A Week with Curtis Stone - Tuesday

Oh boy this one is a keeper!

Today is day two of my week of cooking from Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner cookbook.  Tonight we had Cider-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples.  I will admit the picture in the book made me hungry for this one.  It's a beautiful shot of four perfectly cooked chops on a well used sheet pan with the roasted veggies and sauce.  I wanted to eat the picture! 

We happened to stop at one of my favorite places, The Golden Fig, in St. Paul yesterday.  I needed eggs but when I saw some beautiful Fischer Farms smoked pork chops I knew I had to have them for tonight's dinner.

The recipe says the prep time is 10 minutes and the cooking time is 15 minutes.  I think the prep time is right on, but it took maybe 25 minutes for me to put it all together and get it on a plate.  Still not bad for an amazing "put it together after a long day at work" meal.

If you know me you know I roast a lot of vegetables but I've never roasted fennel or apples, both of which were called for in this dish.  Sprigs of rosemary are added too and I have to say the rosemary with the fennel was delicious!  Roasting the fennel mellows the licorice flavor to something slightly sweet.  And the roasted apples were like dessert mixed with dinner!  I had some cauliflower in the frig so I added that too.

The chops are sauteed in a little olive oil.  Are these not beautiful?  The kitchen smelled like bacon was cooking!

Once the chops are resting, the pan is deglazed with some apple cider.  This time of year I could only find apple juice, that worked.  To this a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard are added.  I'll admit I was worried it was going to be too "mustardy" for my taste but it wasn't.  The tart of the apple juice cut the mustard so the sauce had a sweet and tangy flavor.  It was one of the best pan sauces I've ever had.  Note Michael Ruhlman I'm using a flat wooden "spoon!"

This yummy sauce is poured over the pork chops and vegetables.  Delicious.  There wasn't enough pork, I wanted more!  This is definitely a keeper!

Tomorrow Grilled Tri-Tip with Green Bean and Red Onion Salad!

A Week with Curtis Stone - Monday

The latest addition to my cookbook collection is Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner.  I love to cook, but sometimes I have trouble figuring out what I want to cook.  This is especially true on busy weeknights after work.  I think this cookbook will be just the ticket.

Most of the recipes are quick fixes and all of the recipes are good for you!  Something else Dave and I try to accomplish in our daily meals (I said try!).

A few days after the book arrived we tried the Korean Steak Tacos.  As advertised they were easy and delicious!

The book is organized by day of the week so I decided we'd do a week's worth of dinners out of this book, one from each weekday chapter.  Today is Monday!  Our decision for today was Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo.  Dave and I love fish tacos!

This turned out to be a perfect meal for tonight.  We had to make an unexpected trip a couple hours from home today and by the time we got home it was after 7pm.  We usually eat somewhere between 6 and 7 so we were hungry and I was pooped from all the driving so I didn't really want to cook.  But this was my week with Curtis Stone and I didn't want to mess that up so I was making the tacos!

The preparation time is listed as 15 minutes and the cook time as 10 minutes.  I'd say that was pretty spot on.  I started putting things together about 7:15 and we were eating by quarter to 8.  The recipe suggests a side dish of Romaine with Cherry Tomatoes, red Onion and Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette but we skipped that tonight.  We were hungry and it was getting late.

The pico is a mixture of plum tomatoes, white onion, red jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro (yuck), lemon juice and salt.  I had to ask what a red jalapeno pepper was and Curtis stone was nice enough to tweet me are just jalapenos that have been left on the vine to ripen to red, he said I could substitute green but I found the red ones in my grocery store.

Those of you who know me know I cannot stand cilantro.  Even the slightest bit will ruin a meal for me.  It tastes nasty, like soap or something.  I rarely bring it into the house.  My husband however, could eat a cilantro salad!  So I bought some and his tacos had the cilantro!

Here is my cilantro free pico.

And just for my hubby, I added some cilantro to his.

