Wednesday, January 18, 2017

my youth

What is this witchcraft? Three ingredients, 10 minutes (depending on how fast you can grate cheese), and all you're getting dirty is one saucepan and aforementioned cheese grater. I'm overwhelmed with love and gratitude.

This is simplicity at its best. Mac and cheese never needed a lot of fuss, but this takes the cake. Rich, gooey comfort food that harkens back to your childhood. This even smelled like Kraft Mac + Cheese, in the best way possible.

Matt's only comment on this was if we could find a way to give it a crispy topping, it would be his ideal mac. That means next time, and there will be a next time, I'm going with some butter crisped panko as a topping - done in a small skillet rather than the oven, since I'm not sure I want to mess with the consistency of this divine concoction by giving it oven time.

I might want to mess with it and use different cheeses - a pepperjack would probably be lovely, and maybe even smoked Gouda.

Note that this is equal parts macaroni, evaporated milk, and Cheddar cheese, so don't have a cow if you can only find the little 5-oz. cans of evaporated milk. Either make less, or get two cans, and adjust your macaroni and grated cheese amounts. I happened to find 12-oz. cans of evaporated milk, so that's what I used. Regardless of the amount, this is really best served immediately, so don't go out of your way to make enough for leftovers.

Three-Ingredient Stovetop Mac + Cheese
from Serious Eats
serves 4-6

12 oz. elbow macaroni
12 oz. evaporated milk
12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

1. Place macaroni in a medium saucepan, and add just enough cold water to cover. Add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook, stirring, until water has been almost completely absorbed and macaroni is just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes.

2. Immediately add the evaporated milk, and bring to a boil. Add the cheese. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, until cheese is melted and liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with more salt, and serve immediately.

Monday, January 16, 2017

salad days

Today's meals are brought to you by Caesar salad.

A respite from the rain - it is finally sunny, and so eating salad doesn't sound like the worst idea in the world. The Romaine in my crisper had suffered long enough. Out it came with a similarly languishing head of cauliflower to make this delightful Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Avocado Caesar Dressing.

This salad isn't revolutionary, but it combines a lot of my favorite things - roasted cauliflower, crisped up Parmesan, and the easiest, richest Caesar dressing funked up with both anchovies and anchovy oil, but smoothed out with rich avocado, and pregnancy-safe with prepared mayo. 

You can certainly make it more interesting by using sturdier greens - kale comes to mind, either alone or in combo with the traditional Romaine, but it felt like a celebration to keep things just fresh and simple. It was already nice with just a side of new sunshine.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Avocado Caesar Dressing
inspired by Beard & Bonnet
serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side

For the salad:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
olive oil, for roasting
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1/2 Romaine heart

For the dressing:
1 t. minced anchovies
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. fish sauce
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 medium avocado, mashed
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. olive oil
drained oil from a 2-oz. tin of anchovies

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

2. Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil to lightly coat, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in one layer for 30 minutes.

3. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk to thoroughly combine. If you prefer a smoother dressing, use a food processor.

4. After 30 minutes, remove the sheet from the oven, and sprinkle the grated Parmesan evenly over the cauliflower. Toss to coat, then place back in the oven and roast for an additional 5 minutes. 

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce and cauliflower. Add dressing to taste, and toss to thoroughly combine. Serve immediately. 

Later that day, I started feeling bad that I didn't really have a side going for this Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon + Spinach, so I took the other half of my Romaine heart from lunch, and simply tossed it with that divine avocado Caesar dressing. Sure, the phyllo wraps had spinach in them, but the plate didn't look right without something else next to it. This was a nice combo of flavors and textures - the rich warm salmon and spinach-ricotta mixture encased in the flaky phyllo, and the fresh and bright, but funky, dressed lettuce.

Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon + Spinach
slightly adapted from Kraft Recipes
serves 4

1 10-oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 oz. ricotta
12 sheets of phyllo dough
4 salmon fillets (1 lb. total)
salt and pepper, to taste
melted ghee

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the spinach and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and set aside.

3. Unwrap one sheet of phyllo dough, and brush it with some melted ghee. Top with a second phyllo sheet, brush with ghee, and repeat with a 3rd sheet. 

4. Place 1 fish fillet along one short side of phyllo stack, and top with 1/4th of the spinach mixture. Fold over the long sides of the phyllo, then roll up, starting at fish-topped side. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, fish and spinach mixture. 

5. Place all of the wraps, seam sides down, on a baking sheet, and brush the tops with more melted ghee. Cut 3 diagonal slits in the top of each wrap, and bake 10-12 minutes. or until the crusts are golden brown, and the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145 degrees. Slice on the diagonal and serve.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

i can't even

Because some days, you literally can't even. And when those days happen, you go home, pour a pint of cream into a pan of freshly sauteed mushrooms, pull out your favorite pasta shape, and call it dinner.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 4-6

1 lb. farfalle, or pasta of your choice
1 lb. portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 T. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. beef broth
2 c. heavy cream
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, drain, and set aside.

