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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Cheese Dressing, BJ's Brewhouse, Chef Josephs, The Lockerbie...

We've had a couple of really fun cooking adventures recently.  Actually, I've had more than Connie.  He played bridge while my friend, Stacy, and I fixed a German meal.  But, that's not what came first.  The truffle came first. 

It'd been another of those killer weeks.  Monday I was sick.  Like come home from the office at 10:30 and go to bed sick.  Tuesday I had to feel better since I was teaching a Social Security class in the evening.  By the time everyone left the office about 9pm I was ready to collapse.  Fortunately, we'd taken along Cobb salad fixings so we'd had a good dinner before class.  I'd used my favorite blue cheese dressing which I discovered, much to my consternation, was not on here.  Now, we first made this in 2006 long before I'd thought about blogging.  Consequently, there's an image of a recipe with no attribution.  And a REALLY old photo...  So, here it goes:

Blue Cheese Dressing

2/3 c crumbled blue cheese
1/3 c sour cream
2 T mayonnaise
1 T milk
1/2 t Worcestershire
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t ground mustard
1/4 t garlic powder


The original recipe calls for whirring all of the above in a food processor.  I prefer to take about 1/4 c of the blue cheese and hold it out so I get nice, chunky dressing.  I also tend to double/triple the ground mustard, Worcestershire and garlic.  This is so easy to make and so much better than the jarred/bottled stuff!!!

Back to our adventures...

Wednesday it was time to meet our friends Pete and Shirley for dinner.  Pete had decreed that he wanted us to try his favorite brew pub - BJ's Brewhouse.  Neither of us was excited.  It's a chain, after all.  And, it's in a mall.  But, it was Pete's turn to choose so we showed up at the appointed hour.  Were we ever wrong!!!  We had about the best mac and cheese ever.  A little chipotle and bacon and a perfect sauce. 

And, the pulled pork sandwich was almost as good.  That's turkey club in front of the pulled pork.  It was good but not worthy of a special trip. 

Let me tell you, if there's time that mac and cheese is going to be lunch when I'm in my Greenwood office!

Thursday was a wine dinner at Chef Joseph's.  We got to sit with our friends, Steve and Colleen so had a lively conversation and great time.  Joseph did his usual amazing dishes.  The most incredible was dessert.  Goat cheese flan with lemon and pink peppercorns.  Yeah, it was beautiful and tasted amazing.  The evening was also a fund raiser for Little Red Door.  They offer loads of services for cancer patients.  We wound up with tickets to Theatre on the Square and a gift basket of wine and beer to go along with some beer signs and such. 

Friday night after work we headed downtown to Goose the Market to pick up our truffle.  We splurged and spent $23 on a fresh truffle.  Home it came.  Wrapped in a paper towel in a sealed container.  We opened it and took photos and sniffed. 

Didn't smell much like truffle.  So, I shaved off a little piece.  Kind of like eating a little nibble of wood.  Not much flavor and very dry.  Hmmm, maybe it'd be better cooked...  So we made steaks with a cognac/truffle sauce and mushroom risotto with shaved truffle on top.  Again, not much truffle flavor.


So, we tried again Saturday evening and made truffled scallops and crabmeat over butter lettuce and roasted beets.  This time I put truffle oil and the dressing and viola we had truffle flavor.

Sunday we were meeting Chef Joseph and his partner, Juan, for lunch at the Lockerbie Pub.  Time for some pub grub.  Here are two photos from a couple of months ago when we flew by the Lockerbie and picked up tenderloins to go:

I took along what was left of the truffle along and handed it to Joseph.  Was it good?  Well, this time of year they are hard as rocks, he said.  If you want to get some real flavor out of it, soak it in some brandy.  Ok, now I know. 

Sunday evening we were both still stuffed from our pork tenderloin sandwiches.  I put some short ribs from Goose in the dutch oven and let them simmer away.  I'd planned to make truffled mac and cheese but decided plain old smashed potatoes would be better.  We nibbled at the short ribs and left most of it for lunch later in the week.  That's ok.  It'll reheat REALLY well.  And, with the leftover hangar steak for another lunch and the leftover sauerbraten for yet another, we'll be having some fabulous lunches!

It looks like I'm running out of time and creating a monster post before even talking about our German feast  So, let me say to be continued...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

An incredibly busy week has ended.  And, tomorrow, another begins.  Let me tell you a bit about last week's adventures.  Most of them didn't involve cooking.  That was shocking!  But, a lot of them did involve food.  Not so shocking after all.