The fish couldn't be easier.  Whisk together some olive oil, cilantro (I left that out again), and garlic.  Coat the pieces of fish, in this case mahi mahi, with this mixture then season with salt an pepper.

This lovely fish is placed on the grill with a couple of lime halves and a few minutes later you have this!

The corn tortillas are also thrown on the grill for a few minutes to warm them up.  I love corn tortillas warmed on the grill.  I think they get a better flavor than if you just warm them up in the microwave.

A little cabbage, the fish the pico and some sour cream and dinner was served! 

We liked them and for dinner in 25 minutes you can't beat it.  We might go back to our favorite fish, halibut for these next time.  Though I think I would have to pan sear that because I'm not sure it would hold up on the grill as nicely as the mahi mahi.  Something to try!

Tomorrow, Cider-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples!  We found some absolutely beautiful free range happy pork chops at the Golden Fig today.  They will be going into tomorrow's dinner which also has a prep time of 10 minutes and a cook time of 15 minutes which is good, because I have to work late tomorrow!

Brunch by Alex Guarnachelli

A couple of days ago I blogged about dinner by Alex Guarnachelli.  Oh the memories of those amazing Mashed Potatoes Chantilly!  If you missed that post click HERE and you can read all about the blackened salmon, mashed potatoes chantilly and roasted brussels sprouts.

But now it's Sunday morning.  I've had this Sunday morning planned since my copy of Old-School Comfort Food arrived early last week.  I immediately read the whole cookbook and knew what I was making for Sunday brunch, Spice-Rubbed Bacon, Omelet with Fried Sage and Gruyere and Cinnamon Sourdough Pancakes.  We got all of our errands run yesterday so we could be lazy today.  Lazy started with this brunch.

Here are links to the recipes:
Cinnamon Sourdough Pancakes
Spice Rubbed Bacon - note, the method of cooking the bacon is different in this post than in her book but the recipe is the same.  I think I prefer the oven method over the skillet.  If you want to see how that's done, go HERE.
Omelet with Gruyere and Fried Sage

Now on to the fun stuff!  Let's start with the pancakes because they started last night.  In the cookbook Alex suggests to make this batter the night before and leave it in the refrigerator.  Was I amazed at how it grew overnight!  Which reminds me I need to feed my sourdough starter today.

To this mixture some eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice and salt are added and you're ready to make pancakes.  I think my batter may have been a titch too loose, but I was making bacon and an omelet at the same time so I let it be.  The pancakes still turned out beautiful and delightfully delicious.

The bacon, well you've seen how the bacon is made.  While I was starting the pancakes the bacon was already in the oven.  The aroma was filling the kitchen and making me hungry!

I did have an oops with the bacon.  This is because I don't have a kitchen the size of my brother and sister-in-laws and I didn't have a good place to set down the hot sheet with the bacon on it.  It slipped and all my delicious bacon ended up on the floor!  No worries!  It was just Dave and I.  "Kiss it up to god" as we said when we were kids.  Or if you prefer the simpler five second rule, that works too.  I wasn't pitching this bacon!

The omelet was simple!  

First fry the sage in a little oil then let them cool on some paper towels.  There is almost nothing better than fried sage leaves.  I love them in pasta or tossed with some spaghetti squash.  Sage is one of my favorite herbs.

Eggs whisked with a little water and salt are cooked until just about set.  To this gruyere and the fried sage are added and the omelet is folded.  My husband said "Perkins would be proud of this omelet."  I looked at him funny.  Perkins has nothing on my omelet!  Then he said "Perfectly rolled."  Ok, he's forgiven.

So this was brunch.  I'm completely stuffed.  It was all so very good.  The omelet and the pancakes were delicious but the bacon, dropped on the floor and all, was the star for me.  I love that bacon!

The kitchen was a disaster after all that but my lovely husband agreed to clean up all my mess!

