Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Months and month ago now, I went out to dinner with some former co-workers at a restaurant/slash bar here in CT (Eli’s on Whitney for those who are local/interested). One of my friends got a seriously amazing looking steak salad, which totally gave me entree envy. My dinner was good, but hers looked so delicious that I just could not get it out of my head. This salad was composed of greens, candied walnuts, craisins, gorgonzola cheese, Granny Smith apples, and was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and she had it topped with a perfectly cooked steak. I still have yet to have this specific salad, but I knew then and there that I would be putting steak salad on my dinner planning menu in the near future. Now, I knew Ron would not be thrilled about the craisins or apples in the salad (he’s not generally a fan of fruit, and especially not a fruit+meat person), but I knew he’d love the idea of steak in any form, so when I saw this salad in Rachel Ray’s magazine I immediately put it on our menu. She uses spinach and watercress in her version of this salad, but I decided to go with a more general baby greens mix, and I also changed out the Petit Filets for a more budget-friendly cut of beef. This salad turned out so well, that we immediately put in on the menu for the following week, and now looking at the pictures I wish I had the ingredients to make it again tonight.

Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Steak Salad with Bacon Bits and Blue Cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 slices bacon
2 lbs steak (Petit Filets are suggested, but use your favorite tender cut- I used sirloin tip steak and cut it very thinly against the grain)
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar (you could use Sherry, champagne or red wine vinegar as well)
8 cups salad greens (I like using a mix that contains baby spinach)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a grill, or heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (for easy clean up), place bacon on sheet, and cook for 15-18 minutes. When cooked, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of excess fat. Crumble when slightly cooled.

3. Season steak with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Cook on grill or skillet until cooked through to your liking. The timing will depend on the type of steak used, but for a petit filet, about 4-5 minutes per side will cook it to about medium-rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes once cooked, and then slice against the grain very thinly.

4. In a small bowl, or salad dressing mixer (pretty sure that’s not the real name of that haha), whisk together the lemon juice, garlic clove, mustard and vinegar. Slowly stream and whisk in the olive oil if doing this in a bowl, otherwise just add the olive oil and shake to combine, or use the salad dressing plunger.

5. Place about 2 cups of greens on each plate, split sliced steak, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, and sliced red onion evenly among the plates, and top with dressing.

Source: EveryDay with Rachel Ray, May 2014

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Southwest Skillet Ragu

Hello friends! One of these days my goal is to get back to regular posting. I swear just when I think things will get back to normal, something else comes up that keeps me incredibly busy. This time it’s a move!! My boyfriend and I have lived in the same apartment for over 6 years now, and while we love a lot of things about it, when we got word of another place opening up, we jumped on the chance to take it. This time we will be renting the 2nd floor of a two-family house which has a lot more character than the generic apartment we live in now, and I think has a lot more potential for customization… also, I’ll be getting my own office/study/craftroom space which I am super excited about, and there’s space for a decent sized garden!!!! Anywho, our move out/move in date is January 1st, and that is rapidly approaching. With work keeping me busy much of the week, I’m using most of my spare time packing and getting ready for the move. It’s amazing how much we’ve accumulated in the 6+ years we’ve lived together.

With all the craziness around here, I’m searching for quick and easy meals that require few pans, and minimal cleanup. Okay, that’s what I’m always searching for, but even more so these days. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Two dishes, few ingredients, and all around comfort, this dish is a winner. Goulash is such a comforting food to me (it’s one of the first I started making on my own when Ron and I moved into our apartment), and this take on it with the southwest flavors of chili powder and cumin is really yummy. Definitely recommended.

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 cup elbow macaroni

1-1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey

1 large onion, diced

1 red (orange, yellow or green) bell pepper, chopped

8-12 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Place a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and cook pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water when done. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil, and add the ground meat. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside, and drain off most of the grease. Leave a small amount just to coat the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the onions, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and cook about 5-6 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add peppers, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 tsp of salt and cook 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

4. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add back browned meat, and simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauce has thickened.

5. Add the pasta and cheese, and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta cooking water until the sauce is to your desired consistency. Serve, topping each serving with more cheese if desired.

Source: The Kitchn

 

 

Good Stuff Melts

Last winter, Ron and I visited my brother and his fiancee (Jeremy and Michelle) down in the Washington, D.C. area. We were able to fit in a lot in the two days we were there, including seeing a lot of the amazing monuments around the city, visiting the National Cathedral, and visiting the Museum of American History. We also were able to eat at some great restaurants, including Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery. Despite being extremely crowded, and having to eat standing up at a small counter, it was well worth the visit. Our burgers were awesome, the toasted marshmallow shake was incredible, and the village fries (fries tossed with rosemary, thyme and sea salt) sold there were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Several months later I received The Good Stuff Cookbook from Jeremy and Michelle. It is one of those cookbooks where I seriously want to make pretty much every recipe in the cookbook. There are recipes for the amazing salads, burgers, fries, and shakes sold at the restaurant, among other things. I really want to make the village fries at some point, but I have to gear myself up for actually frying something in my kitchen. The burgers seemed a little more approachable, and while there are some additional steps for the burgers, such as making homemade sauce, toppings, and then the technique of wrapping the burger is wax paper before eating, they really are not hard to make at all. These are definitely the best burgers I’ve made myself, in my kitchen, and I can’t wait to try the other recipes as well.