Not so shocking either is the fact that I didn't have an opportunity to attach photos and post this so I'm an entire week behind...

Monday evening Connie didn't have his normal bridge game.  So, we used the rest of the lamb shoulder and made tandoori lamb from License to Grill.  And, we made Moroccan Eggplant.  Both were just amazingly wonderful.  The leftover lamb got put into wraps with some tzatziki sauce for lunch the next day. 

Tuesday was our smoking class at Chef JJ's Backyard.  Not too long ago we cashed in all our credit card cash back and got a Big Green Egg.  So, I signed up for a class.  Recently, JJ put out the list of his upcoming classes and they all sold out in 24 hours.  He does a magnificent job so it's no wonder. 

While we were waiting on class to start, Chef Stephen served us some curried naan.  Baked on the Big Green Egg.  I'd have been happy if they'd just stopped there...  It was perfect.  Delicately flavored.  Chewy.  Ummmmmmmm.

We started with a pork loin with a fig jam sauce.  It was served with a winter slaw.  JJ and Chef Stephen smoked the cabbage and the apple for the slaw.  Amazing.  We learned that meat doesn't absorb smoke after it reaches a certain temperature - 130 degrees F, I believe.  JJ also taught everyone about brining.  It's a technique I first used when I made Thomas Keller's fried chicken.  Then, I used it for our turkey.  Now, I'm a huge fan of brining. 

On to the next course.  Mahi Mahi with a kale and grapefruit salad.  The fish was seasoned with a maple based rub then smoked.  The kale was smoked for about a minute then chopped and tossed with a grapefruit dressing. 

Next, the best, brisket.  This, in my humble opinion was competition worthy.  JJ showed us how he rubbed the brisket and explained the pieces and parts.  He also talked about Connie's favorite burnt ends.  Then, he and Chef Stephen pulled out the brisket they'd already smoked and cut it up and served it with noodle kugel.  Somehow in spite of being stuffed I managed to eat the brisket.  The noodle kugel came home with me. 

Last, but not least, a shortbread crust with a chocolate ganache and a smoked crème anglaise.  Now, what you need to realize is that JJ and his crew have a sink, fridge and Big Green Eggs.  There's not a stove or an oven.  EVERYTHING is prepared on the Big Green Egg. 

Wednesday we were actually home.  You'll have to come back and read my blog about the chicken enchiladas...

Thursday was The Odd Couple.  A few months ago Connie said the play was going to be at Actor's Theatre and he thought my mom would enjoy it.  So, I called her.  Yes, she'd love to attend but my brother had beaten me to the invitation.  So, I called my brother and asked if we could all go out to dinner before the play.  Sure.  How'd we like to try Divvy? 
It's next door to the theatre so it'd be easy.  Well now, let me tell you about Divvy. 

Actually, I think I need decent photos so I'd better go back up there and have dinner again so I can get better photos than the one above.  Probably will need several visits to get photos.  Can you tell we loved the place?  The concept is that you get dishes to share.  We started with three appetizers for the four of us:  frizzled white anchovies, bruleed brie with fig jam and fried cippollini onions with tomato aioli.  All were very good.  Then, for our entrees we had steak slices with blue cheese, pork wontons, shredded chicken sliders and lobster thermidor.  It's the lobster that keeps calling my name.  Connie's too.  We'll absolutely be back.

Actor's Theatre did a great job with The Odd Couple.  We've so enjoyed attending there.  And, we'd have bought season tickets had the first play not been a country music filled extravaganza.  Neither of us can quite stomach country music...

Friday evening our bank had a reception prior to the play at Civic.  Since we're already season ticket holders, I just changed our tickets to the correct evening so we could attend both.  This was a reprise of 1940's Radio Hour.  We enjoyed it every bit as much as we did the first time.

Are you tired yet?  We sure were!  Saturday was, as usual, another work day for us.  But, it was one of those Saturdays that I scheduled appointments all day.  Barb and Tom showed up with two big bags of apples and a gallon of homemade apple cider.  Talk about good.  It sure puts the grocery store stuff to shame!  Saturday evening we were supposed to meet our friends Susan and Paul at Twenty Tap for dinner.  They got there at 5:30 and the wait was 90 minutes.  Plan B was in order.  Connie'd have to wait on his deep-fried cheese curds.  We decided Fire by the Monon was a great alternative.  Paul and I had the specials - grouper po-boys.  YUM!  Connie had a good cobb salad and Susan had goat cheese marina and a salad.  With full tummies, we headed off to Hinkle Fieldhouse.  For those of you who aren't from Indiana, Hinkle Fieldhouse is the home court of Butler University and is where the movie "Hoosiers" was filmed.  It was our first time attending a Butler game.  The opposing team was Lamar and the fun fact is that the daughter of friends of ours is married to the Lamar coach.  So, we got to see David and Kathy too. 