Oh and I'll stop stalking Alex Guranachelli for a little bit.  Tonight's dinner is from my new cookbook from Curtis Stone!  I have about a hundred recipes flagged in that book too!

Dinner by Alex Guarnaschelli

It's April 18th.  It should be spring.  Last year at this time we'd hit 80 degrees already.  It should not be in the 30's with sleet and snow.  There are 6 inches on the ground at my friend's house in Becker just west of the Twin Cities.  We have a good 3 on the ground and below that a lovely coating of ice thanks to the sleet that fell earlier.  I'm really not sure how much more of this I can take.  I wonder if the guy we hire to plow thought he'd be plowing our driveway this late in April?

What do I do when I'm depressed (or mad or happy or frustrated)?  I cook. And what better things to cook on a miserable day like today than something out of a cookbook called "Old School Comfort Food"?

I tried the spice-rubbed bacon last night.  Loved it!  Missed that post?  You can read it HERE.

Tonight, three more amazing dishes out of this cookbook that has already justified its purchase, Blackened Salmon, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes Chantilly.

Let's start with the potatoes.  Now I knew these were going to be good.  How could they not be with whole milk, whipped heavy cream and parmesan cheese?  I'm not the potato fiend in our house, that would be Dave.  He loves mashed potatoes, loves them.  I never make enough even when I think I've made too many.  Like the other recipes in this book, these are not hard.  Start with some potatoes cut in cubes.

Boil these until they are done, 15 minutes maybe, then whisk them with some milk and butter.  I found the new whisk I got from my sister-in-law for my birthday worked great!  No loops for the potatoes to get stuck in.

Once the milk and butter are incorporated, add some whipped heavy cream and grated fresh parmesan.  This becomes a yummy, creamy mixture that I had to taste (had to know it had enough salt and pepper right?) and taste, and taste.  Ok, some of it had to go in the baking dish!  Topped with a little more parmesan this bakes in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Out comes some of the most delicious mashed potatoes I've ever eaten.  They get a nice crunchy layer on top from the cheese, they are smooth and creamy and the parmesan gives them a bit of tang.  I love these potatoes and I only like potatoes!

On to the brussels sprouts.  We love brussels sprouts.  I am so lucky to be married to someone who will eat just about anything, including brussels sprouts.  We roast them all the time.  What was different with these, well, a couple of things.

First you separate a few of the leaves to be fried up later!

And these sprouts are dusted with a little nutmeg before they are roasted.  Alex also has you put a pan of water in the oven with the brussels sprouts as they roast.  This is to give them a more intense flavor and texture.

There is sugar in the ingredient list but it isn't used anywhere in the recipe so I wasn't sure what it was supposed to be used for.  I left it out and they turned out fine!  Aren't these beautiful!

The leaves that were pulled off are fried in oil then salted.  These are so good!  Dave and I love roasted or fried leaves.  I think they taste a lot like popcorn!  I like to use my Michael Ruhlman Badass Spoon to pull out the leaves.  I think it works better than a wooden spoon (only a few of you will get that reference).

The roasted sprouts and fried leaves are tossed with a little reduced balsamic. Yea, they were good.

Finally the fish!  We didn't have center cut filets so we used what we had.  I think they turned out fine.  The blackening for the salmon is a mixture of hot paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, pepper and oregano.

Normally I would just coat the fish with the seasoning and pan roast it.  I think Alex Guarnaschelli might be related to Paula Dean.  She dips the fish in melted butter, then the seasoning.  More butter is added just as the fish finishes cooking.  I had a lot of butter and cream for dinner tonight.  I may need to go out and shovel to burn some of it off!

The fish turned out beautiful as did both sides.  All three were delicious and I was able to throw all three together tonight after work.  Nothing was terribly hard.  Nothing had odd ingredients.  I love this book!

Next... omelets with fried sage and gruyere and sourdough pancakes!

Alex Guarnaschelli's Spice Rubbed Bacon

I pre-ordered my copy of Alex Guarnaschelli's Old-School Comfort Food weeks ago.  Yes, I pre-ordered it!  It finally arrived Monday.

