Monday, January 30, 2012

All I Want for Valentines is Buffalo-Blue-Cheese-Crusted-Filet Mignon.

Clearly I was influenced by all the buffalo chicken wing Super Bowl recipes on TV recently. Because I had filets, blue cheese (is it okay that I spell it 'blue' because Wikipedia told me it was) and Panko bread crumbs. And this is what came out. Coincidentally I just secured my husband for another couple years. Until he meets the master-of-chocolate-super-hussie. Then I'm toast.

Buffalo Blue Cheese Crusted Filet Mignon
Serves 2. Unless you don't mind yourself makin' weird, 'private moment' faces in front of company. Then by all means double or triple it!

2 best quality beef fillets, set out of the fridge for 30 minutes to knock the chill off
salt and pepper
olive oil/butter is optional for the steak fanatics

1/4 cup blue cheese
1 oz cream cheese
2 teaspoons white wine or vermouth
small pinch fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon (or more) Franks Red Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons chopped chives or green onions, plus extra for garnish
1 cup panko in a wide bowl for coating

How To:
Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine the blue cheese, cream cheese, wine or vermouth, pepper, hot sauce, and green onions together in a small bowl with a fork until well blended. Use your hands to pat them into 2 patties. Carefully press them - one side, then the other - firmly but gently into the panko crumbs. Do what it takes to make them adhere. Fight stubborn with stubborn - but not to the point that you obliterate your patties. Keep a cool head.

Place the patties on a small baking sheet lined with aluminum foil sprayed with nonstick spray. Set aside while you sear the filets.

Meanwhile, pat any extra moisture off the fillets with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a small pan over medium heat (enough to get a good sear.) Add enough olive oil JUST to lightly coat the bottom. You can add a small bit of butter if you're a steak purist. Let the oil heat through 1 minute. Add the steaks (if the oil doesn't hiss a little, remove them immediately and wait until the oil heats up more.) Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the first side has a nice dark crust on it and the steaks easily move when you try and pick them up. Flip to the other side and cook the same way - just until you get that crust. Remove and transfer to a small baking sheet and put in the preheated oven for 6 minutes (8 minutes for well done.) Remove, tint lightly with more foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drizzle a small bit of olive oil over the top of the blue cheese patties. Put in the oven for 6-8 minutes (also at 400) until the tops are light golden and the patty has 'melted' a bit but not oozed completely lifelessly all over the damn place. See photo above for reference.

Use a spatula to carefully place on top of each fillet and serve. Garnish with additional green onions.

*Notice how many times I spelled 'fillet' differently? Wikipedia was no help on this one therefore I felt it my duty to cover it both ways. Or so I tell myself...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pimiento Cheeseburger Bread for the Super Bowl (& how I learned to love football.)

I officially lack the football gene. It certainly wasn't a 'nurture' problem. My entire family loves football. Case in point - my twin nephews helped Lake Travis earn their record breaking 'Five for Five' State Championship this year. Football's always been a part of my life. I grew up in Texas for Gods sake. Houston Oiler games were a part of my childhood.

And while the men from the serious relationships in my life (husband included) were all completely different animals, the one thing they had in common was an almost unhealthy obsession

Lord knows I've tried to make it work. And tried. But it always ends up the same. I zone out. I start thinking about the pedicure I need or wondering how long that hole's been in the couch or more commonly - slipping into the kitchen to make snacks for those screaming at the TV for yet another play I don't understand.

Come to think of it, maybe football and I have the perfect relationship. Because football = food. And there's nothing I love more in the whole world than an excuse to be in the kitchen coming up with things to feed people. Well look at that... Closure after 34 years. Hooray football!

Pimiento Cheeseburger Bread
* This is a 'bread' in the sense that olive or cheese bread is bread. I.E. it's more like a French Bread Pizza. If serving for a party, cut into 2 inch thick slices. Or if serving as a meal, serve just as you would French Bread Pizza, preferably with a refreshing salad alongside.
* Makes 8 'pizzas' or 32 appetizer slices for a party.

1/2 cup light mayo
1/4 nonfat Greek yogurt
7 oz shredded lowfat (2%) shredded cheddar
1 (8 oz) block sharp white cheddar, freshly grated
4 oz diced pimiento, drained
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
several dashes worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1 lb lean ground beef
2 large French Bread baguettes

How To:
Preheat oven to 375.

