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Recipes for inspiration in the kitchen

Penne with vodka sauce

Penne with vodka sauce

Spicy and creamy

In the recipe exchange I had participated in, I received a recipe for penne a la vodka. I pieced that recipe together with one I found on All Recipes and came up with this one. It was the third dish to the four-course Italian birthday meal, and Joy even said the sauce was her favorite part of dinner. The great thing about this dish is it’s quick and simple and delicious. This is definitely a valuable addition to the repertoire. I even got to use parsley picked fresh from our garden. If the Blind can Cook this, you definitely can.

Recipe: Penne with Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 (3.5 oz.) Italian sausage
  • 3 strips of pancetta or bacon, cut into pcs.
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. vodka
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Cook penne al dente. Drain.
  2. In a med. saucepan, heat oil over med. heat. Remove sausage from casing and add to pot along with pancetta or bacon, breaking up the sausage and stirring until browned. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer approx. 15 min.
  4. Add vodka and half-and-half or cream, and bring to boil. Toss with penne and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with parmesan cheese if desired.

Variations

I used turkey Italian sausage and turkey bacon for a slightly healthier option. Taste is not compromised.

For a little green in the dish, consider adding spinach into the saucepan as you add the tomatoes. Simmer until spinach is to desired wiltedness.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Tuscan potato soup

Tuscan potato soup

Missing the kale. Boo.

The second course of the Italian birthday dinner was this Tuscan potato soup which is very similar to Olive Garden‘s bottomless potato soup. I found the copycat recipe online years ago and have been making it since. It’s a little spicy (which you don’t expect), and the blend of vegetables, meat, and the creamyb chicken broth all make for a flavorful soup. Because it’s not too thick, it’s not super filling, and thus makes a proper second course for a four-course meal. But because it’s creamy, it’s still hearty enough to please the palate.

The kale adds a little texture and color to the soup but my husband had picked out the wrong kale at the grocery store–I needed the curly, leafy kind but he chose one that tasted like straight-up grass and dirt. Who knew there was more than one kind of kale? So sorry, but this phohto doesn’t have the green kale. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Tuscan Potato Soup

Summary: A knock-off of Olive Garden’s soup

Ingredients

  • 3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 9 c. water
  • 3 to 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, loosely grounded
  • 4 lg. red potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 lg. white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 c. chopped kale leaves

Instructions

  1. In a lg. stockpot, combine water, chicken broth, salt, and potatoes. Set to a low boil.
  2. In a separate pan, fry up bacon until slightly crispy. Set bacon aside, saving the grease in the pan.
  3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon, add the Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil. Simmer on low until sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add bacon and sausage mixture into the soup pot. Mix the garlic, cayenne pepper, and half-and-half into the soup pot. Cover and simmer on low for 30 min.
  5. Five min. before serving, stir in the chopped kale leaves.

Variations

I used turkey bacon and Italian turkey sausage for a slightly healthier option. (And also because my husband doesn’t eat pork.)

Cooking time (duration): 60

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Voila! Classico antipasto italiano.

A classic antipasto italiano–Italian Appetizer–is bruschetta, pronounced with a short “u” as in “brush” and a hard “ch” sound like a “k” as in “basket”. Many Americans incorrectly use a long “u” and a soft “shh” sound, and while this is acceptable in most English speaking countries, I like to use the authentic Italian version, complete with rolling R’s and gusto.

Now that we’ve got the pronunciation stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the dish itself. I recently hosted another birthday dinner for friends Joy, Joanna, Heari, and Teresa. Their birthdays stretched way back from February and into the future to May; everyone’s lives had just been too busy for us to coordinate dates. But finally, during a recent Saturday evening, we found ourselves seated around my farmhouse table sharing a meal together.

I decided to go with A Night in Tuscany as the theme since they all enjoy those ever-so-reputedly-bad-for-you carbs. For the first course of the four-course meal, I made this classic bruschetta dish. It turned out yummy; the red onion added a sweet yet pungent kick to each bite. I used Genovese basil fresh from our garden and a saltier, French butter on the baguette slices before baking. The creamy richness of the butter (which my dad bought for us from a Vietnamese grocery store) added an extra oomph to the bruschetta. Perfection in every bite. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Bruschetta

Summary: Original recipe courtesy of my friend Karen

Ingredients

  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced & strained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • minced garlic (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • balsamic vinegar to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 baguette, sliced into 3/4″ slices
  • melted butter
  • 1/8 c. grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, and basil. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss well and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spread butter on each baguette slice. Bake at approx. 350 degrees for 3 to 5 min. or until butter is melted and bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Top with tomato onion mixture. Add parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Variations

You can add minced fresh garlic to the tomato and onion mixture if desired. Italian food is known for the garlic, after all.