Sunday morning I got a call from our friend Lauren asking if we'd like to go out for Ethiopian that evening.  Nope, we really want an evening at home.  And, we were going to go to the Colts game so we'd be gone the middle of the day too.  We were more than ready to get home!

Once home I marched into the kitchen and started cooking for the week.  Red beans went in for a fast soak.  Red beans and rice are on the menu.  Pasta sauce got started so I could finish up the crab ravioli.  Apples got chopped for a hot apple side dish.  BBQ hot dogs got made.  Eggs got hard cooked for cobb salads.  Salami was browned and drained for sandwiches.  Yet another recipe from Michael Symon's 5 in 5. 

Tandoori Roasted Lamb


4-5 lb leg or shoulder of lamb
1/3 c minced cilantro
1/4 c minced ginger
1/4 c minced garlic
1/4 c ground cumin
1/4 c cayenne pepper (I'm a baby, I cut this in half)
2 T ground coriander
2 t ground cardamom
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T ground cloves
1/4 c kosher salt
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c plain yogurt


Trim the lamb.  We used shoulder but the original recipe was for leg.  Mix all the marinade ingredients  and slather the lamb with the marinade.  Refrigerate 1-3 hours. 

 Grill until medium-rare.

adapted from License to Grill

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Three Cheese Chicken Casserole

Sunday dinner.  First we had to cook down the crabapples.  Now, that's a fun story :-)  Then, we had to make slices of happiness.  Done.  Now, what to fix?  Raw lamb shoulder made into Tandoori Style Lamb?  Nope, no yogurt.  Well, then, how about the cooked lamb?  Ummm, no yogurt to make tzatziki sauce.  Well, then, there's a rotisserie chicken in the fridge downstairs.  Great, we'll make Chicken Elegante.  Umm, no frozen chopped broccoli.  Did I use the chutney in the fridge?  It'd make great chicken salad?  Chutney was there but chicken salad wasn't happening.  Probably because the greens for the base of the salad were at work... Well, now, we were not having any luck here, were we?  How about the fried salami sandwiches from 5 in 5?  The provolone is at the office.  The salami and peppers and ciabatta are at home.  But, alas, not the provolone. Fine, we'll make chicken green bean casserole.  Except there's no cream of chicken soup.  We do, however have cream of mushroom soup.  And, leftover mushrooms.  Maybe I could find another casserole...

Yeah, so you're probably wondering about the crabapples.  They're pesky little things.  About halfway between a raisin and a grape.  And, we have a zillion of them.  Three crabapple trees.  So, one evening we got home and grabbed an old sheet from the junque pile.  It went onto the ground below the best bearing crab apple.  Then, we started shaking the tree.  And, grabbing handfuls of crabapples from the tree.  Finally, our arms wore out.  We didn't feel like we had many crabapples.  Then, we picked up our haul.  Maybe we could cook down the whole mess?  Until I checked online and found out that the leaves and stems have a toxic substance when consumed in large amounts.  So, it was time to pick out the leaves and stems.  To the deck we went.  Here's what this all looked like. 

Now, the crabapples have been cooked down with just enough water to cover. I've got about five cups of juice that I'll cook with sugar and turn into crabapple jelly.  But, that's for tomorrow!  Into the fridge with the crabapple juice and on with dinner.

Hunting thru my scanned recipes I found one from Taste of Home called Three Cheese Chicken Bake.  Not only did (and do) I have peppers from the garden to use up but there were leftover sautéed mushrooms from Saturday evening.  And, there was cottage cheese in the fridge to use up.  And, a half a bag of wide egg noodles.  Perfect.  Along the way I added a good dose of dry sherry.  And, I put in a whole medium onion and the equivalent of a large green bell pepper instead of the half cup the recipe called for.  Oh, and I still had that box of Corn Flakes.  Corn Flakes and garlic butter instead of buttered bread crumbs - Yum!  Maybe if I could have that for breakfast I'd eat cereal!

