Sunday, September 25, 2005

Creamy Bacon Ranch Dressing


I'm done with store-bought dressings. The ones I make are better, and don't have anything weird in them. Like propylene glycol alginate, and acesulfame potassium. And phosphoric acid. Swear to god, that's on the list of ingredients for Kraft salad dressing, right before 'natural flavoring'.

So anyway, here's my creamy bacon ranch dressing, which doesn't actually contain bacon.

Blend together:
1/2c low/non fat yogurt
1/4 med onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic
a handful of fresh parsley
2 Tblsp red wine vinegar
heaping spoonful of fresh ground pepper
sprinkle sea salt, to taste
teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, minus the oil

After blending, check the consistency. It should pour. If it doesn't, add some milk (full fat, half & half, nonfat, whaaaaaaaatevah) until it's nice and creamy and pours. Personally, I prefer it thinner than thicker, but y'know, to each his own here.

Ok, if you really wanna, you can add in some bacon. To be honest, it doesn't really change the taste--the sundried tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar kind of already give it this bbq ranch western kinda flavor.

You can also add blue cheese and omit the sundried tomatoes.

Make up your own

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Creamy Margarita Chicken




I love to get my food drunk. One of my favorite marinades is a good stiff margarita, with a little salt & chili powder thrown in. That’s pretty much it. I mix it up, pour enough over the meat to cover it, and then I get to drink the rest.

Last night Giles wanted Margarita Grilled Chicken, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit, so I made a sauce to go along with. Came out pretty glorious. The recipe below is for 4.

Mise en place:
Margarita: 1 part triple sec, 1 part tequila, 2 parts sweet & sour, fresh lime juice
Salt & Pepper, crushed garlic—to taste
4 chicken breasts, one for each person
1 onion, sliced into strips
A few cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 large or 2 medium fresh diced tomatoes
1 can of dice green chilies, the small 8oz one
1/2c Sour cream
Cheese (jack or something more interesting that’s still semi-soft)

Method:

Prepare the marinade about an hour ahead of time. You definitely don’t need more than about an hour; the flavor permeates pretty quickly. Put chicken breasts in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and pour in enough margarita to cover the chicken. Add chili powder, s&p, and if you like, a little crushed garlic. Press the air out of the ziplock bag and seal it. Place it in the fridge for about an hour, turning it over occasionally. Pour the rest of the margarita into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice and a straw, and drink.

Take a break now. Finish that margarita with some chips & salsa. Once you feel pretty relaxed, sauté those onions and bell peppers over low heat until the edges of the onions begin to caramelize. Throw in the diced green chilies, crushed garlic, and tomatoes, give it a good stir, and let it simmer on low for a bit.

It’s about time to get the grill fired up for those chicken breasts. Take the ziplock bag out of the fridge, and pour off some of the marinade into your onions & peppers. Let that stuff simmer for a bit while you get the chicken ready.

Grill that chicken totally naked for a few minutes on each side. While that’s going, it’s time to put the finishing touches on the sauce.

Take the veggies off the stove, and add 1/2c of sour cream. Put it back on the stove and simmer on very low heat, stirring often. Stir in a couple of handfuls of grated cheese, then make a thin white roux to bind the cheese, and add to the sauce. Mind that you don’t add too much—the consistency should be creamy & cheesy, not thick and globby.

When your chicken is ready, put some sauce on the plate, then top it with the grilled chicken (you can slice the breast or leave it whole, your choice). Serve with rice or pasta (or just greens, if you’re kind of anti-carb and all).

If you think this is good, you should try my Mojito Chicken with black beans ;)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Awesome Scallop (Gumbo?)


Speakin of soups, I made this the other night & think it has the potential to be repeated. I'm calling it a gumbo because it has that spicy, brothy, lick-the-bowl kinda taste.

It's another quick one. It was thrown together in less than 20min. That's the cool thing about fish. short cookin time. Also, no really firm veggies to soften up.

This recipe is for two. I am also a recovering cooktoomuchaholic.
First the base. Always start soup with a pan full of love. This time I used:

-1 big handful of Basil, roughly chopped
-1 small yellow onion, diced
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 small green bell pepper, diced
-Dash of dried oregano
-S&P of course

(This is what I had on hand. You could use some zukes or other mild squash too I think)

Saute' in 1/2 EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) 1/2 Butter. I like mixing the two for flavor & cookability factor. Yes, I just made that phrase up -Copyright Jay Madison 2005

So I let em get soft & yummy -only a couple minutes.
Dumped in a bag of frozen Bay Scallops (the little kind) about 12oz I think.

Now what? Soups need a starch of some kind. Always. Rice, Potatos, Noodles, Beans, whatever. What about Cream of Broccoli & French Onion? Shame on you. We're talking about a meal here. Yeah you can do that, but if your gonna call that my dinner, you'd better have a lot of bread on the side. Oh! Look at that, more starch! Funny how that works.