Brown the ground beef in a nonstick skillet just as you would for tacos, seasoning with salt and pepper as you cook. You want the beef cooked through but not over cooked (crispy) as it's going to be put in the oven later. Remove from the heat and transfer to a tray lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile start with the pimiento cheese. In a large bowl, combine the mayo, yogurt, cheeses, pimiento, mustard, cayenne, garlic powder, worcestershire, and a pinch salt and pepper. Once well blended, add in the cooled ground beef mixing well.

Slice the baguettes in half then open them up lengthwise. Spread each quarter with the pimiento cheese mixture (lay it on thick!)
Transfer to 2 baking sheets lined with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until the filling is bubbling and molten and the tops have just begin to brown a little. Let cool slightly before serving or slicing into smaller pieces to serve as party food.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cheesy Baked Ravioli, Lightened Up

In light of Paula Deen's big news this week, posting a healthier take on comfort food felt appropriate. What does everyone think of her Diabetes announcement? I have to say my first reaction was sadness and worry for her and my second was disappointment. I love Paula and have watched her for years and never once heard her preach 'moderation.'

Just the gospel of butter. And sugar. And more butter.

Anyway I'd love to know what everyone thinks. I'm not one to throw stones - believe me - I haven't raised the speed on my treadmill over 3.5 since December...or was it October? But it really bothers me that she knew she had diabetes for 3 years and still went on deep frying chicken pot pies and making doughnut cheeseburgers for 'entertainment' sake. At least Giada doesn't pretend she's really scarfing down all the dishes she makes. Since day 1, she has always said she takes 2-3 bites of something and is done with it. I myself fall somewhere in the middle. I could never take just 2 bites of pasta or anything worth eating and be done with it. What would be the point of making it in the first place? I'd rather pile on the fresh veggies, go light on the cheese, then dig in like it's running away from me.

And on that note here's a lightened up (but still cheesy) baked ravioli. It starts with good 'ole store bought ravioli (light) which you don't even have to boil beforehand. Bonus. Double bonus is the fact that it's also a two pot dish, the second of which is the dish you serve it out of.

And for triple bonus points, you can even assemble this the night before you make it if you like and refrigerate it. And I like.

Cheesy Baked Ravioli, Lightened Up
* You can assemble this the night before or the morning of the day you're going to serve it, cover in plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge. To bake off, place in a cold oven turning the oven to 375 and add an additional 10 minutes to the baking time.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
4 cups fresh spinach (not baby), roughly chopped
plenty of freshly grated nutmeg
1 (9 oz) package light, four cheese ravioli (I use Buitoni)
1 1/2 cups jarred tomato sauce
3/4 cup cubed fresh mozzarella (or to make it even lighter, sub low fat grated mozzarella)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesan, divided
kosher salt and pepper, for seasoning
red pepper flakes, optional

How To:
Preheat oven to 375.

Add the olive oil to a large, rimmed nonstick skillet. Put over medium heat and let heat through for 1 minute. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté for 4-5 minutes just until soft. Add the mushrooms, another small pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid and wilted down a bit. Add in the spinach (and a pinch more salt) and sauté stirring often just until they've lost their shape. You want them to look just how they would if you were serving sautéed spinach, but not so wilted down that they're dark green mush. A little body left in them is okay because you're going to cook them more in the oven. Stir in the freshly grated nutmeg and remove from the heat.

Let cool down for five minutes, then stir in the tomato sauce, ravioli, mozzarella, parsley, 2 tablespoons parmesan, and a pinch of black pepper (and red pepper flakes if desired.) Spoon into a greased baking dish (9x9), smooth the top over with the back of your spoon, then sprinkle the last 2 tablespoons parmesan evenly over the top.

Bake covered in foil at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes just to let the parmesan brown a little. (If you want a cheesier crust - then put more parmesan on top.)

Remove and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Triple Chocolate Nut Clusters (Courtesy of your Crock Pot)

My mom makes a similar version to these with Spanish peanuts and milk chocolate. Thanks to my husband I am now partial to dark chocolate (obsessed actually - my preference for super dark i.e. the kind that can strip paint actually scares him.) Anyway his mom brought these with her from Georgia when she visited this past Christmas. They are SO good.

This makes an obscene amount, so hopefully you have plenty of friends to give them to. And if not - you're about to!

