The Best Steak You’ll Ever Have

Nothing frustrates me more than overcooked, under browned meat, especially when it comes to steak.  There is so much opportunity for greatness and with a few simple techniques mastered, you’ll never have an overcooked, gray steak again.

Here are some rules:

– With tender cuts of steak like Filet, the grill isn’t your friend.  Unless you have a really awesome one, it won’t get hot enough.  A cast iron skillet left at high heat for 6-8 minutes is your friend.

– Letting your meat come to room temperature and patting it dry with paper towels will ensure browning.

– Don’t go insane with seasoning. You want the seasoning to bring out the flavors in the steak instead of being the flavor. Salt and Pepper is all you need.

– Buy a quality steaks with good marbling.

– Once you put the steak in the blistering hot pan, don’t touch it.  It is searing and locking in all the juices, you moving it doesn’t help it.

– Let it rest for 10 minutes when it comes out of the pan.  It’s juices need time to redistribute.

I got these beauties at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.  They have a nice butcher that will cut the meat how you like it.

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I order them 2 inches thick.  It allows the outside to brown and the inside stay rare.

Preheat your oven to 400 degree. Open a window and turn on the fan. Things are about to get smokey.

 Cast iron is important because it gets VERY hot and and it cook evenly.  Let is get SMOKING (literally) hot on high for about 6-8 minutes.  If you drop a little water in the pan, it should evaporate immediately.

While your pan is heating, pat your steaks dry with paper towels on every side.  If they aren’t dry, they will steam instead of brown.  Brush them lightly with vegetable oil. Liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper on all sides.

When your pan is hot (I’ve said this multiple times because it’s so important), place your steaks in and cook on each side for about 2 minutes each.

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Is your mouth watering yet?

Once you’ve seared them on each side, depending on their thickness they might be done.  Put a thermometer in the middle (from the side) and see the temp.  120 for rare and 125 for medium rare.  If they aren’t quite there yet, stick the skillet in your hot oven and let them cook a little more.  Check the temp OFTEN.  You don’t want them to overcook. They shouldn’t be in there more than 5 minutes.

When they are 120 degrees, place them on a plate and put a tablespoon of butter on top of each.  Cover tightly with foil.  Let them rest for 10 minutes.

Voila! Enjoy!

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Thanksgiving

I hate that this didn’t get posted before thanksgiving 😦  My computer had a hiccup and I didn’t get it up in time.  So keep this in mind for next year!

I’ve put A LOT of time, research, and thought into this year’s thanksgiving. I’m cooking for 11 which is a great number because you don’t have to make obscene quantities. A lot of magazines, websites, etc. have recommended picking only 3-4 sides but that just doesn’t seem right to me. Thanskgiving isn’t thanksgiving without all the good stuff.

Here’s the menu:

People are always freaking out about the turkey but that’s usually the easiest part. Buy a good, chemical-free turkey. We brine ours in Williams Sonoma turkey brine. The price tag is a little hefty but it’s worth it. Williams sonoma also sells brining bags that are great. We keep the turkey in an ice water cooler for 12 hours. Take it out and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Rinse all the brine off and pat dry. Brush with oil and stuff with thyme, lemons, garlic, and onions. Then roast!  1 hour at 400 degrees and 1 hour at 325 degrees. 

Some highlights that I highly recommend for your thanksgiving meal:

  • Alton Brown’s Green Bean Casserole I love this recipe because it doesn’t use canned cream of mushroom. You make your own mushroom cream sauce which is much more flavorful. It can be assembled in advance and then popped in the oven until bubbly. He makes his own fried onions but using French’s fried onions from the can are much better.
  • Mac and Cheese This doesn’t usually come up as a traditional side at thanksgiving but it fits the thanksgiving mold pretty well (high fat and high carb). This is a grown up version of mac and cheese that is fabulous. It calls for 12 oz of gruyere and 8 oz of sharp cheddar but I switch he amounts around because gruyere is not only expensive but I like cheddar to be the more prominant taste. You can assemble ahead of time and then bake but do not bake and reheat.
  • Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart I haven’t made this without getting amazing reviews. It can be made days ahead of time. Don’t worry about the banana- it’s only a subtle taste. It’s so much better than pumpkin pie for multiple reasons. Be careful with the removable bottom tart shell. Pick it up from the sides. I’ve picked it up supporting only the bottom and the whole thing fell through. Serve cold with extra whipped cream.
  • Pecan Pie with Whiskey Cream Sauce You’ll be licking the cream sauce off of your plate.

Perfect Roast Chicken

I’m so excited to blog about this chicken because it was the best chicken I’ve ever had.  The skin was crispy and the meat moist and flavorful.  It was perfect.  I started with the basis of Ina’s Perfect Roast Chicken recipe but made a few changes to ensure crisper skin. 