So where was I? So Michele is on this low carb diet & rice would be really good in this. I opt for pinto beans. Better for a person on a low carb diet? Who knows but it sounds good.

-1 can of Pinto Beans
-1 cup of White wine

Stirr it around. Yes, two 'r's cuz it has to go around more than once. Spinkle the top with grated parmesian & a good dash of cayenne pepper & cover. Let it simmer for like three minutes. Seriously, that's it. Don't overcook scallops or you'll be eating superballs for dinner.

The whole thing took about 20 minutes & was so good that you'd better double this recipe if your cooking for two.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Really Quick, Totally Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup


I love making soup. Soup is yummy and healthy and a good way to use up leftovers (don't tell Giles). It doesn't even take long, and although there are some soups I like to leave cooking in a crockpot all day, most only take about an hour.

I get in trouble a lot when I cook too much and there are leftovers. I'm really trying to amend my evil ways, and come up with strategies to make 'JUST enough' food. Keeping that in mind, I try to measure about a cup of veggies per person, plus a bit for seconds. Since I prepared this for the four of us, I used a 4 quart pan, and just planned to fill it about 1/4 full of veggies before adding the broth.

I make a lot of different variations on my vegetable soup. Tonight, I decided to use fresh pico de gallo as a base, so I also got some 'southwest' veggies to add to it in keeping with the theme.


Ingredients:
  • fresh pico de gallo from Safeway (I love cooking with this stuff, so convenient!)
  • frozen peas & carrots
  • frozen chopped spinach
  • frozen green beans (the normal kind, NOT the french-cut kind)
  • frozen 'southwest mix' (corn, red & green bell peppers, and black beans)
  • diced leftover beef from last Thursday's italian smothered steak dinner
  • brown rice (works with the southwest theme, and rory's allergies) Note: I used precooked rice! Use half my quantity for uncooked, and simmer soup for at least an hour. If using uncooked rice, you shouldn't have to thicken the broth at the end.
  • Beef broth
Method:
  • Heated up the 4-quart saucepan, then added some vegetable oil. Once hot, I added in the entirety of the smallest package of pico de gallo that they had at Safeway. Onions and tomatoes both cook down a lot, so I don't count them in the 1c/person vegetable count.
  • Once the onions were clear and the tomatoes started to get mushy and caramelize, I added in the veggies in equal proportions until the pot was about 1/4 full. I let those saute for a few minutes, then added in the diced beef. I added rice until the pan was about 1/2 full, then finally added the beef broth to within an inch of the top of the pan.
  • After adding the broth, it was just a matter of letting it simmer for a while. While it was simmering, I got a wild hair to make some biscuits. You know, like the ones at KFC. I googled for 'best biscuits' and used a recipe that seemed pretty plausible, but I still ended up making hockey pucks. Ok, so my biscuits suck, but my soup rocks.
  • I didn't even have to add any additional seasonings or salt--between the pico de gallo and the leftover beef, there was already plenty of seasoning, and the broth was salted. A few turns of the pepper grinder were all that was needed. I did, however, need to add just a wee bit of cornstarch to thicken the soup. After it's been simmering for about 30 minutes, I make a thin cornstarch paste with 1/2c water and a good spoonful of cornstarch. I add it to the soup just a bit at a time, stirring constantly, until the broth is about as thick as milk.
  • After about 60 minutes, the soup was ready and it rocked.

Cochinita Pibil


Here’s the email I posted back to the chef who gave me the recipe:

Ok, so we made this for my little nephew's first birthday (which I suppose was more an excuse for us adults to get together than it was for the kids ;) ) and it turned out FANTASTIC!

We used a paste of achiote seed, cumin, oregano, pepper, allspice, chile seco, salt, garlic, and OJ then coated a couple of pork butt roasts. My brother hacked off a couple of banana leaves that hung over his fence from his next door neighbor, then we kinda seared those over his bbq and removed the spine, and ended up with perfectly pliable leaves to wrap the pork in. After we tied the roasts up using some strips off the extra leaves, we put them in gallon-sized ziplock bags with a marinade made of leftover paste, oj, grapefruit juice, and lemon juice. The marinade kinda soaked in through the leaves and added a bit more flavor overnight, I think.

The next day we slow roasted the two roasts still wrapped in the banana leaves for about 3 hours or so. When we opened them up, the meat just fell off the bone. We served it that day with warm corn tortillas, queso fresco, and a variety of salsas (best one for this was just onion with habaneros and a splash of oj).

The best, tho, was the day after. We had quite a bit of leftovers, and it was the first day of regular season football. We completely shredded the remaining meat and rolled it into what was left of the six thousand corn tortillas that my brother had bought at Costco, and made the world's greatest taquitos ever. Half a case of avocados, a gallon of sour cream, all the remaining salsas and a few cases of corona later, and not a single scrap of the cochinita pibil was left.