Thursday, January 30, 2014

Italian Roast Beef-Smoked Almond Creamy Cheesy Sliders

Printable Recipe
Spicy Italian Roast Beef layered with creamy, nutty cheese on a just-sweet-enough mini bun. You'll make these to take for a party, a pitch-in, a luncheon (do people have luncheon anymore?). And you'll keep making them for yourself...midnight snack, Saturday lunch, Sunday brunch, oh, anything at all. They're a bit hard to resist. And quick and easy. You've practically got the recipe already, but here's a visual:

Open the 12 pack of Hawaiian rolls and do not separate into individual pieces. Steady them with your palm in the middle of the whole thing and use a long serrated knife to cut them horizontally into a top and bottom. Open them up like a big bread clamshell. On the underside of the top half slather on a goodly layer of Miracle Whip. As much as I love mayonnaise, the real thing, I believe this sandwich needs the tangy goodness of MW to make it just right. 
Now, for the other half o' the bread layer on all of this: 8 oz cream cheese, 2-4 oz blue cheese, handful of smoked almonds. 

Rough chop those almonds with a big sturdy knife. I mean just lay a handful on a chopping block and chop through a few times to at least halve them. Chunkier is better here. NOTE: Everything will mix together better and spread nicely if you give the cream cheese just 10-20 seconds in the microwave till barely warm and very soft.  

Now, layer your very thinly sliced pound of Italian roast beef over all and close that breadclam right up. It's easiest to cut through everything with the long serrated knife just before you arrange on the platter. These will fit nicely back into the "tray" and bag they came in to transport for your event. And they hold quite well for 2-3 days in the fridge!  Incidentally, I find Italian roast beef in the bigger groceries or from my butcher who carries Boar's Head which is my favorite brand. Any Italian roast beef greatly trumps plain old roast beef; so much more flavorful. If you're really tired, go ahead and make this with whatever you've got. It will definitely still be irresistible.
12 Hawaiian Rolls
1 lb Italian Roast Beef
8 oz Cream Cheese
2-4 oz Blue Cheese
1/2 cup Smoked Almonds
Miracle Whip

This week at the Food Network's Comfort Food Feast we're blogging about Sliders of all sorts for Superbowl weekend.  Check out these other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Tetrazzini

(Printable Recipe)
Creamy and rich, this is a special occasion dish and if you're going to do it right. Skip the recipes that call for canned cream soup and take the little bit of extra time to make a really good cream sauce. It's not rocket science, y'all - I can show you how to make it come out right.
For starters, I brown the vegetables to develop I nice rich flavor layer (fond) in the pan so the cream sauce will taste fantastic. (Before we start, put on a big pan of water to boil for the pasta.) In a wide skillet, starting with 8 oz of mushrooms, drizzle a tablespoon or so of oil and melt in 1-2 tbs of butter, then layer the mushrooms with a little space in between or they'll steam instead of brown. First they'll soak up all the fat like a sponge and the pan will look quite dry. Be patient and leave them alone. As they start to brown they'll release all that fat along with their own liquid and really get a beautiful golden brown and that's when you flip them so the other side repeats the process.

While they're cooking, thin slice one really big sweet onion and a red bell pepper. I like to use a mandolin for speed and uniformly thin slices. Move the mushrooms to a plate and add a little more oil to cook the onion and peppers.
I also like to use the mandolin for paper thin garlic slices. Slice up 4 or 5 cloves of garlic (watch your fingers! just toss the little garlic nibs that are left over). When the onion/pepper mix is slightly browned push it to one side and add just a drizzle of oil to quickly toss the garlic in. It will cook very quickly so keep it moving for a minute or so and you're done. Empty the pan again.

