Sunday, March 30, 2014

Treat Yo Self: Sage and Apple Stuffed Chicken and Soy and Brown Sugar Marinated Flank Steak with Jicama and Apple Slaw

I really can't believe it is almost April.  And I also can't believe that it is March 30th and I am now finally just opening my windows and letting some fresh, spring air into my apartment.  Seriously. It's been ridiculous this season...and that's coming from someone who actually likes cold weather.



The place is clean, and I'm catching up with photos of meals I have stored on my camera.  Recipes I've been meaning to upload to the blog, but I've been incredibly busy with...well...life.  Or I'm so tired that when I come home, I make dinner or throw a freezer meal on the stove and then zone out in front of the TV on my couch or take Roux for a walk.


So back at it, I'm sharing with you one of my favorite recipes, and a new recipe I just made a few days ago and will be making again very soon.



Up first, an old favorite

Apple and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts
The recipe is a twist on an apple stuffed pork loin and I feel that the flavors go well together across proteins.  I love the sweet crunch of apple combined with the earthy and savory taste of sage.  Sage is a natural herb to pair with chicken, so I added a couple bits to a previous recipe I made and now have one of my favorite dishes

Ingredients
3 chicken breasts
2 golden delicious apples, peeled and small diced (you can use just about any apple you would use for baking)
1 large onion, small diced
2 celery stalks, small diced (use the leaves, too!)
1 T. garlic powder
2 tsp. sage (more or less depending on what kind of flavor you like)
1 tsp. thyme
salt and pepper
6 T. butter (divided)


Method
1. Heat 3 T. of butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until translucent.  Add apple, garlic powder, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and cook until the apples are tender-crisp about 3 to 4 minutes.


2. Taste to ensure the apple/onion mixture is seasoned to your liking. Adjust if necessary and remove from heat to cool.
3. Pound out your chicken breasts until 1/4" thick.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides and spoon the cooled apple/onion mixture in the center of your chicken.  Tie with kitchen twine.
 

4. Heat remaining butter in a saute pan to high heat.  Add chicken breasts and allow to sear on both sides, getting golden brown.

5. Remove from heat and put in an oven safe casserole dish. Top chicken with any remaining apple/onion mixture.

6. Cook in a 425° oven for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°.  Allow to cool before removing twine and serving.


I made the chicken with some roasted herbed and garlic potatoes; however, they were a bit too brown for me to want to post the recipe.  Next time.


The other recipe that I tried out ended up being so good the first time I had a go of it, that I'm going to throw it up here.  There will be a couple minor tweaks the next time I make this (grill the flank steak rather than cook it on the stove top, leave the slaw undressed and make a creamy ginger wasabi dressing to go on top, etc.)

Brown Sugar and Soy Marinated Flank Steak with Jicama Apple and Cilantro Slaw
I really don't need to go into details. It's slap-your-mama good.


Flank Steak and Marinade Ingredients
2 pounds flank steak
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 golden delicious apple, cored and quartered
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. soy sauce
1 c. water
3 T. chopped garlic
1 in. ginger, peeled and grated

Slaw Ingredients
1-2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 golden delicious apple, peeled and shredded
Juice 1 lime
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. rice vinegar
1/4 c. canola oil (grapeseed works, too. You just want a neutral tasting oil)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped (chop some extra for garnish, if you'd like)
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped (for garnish)
Scallions, thinly sliced (for garnish)


Method
1. To prepare your marinade, add soy sauce, water, brown sugar, quartered apple and onion, ginger and garlic to a gallon size ziplock bag.


2. For the flank steak, trim off any excess fat or connective tissue and cut into 2 inch long sections.  Thinly slice, against the grain.

  

3.  Add sliced steak to your marinade, smush to combine and let sit in your fridge for a minimum of 6 hours.  I let mine hang out in the fridge and have a party for about a day.

4. When you're ready to cook your steak, remove from the refrigerator, drain all of the marinade off and remove the apples and onions.  Allow to rest and come to room temperature before cooking.

5. To make the slaw, add carrots, jicama, cucumber, and apple to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and prepare the dressing by adding the lime, ginger, sugar and vinegar to a bowl.  Drizzle in the oil while whisking Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Add dressing, a little at a time to the rim of the bowl, tossing the slaw to coat.  Your slaw shouldn't be weighed down with the vinegrette.  It should still be crisp.  As you let your slaw sit in the fridge and hang out, moisture from the veggies will be drawn out.  Adding too much dressing will cause your slaw to get soggy.  Right before service, add the cilantro and toss.

6.  To cook your steak, heat a saute or grill pan on high.  Add small batches of the flank steak to the pan, turning quickly to cook both sides.  Since your steak is so thinly sliced, it won't take long for the meat to cook. About 1-2 minutes each side.

7. To serve, heat up a flour tortilla and place your cooked steak in the middle. Top with the slaw,  more chopped cilantro, scallions, and tomatoes.



And yeah. It's pretty much ridiculously amazing. You're welcome in advance.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Cooking with Beer... You're Welcome

If you know me, you know there are few things in this world I love more than cooking.

And if you guessed that one of those things are the Green Bay Packers, you'd be correct.

The other?

Beer.