What did we think?  We loved this.  I know there are some really wonderful casseroles out there.  Maybe even some we could call elegant.  This is not elegant.  This is good, old-fashioned comfort food.  This will go into our regular rotation. 

Three Cheese Chicken Bake


1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 8 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained (or better yet, 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced and sautéed)
1 2 oz jar chopped pimentos
2 t dried basil
1/4 c dry sherry (not cooking sherry!)
4 oz - 8 oz wide egg noodles, cooked and drained
3 c cooked chicken, diced
2 c ricotta or cottage cheese
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c shredded Parmesan, divided
1 c Corn Flakes, crushed
2 T butter, melted
1/2 t garlic powder


Sautee the onion and green pepper in the olive oil.  Once they're softened, set the pan aside and allow them to cool a bit.  Heat your oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients through the cheddar cheese.  Add 1/2 c of the Parmesan.  Mix just until it's all mixed together.  The recipe actually calls for mixing the sauce first then mixing it in with the noodles, chicken etc.  I didn't do that because it meant another dirty bowl...  Pour the mixture into a baking dish.  Top it first with the rest of the shredded Parmesan, then the crushed corn flakes, then drizzle it with the garlic butter.  Bake for 40 minutes.

adapted from Taste of Home

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rolled Flank Steak in Tomato Sauce and Mom's Crunchy Topped Potatoes

Our neighbor, Miriam, decided it'd be fun to have a progressive dinner.  I volunteered for the entrée.  She and John did the dessert.  And, John and Mary next door did the salad and the appetizers.  We invited Ernie and Shirley from across the street to join us.   Now, what you don't know is the Ernie was the principal of my grade school.  I have such wonderful memories from those years.  Now, I get to know him as an adult and it's a truly wonderful thing. 

Mary's salad was amazing.  I want the recipe.  A layered salad with lettuce and cauliflower and bacon.  Yum, yum, yum.  We did a rolled flank steak that's pretty much a bracciole, Mom's crunchy top potatoes and rolls with herb butter. 

Since it was the weekend before Halloween, I decided I'd actually get the decorations out and gussy up the dining room.  Thanks to being crazy busy at the office for the last few years, I've skipped the decorations.  It was oodles of fun to see all my old friends.  The biggest problem was that I didn't have any placemats that'd work with a Halloween theme.  So, I started shopping online.  The prices I found ranged from $16 to $4 each.  So, I headed to Tuesday Morning.  Yup, got eight for $10 total.  If I've got to shop, that's the way I like to do it!

Here's what the dining room looks like with very low lights and all the candles:

For my entrée I made three old faithful's.  The rolled flank steak was first made in 1980.  I marked it "Excellent" and still agree with that rating.  A couple of days after the party I took the leftover sauce and added a bit of vodka and cream to it and served it over some crab ravioli.  

Mom's crunchy topped potatoes were always such a treat when we were kids.  Now, as an adult, I also appreciate the fact that other than the topping they're a fabulous make ahead dish.

Last, but not least, herbed dinner rolls.  One of my colleagues in my banking days taught me the trick of making compound butter with loads of fresh herbs and a teeny, tiny bit of lemon juice and Tabasco.  Then, you slather it on the cut rolls or bread, wrap it up and leave it in the fridge for the day.  When you're ready, heat them up like normal.  Here they are chilling out on the counter before I baked them:

Rolled Flank Steak


1 1/2 lb flank steak, butterflied
8 thin slices prosciutto
2 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" thick strips
salt and pepper
3 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 T dried basil
1 t dried thyme


Lay the flank steak flat on a cookie sheet and put it into the freezer for 20 minutes.  While it's in the freezer, put a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté until it's softened.  Add the tomatoes and herbs.  Simmer on medium low heat while you're preparing the flank steak.

Take the flank steak out of the freezer and put in on a large cutting board.  VERY carefully, butterfly it. 

Take each half and pound it to an equal thickness.  Lay four slices of prosciutto on each half.  Starting at the thin end, lay green pepper strips across the steak. 

Roll up, tucking in green pepper strips.  You'll used a whole green pepper for each half.  Make sure the rolls are very tight so the green pepper doesn't squirm out.  Use cooking bands or string and tie the rolls.  Put the other two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  Heat to shimmering.  Salt and pepper the flank steak rolls.  Add them to the skillet and brown well on all sides. 