I started by rinsing my 5-6 pound chicken inside and out then patted it dry with paper towels.  Getting it dry is essential. If it isn’t dry then it will steam rather than brown.

I sprinkled the chicken’s insides with salt and pepper- be generous.  I then stuffed it’s behind with 2 lemons, cut in quarters, about 10 sprigs of time, and a head of garlic, cut horizontally.  All of these give off flavor while it’s roasting and infuse the chicken meat from inside.

This is where I differ from Ina- she says to butter the outside of the skin but I’ve found that while that does brown it, it doesn’t make it crispy.  I suggest cutting up 2 tbs of butter and gently loosening the breast skin and slipping the butter right between the skin and the meat.  This is where it will do the most good.  You can then press on the skin to spread out the butter a little more. Then brush the outside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cut up :
– 4 carrots in 2 inch chunks
– a bulb of fennel, quartered
–  1 large onion, thickly sliced
Toss them all in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Lay this on the bottom of your roasting dish. Spread out 10-15 sprigs of thyme on top. Then place the chicken in the dish.

Tuck the wings under the bird and tie the legs together.  I used these great silicone bands. They are just like rubber bands but can withstand 500 degrees.  I think they’re easier.

Roast this beautiful bird at 425 degrees for about an hour, depending on the size of your bird.  Test the temperature after an hour, you want the center of the breast to be 160 degrees and the leg/thigh to be 175.

This is the most important part of the whole recipe- LET IT REST. The juices need time to figure themselves out.  10-15 minutes should be sufficient.  If you are tempted to cut it open, take a look at this picture.  It shows how much juice is lost if you don’t let it rest.  This applies to all meat.

I ate this chicken with a side that deserves its own post- couscous with peas and mint.  It was almost better than the chicken.  I’ll post the recipe later. Stay tuned.

Chicken n’ Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. With the weather windy and wet from hurricane Sandy, I needed a comforting dinner I could cuddle up with.  Not only did this hit the spot, it made the apartment smell wonderful.  I ate it for lunch and dinner for the next 3 days.

This recipe starts by making a chicken stock.  Homemade chicken stock is significantly better than canned. It’s always been on my list to make a lot of and freeze but I’ve never done it.

I placed a whole 3 1/2 pound chicken in a dutch oven with a clove of garlic (cut horizontally), 6 sprigs of thyme, 4-5 whole black peppercorn, 2 tbs of salt, and 2 bay leafs.  I added filtered water until the chicken was just submerged. I brought it to a boil and then let simmer for an hour.  Nastiness will start to pile up on the top- just spoon it out and throw it away.

While the stock was cooking, I made the biscuits.  These aren’t just plain old biscuits they are fancy chive-buttermilk biscuits.  Start by sifting the dry ingredients together-2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt.  Then mix the wet ingredients together- 2 eggs, 1/4 cup chopped chives, 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk. It will be wet and sticky. 

I was pleasantly surprised when the recipe said to shred the chicken from the stock to use later in the recipe. In the process of making the stock, the flavor is all sucked out of the chicken and most dishes say to throw away the chicken and use shredded roasted chicken breasts.  It always seemed like such a waste.  I don’t think using the already cooked chicken took away from the dish though. 

After an hour your stock will be nice and flavorful, take out your chicken and pull it. Then drain the stock through a strainer to pick out all the leftover pieces. 
Heat 2 tbs of butter and 2 tbs of oil in your dutch oven.  Add in your chopped veggies – 2 carrots, diced 2 stalks celery, diced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, and 2 bay leaves. Let these saute for about 5 minutes.  Then you’ll be ready to make your roux- add a 1/4 c of flour. 

Stir around for about 2 minutes so the starchy taste is removed.  Then start adding 6 cups of your stock 1 cup at a time while stirring constantly.   Then add in 1 cup of frozen peas and 1 cup of frozen pearl onions (Don’t skip the pearl onions- they really make the dish).  Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes until it thickens.  Then add in the shredded chicken and 1/4 cup of heavy cream.

Now comes the fun part!  Bring your soup to a simmer.  Make little (they will multiply in size) balls out of the dough.  It will be very sticky.  Drop them into your soup.  They should cover the top of your soup but don’t crowd them.   

 Let these simmer for about 15 minutes and the viola! you  have a delicious dish.

 

Here’s the full recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chicken-and-dumplings-recipe2/index.html 

Weekend Lobster Dinner

One of the perks of living by the ocean is fresh seafood.  My Dad is a great scuba diver and while I was visiting last weekend, he caught some AWESOME lobsters.  It doesn’t get fresher than eating seafood the day it’s caught and the fresh difference is very evident.  My parents and I whipped up quite the feast.

