Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

You just never know what you are going to get here at the dinner table.  One night it is Cafe for Five, a cute little bistro on the Court, and another it is The Roadhouse, bringing you tex-mex in the heart of the neighborhood.  Or swing by Auntie E's and you'll fill up on comfort food.  If it sounds like my cooking suffers from multiple personality disorder I think you may be on to something.

Sunday night we had the most amazing Shepherd's pie, courtesy of an America's Test Kitchen recipe.  I don't know if you watch that cooking show on PBS, but if you don't, I really recommend you DVR it.  It is a great program, and brought to you by the same cooking experts that write Cook's Illustrated magazine.  I made only a few changes to the recipe to use what I had on hand, and I think you could definitely make this more in line with the traditional method using the leftovers of a roast instead of with ground beef.  And man - we scarfed it up!!!!  Nothing like comfort food!

Monday we had quite the restaurant quality meal.  Salmon, stuffed mushrooms, wilted salad and homemade rolls.   When I picked the salmon and mushrooms I did so independently, and when reviewing my cooking plan for the evening I was thrilled - they both cook at 400 for 15-20 minutes!  I guess they were meant to make it into the same meal.  We really enjoyed the whole meal.

Tuesday - we got snowed in and school was actually cancelled.  This is an extremely rare event here where roads are flat and on a grid.  But, the snow came down quite heavily, so we all enjoyed a day off together.  The kids even bathed in the morning and donned fresh pajamas all day!  We ate a perennial favorite that night - Hurry Up Ham.  Easy to toss together, and everyone loves it.  The kids even asked for the same salad, so we had the wilted salad again.  I do love it when the kids make requests for things other than desserts!

The rest of the week was rounded out with soup night, chicken stir fry, and the Fish Fry at church.  This week flew by, as they all seem to!  Off to make some mini-muffins for the PTO...happy cooking!

New Recipes
Wilted Salad
Stuffed Mushrooms
Shepherd's Pie

Wilted Lettuce Salad

* 1 bunch leaf lettuce, torn
* 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
* 4-6 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
* 3 bacon strips
* 2 tbs red wine vinegar
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 1/2 tsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp pepper

1. Toss the lettuce, radishes and green onions together in a salad bowl and set aside.
2. In a skillet cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon to a paper toweled line plate to drain.
3. To the hot drippings add the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and pepper and stir well.  Immediately pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently.
4. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top.  Serve.

I used romaine lettuce because that was what we had on hand, and I chopped the radish after thinly slicing it.  As for the bacon, I cooked ours in the microwave on paper towels and only had a very small amount of bacon drippings available, but we made it work.  As a result the salad didn't wilt very much.  If you follow the directions presented here I am sure it will give the desired effect.  Our salad was crisp and just slightly warm.  We loved it, however, and had it twice this week!

Stuffed Mushrooms

* 20 medium mushrooms
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2 tbsp finely chopped onions
* 2 tbsp finely chopped red peppers
* 14 Ritz crackers, finely crushed (approximately 1/2 cup crumbs)
* 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Remove the stems from mushrooms. Finely chop enough of the mushroom stems to measure about 1/4 cup and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add the chopped mushrooms stems, onions and peppers.  Cook and stir until the vegetables are tender.
3. Stir the cracker crumbs, cheese and Italian seasoning into the vegetables.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the mushroom caps and place the mushrooms on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Bake 15 minutes or until heated through.

These were delicious!  I do believe that these would be equally fantastic even without the crumbs.  Speaking of the crumbs, I am sure you could substitute the crackers for whatever breadcrumbs you have on hand.

Shepherd's Pie (America's Test Kitchen)

* 1 to 1.5 lbs of very lean ground beef
* 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp water
* salt and pepper
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 2 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
* 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 large egg yolk
* 8 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
* 2 tsp vegetable oil
* 1 onion chopped
* 4 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
* 1 tbsp tomato paste
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 tbsp red wine
* 2 tbsp AP flour
* 1 1/4 cup beef broth
* 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 carrots, peeled and diced
* 2 tsp cornstarch

1.  Toss the beef with 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and baking soda in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Place the cubed potatoes into a saucepan.  Add water just enough to cover  and 1 tbsp salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft, approximately 8-10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan.  Put the potatoes over low heat and cook to ensure all the water is gone., approximately 1 minute.  Remove the pan from heat and mash the potatoes well.  Stir in the melted butter.  Whisk the egg yolk and milk together and then add to the potatoes.  Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and set the potatoes aside.
3.Heat the oil in a broiler safe 10 inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion, mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are just starting to soften, approximately 4-6 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and garlic.  Cook and stir for about 2 minutes.  Add the red wine  and cook, scraping up and browned bits until evaporated, about 1 minute.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Add broth,  Worcestershire, bay leaf and carrots.  Bring to a boil and scrape up any browned bits.  Reduce heat to medium low, add beef in 2 inch chunks to broth and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until the beef is cooked through, approximately 10-12 minutes.  Halfway through this cooking time stir and break up the meat chunks with 2 forks, and then recover.
4. Stir the cornstarch and remaining 2 tsp water together in bowl.  Stir cornstarch mixture into the skillet and continue to simmer for 30 seconds.  Remove the bay leaf and season again with salt and pepper if needed.
5. Adjust the oven rack to 5 inches from the boiler element.
6. Place the mashed potatoes in a large zip top bag and snip off one corner to create a 1 inch opening.  Pipe the potatoes in an even layer over the filling making sure to cover the entire surface.  Smooth the potatoes with the back of a spoon, then use the tines of a fork to make ridges through the potatoes.  Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the pototes are golden brown and crusty and the filling is bubbly,  approximately 10-15 minutes.  Let the pie stand and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Yummy!  We loved this!  You could easily do this with left over roast instead of the ground beef which could yield a more traditional Shephard's pie.  But this is fantastic to make in the colder weather - real comfort food!