Good Stuff Melts

Good Stuff Melts

Makes 4 burgers

Ingredients:

20 oz. (1.25 lbs) ground sirloin

4 potato buns

1/4 cup canola oil

2 cups Spanish onions, thinly sliced

4 slices Muenster cheese

4 slices Cheddar cheese

Perfectly Roasted Wild Mushrooms (recipe follows)

About 1/2 cup Good Stuff Sauce (recipe follows)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Make patties by rolling 5 oz. ground sirloin into a ball, and then flattening it into a patty. Place the patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

2. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add oil. Add the onions, and stir around so that they are coated with the oil. Cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have browned and caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan, and place them in a bowl.

3. Season the patties with salt and pepper, and place the patties in the now empty skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes* on one side, and then flip and cook for 3 minutes. Then place a slice of each cheese, some mushrooms, and some caramelized onions on each patty, and cook for about 2 minutes more. Cover with the lid, and cook for 30 seconds more, until the cheese melts.

4. While the burgers are cooking, toast your potato buns. Heat the broiler, butter the buns, and place them face up on a cookie sheet. Place under the broiler for just a few seconds. Check every few seconds as they go from perfect to burnt quickly.

5. To assemble the patty melts, place a patty on a bun bottom, put on some of the good stuff sauce, place the top on the bun on, and wrap in a square of wax paper. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. This will allow the bun to absorb some flavor from the patty and the toppings. Eat and enjoy!

*The amount of time you cook it depends on how well-done you like your burger.

Perfectly Roasted Wild Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

12 oz mixed wild mushrooms (i.e. shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle)

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter

3/4 bunch fresh thyme, chopped

1 garlic clove, sliced

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes, until the liquid is released. Add 3/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, and cook about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are browned.

2. Add the butter, thyme, and garlic and cook about 5 minutes more. Add remaining salt and pepper.

*The directions here are a bit different than what the cookbook says to do as it has you cook the mushrooms over high heat the entire time. I did that, and my mushrooms burned, even cutting down the cooking time. That said, maybe it was my stove misbehaving and not the directions. In either case, I don’t think cooking the mushrooms on a lower temperature will do any damage, it might just take a little longer.

Good Stuff Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

1 large egg*

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp ketchup

1 Tbsp molasses

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Add the egg, mustard, vinegar, and salt to a blender or food processor. Blend for 30 seconds in a food processor, or 10 seconds in a blender.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil, in a thin, steady stream, until the mixture is smooth. Stop to taste and adjust thickness if needed. If too thick, add a little hot water, and blend. If too thin, blend for a bit longer. Stop here and you have a basic mayonnaise!!

2. Now add the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, and salt. Blend until combined. You can refrigerate this in an airtight container up to a week.

*This does contain raw egg. If you are skeeved out by this, or have a weak immune system, you can skip making the homemade mayonnaise portion and just use pre-made (I recommend Hellman’s). To do this, just mix 1 cup mayonnaise with the ketchup, molasses, rice vinegar and salt until combined.

Source: barely adapted from The Good Stuff Cookbook

Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

Simple Beef Chili

I made this chili a couple of weeks ago on one of those days where winter was still trying to keep its grip on us. Chili is the perfect comfort food- it is on the same plane as soups and stews. My dad makes a mean chili. Growing up chili was usually a meal for a Sunday. I remember coming downstairs in the morning before church, seeing the crock-pot sitting on the counter, already simmering away as my dad always wakes up super-early, and getting very excited about the deliciousness that would await us later. I loved coming home from church to the delicious chili-scented air. I’m pretty sure he never follows a recipe, adding a little of this, and a little of that, and having it be the same but also unique each time (if that makes any sense).

Me… I’m sure I could throw together some chili without following a recipe as well, although I’m not sure it’d live up to my dad’s, but I really love trying out the numerous chili recipes out there as well. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook alone has 6 different recipes for chili, and I fully intend to try them all! I decided to make this one first, as I was lured in by the ingredient list which includes pretty much all pantry staples in my home. Ron says this is the best chili I’ve made yet (and I’ve tried a bunch of recipes), so it was definitely a success! It’s very simple (as the title states), but it still takes its time to cook, so it’s definitely best for a weekend or day off. I made it on a weeknight, and so we didn’t end up eating until 9:30 this particular night… the wait was so worth it though!

Simple Beef Chili

Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 lb 85% lean ground beef

1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed

1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (14.5-oz) can tomato puree

Salt

Optional:

Lime wedges

Cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Diced avocado

Cilantro

Scallions

Sour Cream

Directions:

1. Place a Dutch oven over medium-heat, and add oil. Heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell peppers, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. Cook until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes, stirring and breaking up with a spoon.

3. Add the beans, diced tomatoes (with juices), tomato puree and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove the cover, and cook for another hour, stirring occasionally. (If the mixture begins to stick, you can add up to 1/2 cup water.)

