear tree” kind of insane.

Speaking of biting off more than you can chew…

Back in the 80’s there was a fast food commercial that amused me no end.  In it, a feisty ol’ lady would holler, “Where’s the beef?!”

(Remember that?)

I thought of it the other day when I divided up a chuck roast — half of it for “roast,” a fourth cut into cubes for stew, and the rest sliced and pounded for Swiss Steak.  Three meals outta one roast ain’t bad!

My meal planning was also assisted by a giveaway I won.  (Thank you, Jenny at Savour The Senses — what a treat!)

I’d never used Muir Glen tomatoes before, so I wanted to make something special with them.  Let’s see… one for manicotti, one for Super Nachos, one for stew, and one for Swiss Steak.  Four meals outta one gift box ain’t bad either!

Getting back to the topic at hand, it had been awhile since I made Swiss Steak and I didn’t want to make just any ol’ version of it with those delectable tomatoes.  Lo and behold, Alton Brown’s name came up in my search… and you know how I feel about Alton Brown.

So, I sauteed and stirred to my heart’s content (in between piano practice) and shouted, “Where’s the beef?!” — just for fun.

Swiss Steak ala Alton Brown

(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe on Food Network)

1 lb. chuck roast (uncooked), sliced against the grain

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. flour

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings

1 medium onion, sliced into rings

1/2 c. celery, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen, woohoo!)

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (regular is fine, too)

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 c. beef broth (I used homemade beef stock)

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Slice roast into “cutlet” sized pieces; season with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a pie tin (or on a plate); dredge meat in flour.

Place meat between two sheets of plastic wrap; pound until thin.  (I used my rolling pin to aid and abet this process.)

Dredge meat in flour again; shake off excess and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil or drippings in a Dutch oven ’til shimmering.

Add a few slices of beef at a time (don’t crowd); sauté until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the same pan, add onion and celery; sauté until softened.

Add remaining ingredients; stir well.

Add browned meat, submerging slices in the liquid.

Cover and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is fork tender.

Swiss Steak

Optional:  Holler “Where’s the beef?!” once in awhile, just for fun. :)

Enjoying temporary insanity,

~ Kim

Cutting Board Tacos

1)  Take one insanely hot summer day and your basic taco fixin’s…

(Nothin’ fancy — just the basics — seasoned with this.)

(Allow me to zoom in a bit closer.)

2)  Assemble them on the nearest cutting board.

(Closer…)

3)  Add a lil’ sunshine and a fork.

(Clooooser…)

4)  Okay… a LOT of sunshine and a fork.

(There we go!)

5)  Think of winter and laugh.  Bwahahah!

(Apologies to my Southern hemisphere friends…)

Serve with a side of this and pull up a chair.

That’d be it. :)

Enjoying easy weeknight meals,

~ Kimby

What’s your favorite “beat the heat” meal?

.

.

.

Roasted Garlic Meatloaf

Sometimes ya just gotta have meat and potatoes.  I grew up on a farm, after all…

I also had some roasted garlic to use up.

Normally I throw all kinds of seasonings into my meatloaf — it’s one of the most versatile dishes on the planet — but this time, I wanted basic.  Salt, pepper and… ah yes, roasted garlic.  And a few green onions for color.  (Had some of those left, too!)

Gratuitous mashed potato shot -- I liked the light.

Paired with a mound of fluffy mashed potatoes and a vegetable of your choice, it makes for a nice meal.

Mind you, this isn’t a saucy, bacon-draped, barbecued affair — just good ol’ meatloaf.  And some mighty fine sandwiches the next day.  (Feel free to top it with whatever you like, if you’re so inclined.)

Roasted Garlic Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck

1/2 c. beef broth or milk (I used milk — I grew up on a farm, yada yada…)

2 eggs

1/2 c. toasted bread crumbs

1/2 -1 whole head of garlic, roasted (see here for tips)

A liberal dose of Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

4 green onions, sliced (including tops)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and broth (or milk.)  Add bread crumbs, roasted garlic, and salt & pepper.  Let this sit for a bit until the crumbs soak up the liquid.

Add ground beef and green onions.  Mix together lightly with your hands.  (The phone always rings during this step, just so ya know.)

Shape mixture into a loaf and place in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Bake 40 to 60 minutes.

Not exactly rocket science, but sometimes simple is good.

Enjoying back to the basics,

~ Kim

What’s your favorite “basic” meal?

Boeuf… It’s What’s For Dinner

I don’t speak a lick of French, but I love the cooking terms.  They make me feel more animated.  (Not that I need any help in that department.)  Try saying ragout without a hearty goo on the second syl-la-ble, or mirepoix without a saucy little kiss at the end.  (Julia Child I’m not, but there’s joie de vivre in my kitchen!)

Earlier this month, we feasted on a fabulous roast infused with garlic and smeared with Dijon.  “Pardon me, but would you happen to have...  (Yes, the chauffeur was undeniably British, but Grey Poupon remains indelibly etched in my mind.)

After we ate our fill, I relegated the rest to the freezer for future consideration.  Then inspiration struck.  Voila!  Ragout.

Traditionally, ragout is prepared by searing fresh cubes of meat and simmering them to perfection.  However, my schedule requires speeding things up now and then — kinda like being on “Chopped” in the comfort of my own home, without Ted Allen.

But no matter how rushed I am, a mirepoix is a must.  The marvel of this 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots and celery cannot be overstated.  (Unless you dice the onions last — then it’s 1:1:2.)