Once they're browned, put the rolls into the tomato sauce and simmer for at least an hour.  Turn the rolls at least once and spoon the sauce over.  This recipe is VERY flexible on time which is why I chose it for our entrée.  I actually left the rolls simmering for two hours.  The original recipe called for drained plum tomatoes.  I chose to use undrained diced tomatoes so there'd be plenty of liquid for the additional cooking time.

Mom's Crunchy Topped Baked Potatoes


2 c mashed potatoes
1 T butter
1 small onion, finely diced
3/4 c milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
dash of cayenne pepper
2 T butter, melted
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 c Corn Flakes, crushed


Saute the onion in the tablespoon of butter.  Once it's softened, mix it with the mashed potatoes, milk, egg and cayenne.  Put the potato mixture into a baking casserole.  When you're ready to bake it, top it with the grated Parmesan, crushed cornflakes and two tablespoons of melted butter.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chicken Diablo and Skillet-Fried Mac and Cheese

Yet another home run from Michael Symon.  On his 15th wedding anniversary too :-)   I know I've said this before but I'm going to say it again.  5 in 5 is a winner.  This cookbook has so many wonderful, quick, easy, flavorful recipes.  I'd really recommend adding it to your collection.

Friday was supposed to be my day to get a lot done.  It wasn't happening.  We had an audit in the morning.  That went well since I'm pretty detail oriented about making sure that everything's in good order.  But, after that the wheels fell off.  My back and my belly hurt.  I just wanted to be at home in my chair - or better yet on my couch.  Lunch didn't happen.  Needless to say, we went home early.  And, by that time I was finally hungry.  Connie made us a cocktail that was fabulous.  I'll let him tell you about that.  I wanted mac and cheese.  So, I pulled out the Mac and Cheese cookbook by Ellen Brown and started hunting.  I found a perfect one that Alton Brown had deemed the best mac and cheese in America.  When I opened the fridge to get the cheddar cheese, there I was, looking at the chicken thighs that were supposed to be dinner.  Hmmm.  Do I serve mac and cheese as a side along with chicken thighs cooked with loads of yummy veggies or do I just load up on the mac and cheese?  Healthy won out. And, I am certainly glad it did since the chicken was the winner of the evening. 

The only change I'd make would be to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Try as we might we couldn't find boneless, skin on thighs.  So, I used bone in, skin on.  And, they released a veritable torrent of fat.  I had to drain the skillet!  Ok, so actually, I used the full sauce recipe for two thighs.  That meant a whole bite of veggies with each bite of chicken.  If I ever make four or six thighs, I'll double the sauce recipe.  It was that good.

When it came to the mac and cheese, I used an old, faithful skillet.  The cheese stuck.  Not just a little.  It took Connie about 10 minutes to scrape it.  He finally came up with the idea of deglazing it with some white wine.  That worked perfectly.  So, whatever you do, don't use a skillet that's infamous for sticking!

Overall, the chicken was a five and the mac and cheese a four.  Both were fabulous.  The chicken is a super easy weeknight dish that will be a regular around here.  Well, as regular as any dish - probably twice a year :-)

Chicken Diablo


1 T olive oil
2 - 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
1 red or green bell pepper
1 jalapeno minced (the recipe called for rings but I'm a baby...)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 c roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley


Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. 

Heat the olive oil to shimmering in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken on both sides.  Add the bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until they're softened. 

Add the tomatoes, juice and capers. 

Cover the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with the fresh parsley

adapted from 5 in 5 by Michael Symon

Skillet Fried Mac and Cheese


1/2 lb macaroni
2 T unsalted butter
3 T chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 T flour
3/4 c whole milk, warmed
2 T heavy cream, warmed
1/2 t Dijon mustard
8 oz, sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the macaroni, reduce the heat and cook until al dente.  Drain and rinse the macaroni. 

While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are softened. 

Stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes until the flour is just slightly beige.  Remove the bay leaf.  Gradually add the milk/cream mixture, while stirring constantly.  Cook the sauce until it's thickened.  Add the mustard. 

Gradually add the shredded cheddar. 

Once all of the cheese has melted into the sauce, combine the sauce and macaroni. 

Now, while all of the above is going on, heat a large skillet with the tablespoon of olive oil in it.  Once the sauce and macaroni have been combined, pour them into the skillet.  Smooth out the mac and cheese so the entire bottom of the skillet is covered. 

Allow it to cook for three minutes before scraping the mac and cheese and crust off the skillet.  Continue to cook it this way until more than 15% of the mac and cheese has a crust.

adapted from Mac and Cheese