Triple Chocolate Nut Clusters
* from Christmas With Southern Living 2006, Oxmoor House

1 (16-ounce) jar dry-roasted peanuts
1 (9.75-ounce) can salted whole cashews
2 cups pecan pieces
18 (2-ounce) chocolate bark coating squares, cut in half
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
4 (1-ounce) bittersweet chocolate baking squares, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine first 7 ingredients in a 5-quart slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW 2 hours or until chocolate is melted. Stir chocolate and nuts; add vanilla, stirring well to coat.
Drop candy by heaping teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Let stand at least 2 hours or until firm. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Croque Madame Pizza with Spinach and Prosciutto

All the loveliness of a croque madam sandwich only better. Because it's pizza y'all.

If you've never had a croque madam, let me tell you what you're missing. Take the best ham and cheese sandwich ever assembled, smother it in a gooey, cheesy beschemal sauce, then broil it until the top is perfectly golden, yet molten and bubbling underneath THEN top the whole thing off with a perfectly fried egg so that when you cut into it, the golden yolk dribbles down over the whole thing, uniting the creamy cheese, salty ham, and slightly sweet bread as one celestial being.

Croque Madames are the single reason you can drink until 7 in the morning in Cannes, then get up at noon and do it all over again. The key is to get one from the Gutter Bar (actually a Croque Monsieur, sans egg) right before you pass out.

Anyway, this pizza captures all of the love and lust of a great croque in pizza form. Instead of slaving over a beschemal sauce on the stove, a similar flavor and texture is achieved through combining goat cheese, parmesan and sour cream (or creme fraiche) together as a spread in addition to fresh chopped spinach which turns it a whimsical, Emerald Isle color.

Of course this pizza would be delicious even without the egg and prosciutto, but if you're going to go to France for the evening, why not live a little?

1 round homemade or store bought fresh pizza dough
1 cup (packed) finely chopped fresh spinach
4 oz goat cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
lots of fresh grated nutmeg (scant 1/4 teaspoon)
1/3 cup parmesan, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons sour cream (or ricotta or creme fraiche)
pinch red pepper flakes
black pepper

olive oil, for drizzling over cheese spread
2 eggs, set out for 10 minutes
4-6 slices of prosciutto, or as much as you like

How To:
Divide the dough in half (you don't have to - but it looks cuter when each pizza gets its own egg in the center versus 2 eggs on 1 larger pizza.)

Roll each pizza out to your desired thickness and transfer to an aluminum lined, non stick sprayed baking sheet (2 if necessary.)

Preheat oven to 425.

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped spinach, goat cheese, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg, parmesan, sour cream, and peppers until well blended. You can do this earlier in the day if you like and keep the mixture covered in the fridge until you're ready to assemble.

Spread the mixture out onto your prepared dough, either with a butter knife or using your fingers - whatever works for you. Try to get it as evenly across the dough as possible but don't worry if it clumps up in places as long as some of it is anointing the entire dough.

Bake at 425 for 5-6 minutes, JUST until the edge of the crust begins to set (whiten) but not yet becoming golden or crispy. Remove the pizzas and whop up the heat to broil (500). meanwhile, working quickly but carefully, crack an egg right over the center of each, then carefully (slowly so you don't sling the egg off) but immediately return to the oven now set on broil on a high shelf. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the edges are golden and the egg has 'set' (is no longer a wobbly mess when you lightly shake the pan. It's okay for the yoke still to be a little runny - in fact that's the goal - but you want the whites cooked and the crust and cheese to be nice and golden.

Remove and immediately cover with a bit more parmesan cheese and little strips of prosciutto torn up with your fingers - as much as you like.

Let sit another minute to finish setting the yolk, then slice and serve. Voila!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year Black Eyed Peas

Either I'm officially getting old or cream cheese can make me like just about anything. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Happy New Year Black Eyed Peas

11 oz fresh black eyed peas
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, just enough to sauté onion in
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, preferably not baby
2 tablespoons diced green chiles, from a can
3 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

How To:
Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in black eyed peas. Return to a boil and boil until tender but not mushy, about 7 minutes. When ready, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, add oil to a large rimmed sauté pan and put over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and sauté until tender and translucent. Add the spinach, cooking for another minute or two until the spinach begins to wilt a bit. Next stir in the cream cheese and chiles, lowering the heat slightly and stirring until the cream cheese has melted into the onions. Add in the parmesan and black eyed peas, stirring well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away or at room temp.