Confession.  For all of my French word frenzy, I forgot to add one vital ingredient: Cabernet.  I dispensed it in a goblet instead…

Weeknight Ragout

Leftover roast beef (preferrably using this recipe)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. onion, diced

1/2 c. carrot, diced

1/2 c. celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c. beef broth or bouillon — another fun word!

1 c. red potatoes (unpeeled), cubed

1 fresh tomato, seeded and chopped

Cabernet, to taste…

1/4 t. ground thyme

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Green onion tops sliced diagonally, for garnish

Cut the roast into cubes; set aside.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in oil until translucent.  (Take your time — “sweating” brings out the maximum flavor.)  Add garlic; sauté briefly until fragrant.

Pour in broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add potatoes and tomato.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are barely tender.  If desired, add wine.  (Or not…)  Stir in beef and thyme.  Simmer until heated through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with green onion tops.  Makes 2 lovely servings.

One last thing.  Ragout is generally more of a stew, thickened with a roux.  Woohoo.  But I was content with the way this turned out, so I served it au naturel. ;)  C’est la vie!

Enjoying ma petite foray in the kitchen,

~ Kim

The Prodigal Daughter Returns With Butter

Hi!  Sorry I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, but we just got back from Minnesota.  I’d forgotten how unpredicatable my home state can be in the Spring — it snowed on May 1st, there were windchills in the 20’s on May 2nd, and my car frosted over on May 3rd…

Don’t get me wrong — Minnesota is a beautiful place to live!  It’s just that this Okie export isn’t used to “unseasonably cold weather” (even for Minnesotans) in May.  But, I came home with a heart-full of warm memories and that’s all that matters.

I also came home with a pound of butter…

My Mom likes to surprise me with “culinary gifts” — jars of roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes, ramekin sets, unique kitchen utensils, cookbooks and the like, along with hugs and an enthusiasm for “my cooking” that makes me feel special and loved.   (Thank you, Mom.)  I’m one blessed daughter!

But when Mom pulls out the Hope Creamery Butter, I swoon.  (She knows I love it so…)  Hand-packed and creamy, it elevates every recipe to “something special.”  (Just like Mom!)  Hmmmm… what shall I make?

First up on the list was a long overdue batch of chocolate chip cookies for the hubby.  “God blesses us so that we can bless others…”

Then it was my turn…  I wanted something simple and sublime.  My thoughts turned to Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli’s amazing recipes (who, aptly enough, works at a restaurant named Butter.)  I settled on her Seared Porterhouse With Oozing Maitre d’ Butter — oozing is good.

While a Porterhouse wasn’t in the budget after our road trip, I did have a pretty nice chuck steak ready to throw on the grill (even though her recipe called for stovetop searing — next time I get my hands on a Porterhouse, I will!)  With Maitre d’ Butter oozing all over, it was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more.

By the way, that glob of pistachio green on the plate isn’t “jello,” it’s Asparagus Pesto  — another trial recipe.  Although it doesn’t have anything to do with butter yet, here’s how you make it…

Asparagus Pesto

1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1″ sections (remove woody ends before slicing)

3 fresh basil leaves (or dash of dried basil)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1 small clove garlic

1/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil (or more as needed to reach pesto consistency)

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.  (Mine turned out a little “chunky” but it was marvelous!)

Credit:  Adapted from a recipe attached to the fresh asparagus spears (no author given.)  They suggested serving it over pasta, which I’m making tonight.  But instead of tossing it with olive oil (per the recipe), I’m using butter.  Lots and lots of butter.  It’s Mother’s Day weekend, right?

Enjoying life one pat of butter at a time (except this weekend…)

~Kim

P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Comfort Food

“Chocolate Chip Cookies With Brown Butter & Bacon”

What is it about comfort food?  Everyone has one — except me.  I’d be hard pressed to name one particular “go to” dish that evokes feelings of security, happy memories and world peace.  “Why is that?” I wondered to myself.

In searching through the “food memorabilia” section in the back of my mind, I caught fleeting glimpses of Mom’s macaroni & cheese, Grandma S’s oatmeal with brown sugar and half & half, Grandma M’s kolaches, my sister’s lemon bars, my son’s scalloped potatoes and my daughter’s Pina Colada pork chops.  I also thought of every good meal I’ve ever eaten.

“Aha!” I thought to myself again.  It’s not a matter of lacking a particular comfort food — it’s a matter of narrowing down the buffet!  My brain is a recipe box, it seems…

The collection has expanded in recent months, thanks to the friends on my blogroll.  Their marvelous recipes, enticing food photography and whimsical, touching stories take me into the heart of their homes — their kitchens — and in turn, I’ve been blessed to prepare some very comforting food for my own family.

There are no sweeter words than those of someone you love declaring:  “That was really good, honey.”  Okay, there are probably a few sweeter words about a lot of things, but for someone who admittedly has a four-word limit on conversational banter, my beloved’s compliments are manna from heaven.  (I added the “honey” — wishful thinking…) :)

In these photos of my results, I hope to enhance your life with a “visual” and inspire you to do what I did:  Pick one and have FUN!  Food blogs are meant for more than just reading; good ideas –and good times — are just a click away.  May you never again ask, “What shall I make for dinner?”

Whether you feel like sinking your teeth into a savory main dish, or a chopping vegetables for a make-you-pay-attention-stir-fry, or consoling yourself with a good ol’ fashioned casserole, or poking holes into a focaccia that’s as fun to make as it is to eat, or investing time in a labor-intensive batch of chocolate chip cookies chock full o’ bacon (yes, bacon!), you might surprise yourself and discover a new comfort food.

Let me know which culinary delight rocks your world.  What’s your favorite comfort food?  Sharing the love one plate at a time,~ Kim