Have ready: 2/3 C Flour, 1/4 C Sherry, 2 C Warm Milk, 4 C Broth
Now is the time to throw the pasta, about 1/2 pound spaghetti, in that water you put on a few minutes ago which should be boiling by now. And back to our sauce - melt about 5 Tbs of Butter over medium/med low heat until it foams. Quickly sprinkle in the flour and rapidly whisk together. It will thicken very quickly and within about about a minute the floury smell should turn to a nice nutty scent which means it's time for the liquid.
Keeping it moving, gradually pour in the milk and don't worry if it doesn't look smooth. Just keep whisking steadily. It won't take long for the sauce to smooth out from this:
To this:

Now add the sherry and broth and whisk smooth. Let it bubble gently for 8 or 10 minutes to thicken a bit, but lower the heat if it really starts to boil. You just need a gentle bubble so it doesn't scorch.
Finally, add the cooked pasta and all vegetables into the sauce along with 1-1/2 cups parmesan cheese and stir together well. Add salt and pepper to taste now.  I'm using a heavy dutch oven that can go straight into the oven, but you may turn this all into a large casserole dish if you prefer.
[I have not listed it here, but the original chef's recipe from the early 1900's for Chicken Tetrazzini included almonds. Feel free to add some, I have never included them but they would only improve the dish and I think I've just talked myself into adding them next time.]
Top with another 1/2 cup of Parm and move to the 350 oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Serve with plain crunchy french bread and a side of green salad with vinaigrette to balance all this rich and creamy deliciousness. And if you'd like to kick up the flavor element even more, click that broth link above and make your own super-tasty homemade that beats the canned kind all to bits.

This week at Food Network's Comfort Food Feast we're blogging about Comforting Casseroles.  Check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock, Pressure Cooker Style

Homemade chicken stock is something I cook when I'm going to be in the kitchen anyway, working on something else. It only takes a few minutes to get it started - the real time is in the long simmering on the stove. Unless you have a pressure cooker and then it's done in 30 minutes! I'll tell you how to do it both ways and you may find that it's so easy and delicious that you make the switch to homemade more often.
Let's assume you have a new generation pressure cooker (not that crazy thing your grandmother used). Before closing it up for the pressure cooking part, we're going to take a few minutes to brown the vegetables and chicken to develop some wonderful flavor that will transfer to the stock as it simmers.
Start with a thin layer of olive oil and drop in 5 chicken legs or thighs with skin and bones intact for flavor. Brown nicely on all sides and move them to a plate for the next round. Rough chop the vegetables: one big onion, 3 or 4 ribs of celery with the leaves, and one carrot, preferably one which looks like this little headless carrot-man above. Add the carrot and celery to the pot and toss a bit to coat then brown these as well. 
  Remove these and follow with the onion just long enough to brown.  
Now add everything back to the pot and cover with water, at least 4-6 cups. Throw in 3 or 4 garlic cloves. They don't need to be peeled, just smashed a little. Some fresh parsley and a few sprigs of thyme are also good. 
IF you're using a pressure cooker put the top on now and bring up to pressure, lower the heat, and cook for 30 minutes. You will not believe how rich and deep the flavor will be in this broth! The pressure cooker drives flavor into the food rather than losing it to evaporation. The controlled high temperature creates a browning reaction that makes for amazing flavor development. (If you are using a stockpot instead, cover now and simmer - don't boil! - for 3 or 4 hours. You will probably need to start with more water also, 8 cups or so, since it will evaporate.)
(Only 30 Minutes later in the PC)
(Straining the broth through cheesecloth.)
You can see how incredibly rich this is, looking almost like gravy! If you're using it later, refrigerate and it will be easy to remove the fat layer from the top once it is cold. Otherwise, skim it off as best you can before adding this broth to your soup or sauce.
 Now, I find that the chicken often retains its flavor in the pressure cooker and is so tender it can be used for soup or casseroles. Taste it and see what you think. (If you've used the traditional method of 3-4 hours in a stockpot, it will not be fit for anything but the wild animals foraging through your nightly trash. Sorry, mum.)
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