Here’s what was on the menu:

Roasted beet, goat cheese, and arugula salad
Grilled lobster tails
Green beans with pancetta
Shells and Cheese 

Roasted beets are all the rage right now. I haven’t been to a nice restaurant in the past few months that doesn’t feature a beet dish of some kind.  My idea of beets were Nangie’s canned pickled beets that  were….. not one of her best dishes.  They just never did much for me.  Roasting the beet though gives it a whole new life!

You start by tossing the beets in a balsamic vinaigrette- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, Salt and pepper

Reserve the left over vinaigrette. Roast them at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Then all you have to do is assemble the salad!  Arugula, chopped avocado, goat cheese, and the beats. Drizzle on the reserved vinaigrette. The different textures and tastes in this salad are really amazing.

My dad prepped the lobster. Since it’s so good by itself, there’s no need for lots of spices, sauces, blah blah.  Just some salt an pepper and a hot grill for about 10 minutes.  Don’t overcook!

The green beans were flavorful as well.  I chopped up some pancetta and sautéed it until it was nice a crispy.  I steamed the green beans and then threw them in the pan with the pancetta. 
I don’t have a picture of the mac and cheese :/ but here’s the recipe I use. I don’t do the tomato and breadcrumb topping.  It’s a great recipe. My only beef with it that the leftovers aren’t very good.   http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe2/index.html

Whole Food’s Almond Butter and Apples

My first friend on the planet, Jessica, is also a foodie. She’s actually a professional foodie. I adore her.  So when she recommended Whole Food’s almond butter, I first cringed envisioning the price tag but ventured to whole foods 2 days later to give it a try.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Here’s the set up:

Yep. That’s right. You grind it yourself.  Fresh at it’s finest with one ingredient.

The ingredients on the label say: organic dry roasted unsalted almonds.

Product of USA. Contains: tree nuts. Made in a facility that produces peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat

Almond butter’s not so hipster cousin- Jif Peanut Butter contains the following:

Apparently Choosy mom’s choose HYDROGENATED OILS.

Jessica, please correct me if I’m wrong but here’s the deal with hydrogenated oils

Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, you a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil that has a consistency like butter, only it’s a lot cheaper. Because of that consistency, and because it is cheap, it is a big favorite as a butter-substitute among “food” producers.

So what?  Here’s why it’s bad for you- hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. Trans fat interfere with the metabolic processes of life by taking the place of a natural substance that performs a critical function. Which is the definition of what? Poison. Your body has no defense against them, because they never even existed in our two billion years of evolution. Trans fatty acids contribute to heart disease, cancer, MS, diabetes, and God knows what else.  You might as well ingest pure plastic. Stick with the one ingredient nut butters.  Your body will thank you.

Ok, back to the happy stuff.

I enjoyed this almond butter with a sliced apple and coffee in the comfort of my cube.  While this isn’t an ideal place for enjoying breakfast, I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed any earlier than necessary to get to work on time.  Since apples are in season right now, the apple was a perfectly sweet compliment to pure ground almonds.

I’ll leave you with some nice reasons on why almonds are good for you:

  • Regulates your blood pressure
  • Prevents Cancer
  • Protects against Diabetes
  • Helps you lose weight with their nutrient density
  • Boosts Energy
  • Reduces the risk of Heart Disesase
  • Prevents Birth Defects
  • Improves your brainpower

The Difference of Fresh

My mother’s rationale of why I was never allowed to watch R-rated movies was “what goes in, goes out”.  This nugget of mom-wisdom has wiggled its way into my kitchen.  Using quality ingredients will make a better dish every time.  I have recently moved to central Florida and after shopping at Publix and Wal-mart for a few weeks, I threw in the towel. The produce was flavorless, lifeless, and expensive.  I googled local farmers markets and came up with one 20 minutes away in Winter Park called Eat More Produce.  I ventured there today eager to get my paws on something fresh and flavorful.  I wasn’t disappointed-  this little shack had wine galore and a nice selection of veggies. While the prices weren’t significantly different the quality was 100x better. The best part though- farm fresh eggs that were laid TODAY!  There are all different colors- blue, brown, and cream.  

While there is no difference in taste nor nutrition of the color of the egg, they seem more natural in this state rather than bleach white.  I was planning on making crab cakes tonight but I couldn’t pass up eating an extremely fresh egg.  I usually only like scrambled eggs but I decided this one was too good for scrambled and prepared it sunny side up.  I cooked the center a little too much (oops) but it was still fabulous.  It didn’t need spices, veggies, or cheese. It was perfect just being an egg with a little salt and a small slice of french bread.  Instead of a strong egg taste, it was melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  I ate it slowly and savored the freshness.