4. Season with salt to taste. Serve with any optional condiments desired!

Source: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Beef and Mushroom Stew

It is finally starting to feel like fall here in Connecticut and I couldn’t be more excited!!  Fall and spring are my favorite seasons…. and in the past few years fall has really been gaining an edge over spring!  Yesterday it was chilly enough to wear a cardigan (yay!), and sleep cozily under my comforter!  With fall comes some of my favorite things- Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, Chrysanthemums, pumpkin carving, Halloween!, scary movies (my favorite kind!), cool sweater weather, and all kinds of soups and stews!  I don’t make soup and stew as often as I’d like for dinners as my boyfriend is not the biggest fan, but I try to sneak them in occasionally.  I do make them often to bring to work for lunch though, so hopefully I’ll be posting some good ones this season!  Recently I was perusing Pioneer Woman’s website and I came upon her recipe for beef and mushroom stew- it seemed to me like a simplified recipe for beef bourguignon focusing just on the beef and mushroom aspect of it, and I just had to try it, so I added it to my menu for last week!  It was definitely a wonderful fall meal!

Beef and Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:
2 pounds beef stew meat
4 tbsp flour, divided
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 whole shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, cremini or white button, halved
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 can beef consomme (about 5.25 ounces)
5 ounces water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Pasta or rice for serving, or crusty bread (I used egg noodles)
Directions:
1. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the flour over the meat, and toss to coat.
2. Place a heavy pot (preferably a dutch oven) over medium-high heat and add the butter and olive oil.  When melted, sear the meat in batches. Turning to brown all sides. Once brown, remove to a plate, and continue browning meat until all is seared.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the shallots and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the wine, consomme and water.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir together.  Bring the stew to a boil, and then add the meat back in.  
4. Reduce the heat to low.  Add the thyme to the stew. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
5. Mix the remaining 2 tbsp flour with a little bit of water, and add to the stew.  Cook the stew another 10 minutes to allow it to thicken a bit.
6. Turn off the heat, and allow the the stew to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
7. While the stew is resting, cook your pasta or rice (if using).
Notes:
  • PW’s recipe calls for beef stew meat which is what I bought for my stew and it was okay, but a little tough.  She actually says that most stew meat is usually sirloin, but mine was not, so I’d suggest seeking out sirloin and cutting it into chunks yourself if your local store doesn’t carry sirloin stew meat.
  • In PW’s recipe she left the mushrooms whole, but I decided to cut them in half so that there would be more mushrooms per bite!  Cremini mushrooms, since they are meatier, would be best for this recipe, but I used white button mushrooms as they were on sale, and they were delicious as well.

A Memorial Day Meal: Part 1

Finally, the long awaited post on just what I made for Memorial Day- I know you’ve been desperately awaiting this post 🙂

Since the grill has finally been put together (it only took about 2 years), I decided that I must cook something on it- something meaty and made for the grill.  I decided on a London Broil, because I figured it’s one of the simplest things to make- and simple and delicious it was.  I have a tendency to overcook meat, and so I carefully researched just how much time I needed to cook this piece of meat for medium-rare.  The consensus I got was about 5 minutes per side over a hot fire, or 6-8 minutes per side over a medium fire.  I’m not up on the art of measuring just how hot my grill is yet- more research awaits me- but it seemed pretty hot, so I did 5 minutes on the first side, and 6 on the second, and then let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing, and it turned out perfectly!

I wanted to make some sides to serve with the London Broil as well, so I went with a tomato, feta and cucumber salad that I saw on Annie’s Eats recently, and this turned out to be the absolute best tomato salad I have ever had.  I also had 1 russet potato that I wanted to use up, and some heavy cream.  For the potato I ended up cutting it in smallish wedges, adding some spices, and roasting it in the oven, which didn’t make a lot, but was enough with the the other sides… and with the cream I decided on some awesome cheddar cheese biscuits, with are probably the best biscuits I have ever made.  It was pretty hard to not wolf down all of them in one sitting- they are very rich though, so that’s probably not such a good idea.

The main dish, the London Broil, will star in this post, and part 2 will have the recipes for the sides.

London Broil


Ingredients:
1 pound London Broil
Equal parts lemon juice, soy sauce and honey.  I used about a 1/2 cup of each.

Directions:
1.  Whisk together the lemon juice, soy sauce and honey in a container big enough to hold your meat.  I used an 8″x8″ glass baking dish.  Make a few shallow cuts in your meat on each side (about 4-5 per side), and place meat in the dish with the marinade.  Marinate for a while, depending on how long you have.  A few hours is okay, but the longer the better.  I marinated mine for about 24 hours.  Turn at least once while marinating.
2. Grill the meat about 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare over a high fire, or 6-8 minutes over a medium fire.
3. Slice meat thinly and serve.

Notes:

  • The marinade that I used is one that my mom and my grandmother have been using for London Broil for as long as I remember.  I actually have no idea where it came from, but if I get a source for the recipe I’ll be sure to let you know.  I love this marinade though, it really couldn’t be simpler, and is the perfect blend of sweet and sour.