I read through it cover-to-cover in one night.  It's not uncommon for me to read a cookbook cover-to-cover, one night however is unusual.  The introduction was fun, funny, informative and a really good story.  Reading Alex's memories of being in the kitchen with her mother reminded me so much of being in the kitchen with my Grandma Cicero great memories flooded back.  Her progression from kitchen to kitchen was interesting, not arrogant.  Let's just say I really enjoyed it.

Then I got into the recipes.  I started flagging ones I wanted to try right away.  I ran out of flags!  I had to move to post-it notes!

I could almost taste every recipe in the book.  I love that 99% of the ingredients can be found in my local grocery store. Yes, I live in an area where we have great specialty stores where you can get just about anything.  I'm talking about my neighborhood grocery store!  To be honest, for many of the recipes I already had everything in the house!  And not only are the ingredients approachable, so are the recipes.

What to try first was the big dilemma.  This week is a busy one both at work and in the evenings so my plan was to start this weekend with Spice-Rubbed Bacon, Cinnamon Sourdough Pancakes, and Omelets with Fried Sage and Gruyere.  Sunday was going to be quite a brunch!  For dinner, Blackened Salmon with Beer Braised Carrots, Leeks Vinaigrette and maybe some Mashed Potatoes "Chantilly."  Those things are still on the list!

But... Dave is out with the guys tonight.  I could make my usual egg, grilled cheese or maybe pizza but why when I can make a BLT with some Spice Rubbed Bacon?  I have homemade hamburger buns, a beautiful tomato, lettuce and some spicy Wholly Guacamole (which goes on all of my BLTs) so I decided to dive into the book.

I started with good Nueske bacon, of course.

The bacon is coated with a mixture of curry powder, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, black pepper and brown sugar.  The cooking method is baking between cookie sheets lined with parchment.

If you know me, you know I love my "bacon mats" so I get a bit of bacon in every bite so I had to make a mat.  I also just left one lone coated piece and one plain old piece of bacon.  Why?  Well, I've baked bacon before, in fact it's my preferred way to make it.  But I use a broiler pan so I know it will get nice and crispy.  I have to admit I was very skeptical that I would get some nice crispy browned bacon baking it sandwiched between not only two pans but two pieces of parchment.

After the first 20 minutes the bacon was no where near done.  It smelled amazing, but still limp and not browned.  I put it back in and checked after another 10 minutes.  It took another 5 before I decided I'd better get it out of the oven.  I'll be honest, it didn't look done.  Ask anyone, I like crispy bacon.  I will pick soggy bacon off of any sandwich and will leave it on a breakfast plate.  I don't like the texture or the chewiness of undercooked bacon.  But I didn't want burned bacon either and the recipe stated that the bacon will crisp up a little after it sits on paper towels for a bit.  Still skeptical.

I moved my bacon to paper towels while I assembled the rest of my sandwich.

First to go on my toasted bun was my Wholly Guac of course!  
Next lettuce and a slice of that beautiful tomato.  
It was time for my bacon mat.  It seemed a bit "limp", and obviously was too big for my sandwich!  Lucky for me, I don't believe there can ever be too much bacon!

So how did it taste?  Maybe the best BLT I've had.  The bacon literally melted in my mouth.  It wasn't so crisp it just crumbled.  It wasn't soggy.  It had perfect bite and then just melted away leaving a sweet, hot, smoky flavor, oh my.  Mix that with the cool, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and guacamole and I had a sandwich!

I may even make this bacon again this weekend so Dave can try it.  I think he'll like it!

It is a messy method, I will say that!  But a little hot water and a few minutes later, things cleaned right up!

I can't wait to try the next recipe!

Homemade Pita Bread

Jalapenos have come in at Farmer's Market which has me thinking of all recipes jalapeno.  I'll probably can some too, but that will ...

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