2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until the liquid the mushrooms release is evaporated. Add the cream, broth, and balsamic and bring it all to a boil. Let boil for about 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the pasta to the sauce, and stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with Parmesan, and serve immediately.

Monday, January 9, 2017

good with the bad

For as fancy-steakhouse as tonight's dinner looks, it was truly an exercise in cleaning out the fridge.

The steak is from a well-intentioned plan for a steak (and roasted cauliflower!) riff on Caesar salad, but let's be real about how salad is not going to happen during Storm Watch 2017 here in used-to-be sunny Los Angeles.

The potatoes were left over from a lovely Prime Rib Dinner Party on Saturday. I tried taking a photo and posting then just to space out and not overload my posts with too many recipes, but as delicious as they are, there's really no good photo that can be taken of this potato-cheese lava.

And the Brussels sprouts? Beats me. They were in the crisper. I forget why I bought them. I think they were the oldest thing in there, though, so into the saute pan they went with some butter.

The steak was just okay. I halved both the sugar and the bourbon in the original recipe's marinade because so many of the comments complained about the results, and I think balance-wise, it made the most sense for my palate. It's flavorful enough considering how little time it takes to put together, but I'd go with a more aggressive flavor profile next time.

The potatoes, though, are the complete star. If mashed potatoes and fondue had a love child, it would be pommes aligot. There is an obscene ratio of cheese/cream-to-potatoes, and while it doesn't take much to fill you up, you also won't be able to stop. The biggest problem with adding this to the Thanksgiving menu is figuring out how much is enough to make for a large group, in light of folks' tendency to go for it on that special day.

Sugar Steak with Bourbon
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 2

1 1-lb. piece of flank steak
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. bourbon
salt and red pepper flakes to taste

1. Lightly cross-hatch both sides of the steak.

2. Rub each side of the steak with 1 T. brown sugar. Place the steak in a shallow dish, and pour the bourbon over. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping the steak halfway through.

3. Heat the broiler and lay the steak on a cast-iron pan. Generously season the steak all over with salt and red pepper flakes, to taste. Place the steak 4-6 inches under the broiler, and broil for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Serve immediately.

Pommes Aligot
from Serious Eats
serves 8-10

1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 clove garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
8 T. butter
1 c. heavy cream
10 oz. mixed Alpine cheeses, grated (I used Swiss and Gruyere)
salt to taste

1. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes and garlic with cold water by at least 2 inches. Add the rosemary. Season the water with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until a knife easily pierces potatoes with no resistance, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander; discard rosemary.

2. Return the potatoes to the saucepan with the butter and cream. Blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth.

3. Set the saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir and work the potatoes, lowering the heat to low if potatoes begin to sizzle and steam, until the potato mass feels thickened and sticky, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the grated cheese in small batches, stirring between each addition until cheese is fully melted and incorporated. Continue stirring potatoes until they become thick, silky, smooth, and elastic, about 3 minutes longer. The aligot should form long, stretchy strands when you lift it from the pot. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

so simple

Really? This is it?

That's what I thought to myself when I first read this recipe. You just bake the fish in the tiniest bit of rice wine, and it doesn't stick and make an unholy mess? And then you just pour on some ginger-spiked oil, and a salty-sweet soy concoction, and it's enough flavor to carry some plain ol' tilapia over some white rice?

Turns out, the answer is yes. This could not have been simpler, faster, or more satisfying. Ever the skeptic, I did sub out half of the vegetable oil in the ginger oil for sesame oil, and I sauteed some baby bok choy in more sesame oil to round out and add some healthy color to the dish, but truly, that's it.

It's simple comfort is similar to Hainanese chicken rice - no crazy complex flavors, just bringing out the best nuances of each ingredient.

Soy Ginger Tilapia
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 2, generously

1 lb. tilapia
5 T. rice wine, divided
2-inch piece ginger root, finely sliced
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. sesame oil
6 T. soy sauce
4 T. sugar
5 T. water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fish filets in a small baking pan. Sprinkle 2 T. of rice wine over the fish, and then arrange the ginger slices on top. Bake for 12 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through.

2. Meanwhile, heat both oils in a small saucepan over medium low.

3. Mix the remaining 3 T. of rice wine with the soy sauce, sugar, and water and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

4. When the fish is done, remove the ginger slices and transfer to the hot oil. Bring the heat up on the oil to medium high and cook until the ginger just starts to brown. Immediately pour the hot oil onto the fish. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the fish and serve warm with rice.