When not drinking wine or at a bar pounding Don Julio on the rocks with a splash of soda and lime juice, I'm looking for a good wheat beer.  And if the place I'm in has a cider beer or a dark, chocolate stout? I'm in heaven.


And if you've never cooked with beer, I highly suggest it.  I think Guinness is the easiest to cook with and it pairs ridiculously well with beef.  This is a "low and slow" braising dish that won't let you down flavor-wise.

Guinness Braised Beef

Ingredients
Slab of Beef to Braise (I used chuck - it's the 'shoulder' of the animal.  For a great overview of the Beef Primal Cuts, I suggest checking out About.com's article here)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 bulb garlic, peeled
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 russet poatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pint, Guineess
2 cups beef stock
salt and pepper (to taste)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 225° (the key here is "low and slow")

2. Using beef that has been allowed to rest to room temperature for 15-20 minutes, rub that bad boy with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Rub your seasonings in on all sides.  Spend a lot of time on this. Pretend like it's your third date.
  

 3. Heat a dutch oven (or oven-proof roasting pot) to high heat and drop in butter and olive oil.

4. Brown meat on all sides, allowing to sear.  If you're freaking out that bits are sticking to the bottom of your dish, don't. They're flavorbits known as sucs and not only will they release from the bottom of your pan during your hours to cook time, they'll provide additional and awesome flavor to the dish.  Once all sides are good and brown, remove from the dish and set aside on a plate.
 

5. Reduce heat on your pot to medium and add sliced onions.  Stir around using a wooden spoon.  Chances are some of the sucs will release from the bottom of the pan as you stir and scrape.  Allow the onions to get soft.  Add in your peeled garlic and stir.


6. Once the onions are soft and the garlic has been cooking for about 3-4 minutes, add in your Guinness and beef stock.  Probably it'd be a good idea to take a swig from the Guinness just to make sure it's good enough to add to your dish.
 

7.  Allow the pot to come to a boil and add in your browned beef as well as any juices that have collected on the plate.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes, scooping some of the onions over the beef.

8. Cover your pot and place in the preheated 225° oven for 7 hours. My roast was about 3.5 pounds.   Every 90 minutes or so, I'd take the lid off and rotate the beef around to make sure all sides were hanging out in the juice nicely.

9. When there is about 90 minutes left, add in your carrots and potatoes.
 

10.  At the end of the full cook time, take your beef out to rest on a cutting board.  Mine started falling apart so it got a little messy.   Allow to rest for 10 minutes and shred.  I started off slicing, but soon realized the meat was falling apart  on its own, so shredding with a couple of forks worked just fine.
 

11.  Scoop out the carrots, onions, garlic cloves, and potatoes. Reserve in a dish to serve with your roast (the garlic will be amazingly delicious).

12. The au jus the beef has cooked in will be fantastic to serve with the meat.  Otherwise, you can make a gravy. Simply make a roux with 3 T. butter and 3 T. flour and add liquid to get to the gravy consistency you want while whisking.

13. Serve on a plate and scoop the au jus or gravy over your meat.  If you have leftovers, put the meat back in the au jus and refrigerate.  Enjoy!



So at the beginning of the week when I started writing this entry I was pretty sure I was coming down with a cold.  Which sounds about right since this weekend I'm heading up to Wisconsin with a group of friends for a weekend of ice fishing (for the dudes...sigh), cross country skiing (for the women-folk), and general drunkery.  Sure enough, but Tuesday/Wednesday I had no voice and couldn't breathe without wheezing.  Sexyface.


It's a good thing I've got a freezer full of pre-made meals I can pop in the crockpot.  Because there is no way in hell I would be standing over a stove after a long day while sick.


I made a slew of freezer meals recently that are so easy and so delicious, no one will know you weren't slaving over a stove for hours. I don't want to post anything up here that I haven't tried, so here is a meal I made within the last week that I'll absolutely be making again.

One of the meals I pulled out of the freezer to make last week was a copycat PF Chang's Mongolian Beef Recipe I snagged from Six Sisters Stuff.  I modified their recipe a little bit to make it not only a freezer meal, but also a crockpot meal as well.  Although, when I came home from work that night, I realized that while I had thawed out the beef, I forgot to toss it into a crockpot.  Go figure.  I'll show you two variations here.


Mongolian Beef

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds of flank steak, cut into stir-fry strips
1 tsp ginger, minced or grated
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. garlic, chopped
1/2 c. carrots, grated
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. vegetable oil

Method
1. Add the beef strips to its own freezer bag.

2. In a separate freezer bag add the ginger, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, carrots, and green onions. Seal, label the bag with instructions (as seen above - it reads: Thaw beef and coat with 1/4 c. cornstarch. Add beef to crockpot. Coat with remaining ingredients. Cook low 4-5 hours") and pop both bags in the freezer.

3. Since I forgot to put mine in my crockpot, I thawed the beef ahead of time and tossed with the cornstarch, ginger, garlic powder, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

4. Heat vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and brown on all sides.
5. Once browned add freezer bag with sauce and veggies.  Stir to coat and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook 10-15 minutes or until meat is cooked through and sauce has thickened,  stirring occasionally.
 


6. Serve over rice and garnish with more chopped green onions  and (shown below) grated carrots.






BAM!

Now I'm off to go make a ridiculous amount food for the weekend away!