Cooking time (duration): 20

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Cajun crawfish boil

Since we are in the throes of crawfish season (which lasts from January to June), I decided to do this post. Crawfish (or crayfish or crawdaddy, as they’re known in other parts of the country) are little shellfish that resemble tiny lobsters. Here in the dirty South, we call them crawfish. They are little “mudbugs” that live in the swamps, and yes, while this sounds disgusting, they are actually delicious when cooked Cajun-style.

First, let’s define Cajun cuisine. Often, it’s confused with Creole cuisine, but there is, in fact, a difference per se. The Creoles were wealthy planters who settled in southern Louisiana with their European chefs, thus it is a food of aristocracy. Using Old World techniques on indigenous ingredients, Creole cuisine was born. Bouillabaisse, native to Provence, gave way to gumbo; the Spanish paella was the basis for jambalaya; and so on.

The Cajuns, on the other hand, descended from the Acadian refugees. They were less aristocratic and more agrarian; they cooked simple “one pot” dishes for mere sustenance. Cajun food is usually characterized by such ingredients as wild game, seafoods, wild vegetables and herbs. Ingredients from nearby swamps, woods, and bayous are typical things found in the Cajun black iron pot.

Today, many Creole and Cajun foods have blended into a melting pot, if you will, of southern Louisiana. One things’ for sure, though: it’s an American cuisine from the South like no other.

A crawfish boil is an event native to Louisiana but over the years has spread to most of the deep South (like my native Houston), and now, it can even be found in California, Colorado, and D.C. But because I’m a Southern girl, I don’t trust eatin’ crawfish nowhere but down he’e. What’s unique and fun about a crawfish boil is the atmosphere. Not only are you grubbin’ on good food, but you do it outside on a picnic table covered with newspaper or butcher paper. You do it over beer. You do it with your bare hands. (Or if you’re prissy like me, with plastic or latex gloves.) Most importantly, you do it with good company–it is NOT to be eaten alone. The crawfish and all the fixin’s are poured straight from the pot onto the middle of the table, and everyone grabs from the steaming pile of awesome goodness.

This recipe is based on one I got from a former coworker who has French roots from southern Louisiana. Whether she’s Creole or Cajun, I have yet to determine, but either way, this recipe is pretty tasty. She and her family do a crawfish boil every year for about a hundred friends and family. I, of course, scaled down the servings and tweaked it a little, but remember that you need to do this with a group. Also, it’s like a half day affair, so make sure you have lots of energy. I haven’t held a crawfish boil myself since 2008 because the purging, cooking, and especially the cleaning up have been too much for this tired soul. But when the best restaurants around town sell crawfish for $7+ per pound, a little DIY is something to consider.

Crawfish

Crazy Cajun crawfish

Recipe: Cajun Crawfish Boil

Summary: From the Melancons of southern Louisiana

Ingredients

  • 30-40 lbs. live crawfish
  • 3 lemons, halved
  • 2.5 tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 med. onions, halved
  • 9 unpeeled garlic heads
  • 1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2.5 tbsp. Louisiana brand hot sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 lg. pkg. Louisiana brand crab/seafood boil powder
  • 12 oz. cans pineapple slices
  • 10 med. red potatoes
  • 1 lg. pkg. button mushrooms
  • 2 lbs. sausage links
  • 30 sm. frozen corn on the cob
  • 1/2 canister of salt

Instructions

  1. Crawfish must be purged before cooking to rid the shellfish of dirt and impurities: an hour before cooking, dump live crawfish into a lg. bin and rinse with water. Dump water and repeat. Refill bin with enough water to cover crawfish. Add half the salt canister and stir.
  2. Fill the pot’s basket with crawfish. Place the basket inside the pot and fill pot with water to cover crawfish. Remove basket and note the water level. Dump water and refill pot to the noted water level.
  3. Heat water to rolling boil. Add Louisiana powder, squeezed lemons plus their rinds, minced garlic, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and pineapple slices plus juice.
  4. Dump crawfish into bin. Rinse 2 more times.
  5. Dump crawfish, potatoes, onion halves, and garlic heads into basket. Hose down.
  6. When water reaches rolling boil, carefully lower basket into pot. Bring back to rolling boil, and then time for 4 min.
  7. After 4 min., turn off fire. Add corn, sausages, and mushrooms. Let stand for at least 20 min. The longer it soaks, the spicier the batch.

Quick Notes

Cook the crawfish outdoors using the same pot, basket, and propane burner used for deep-fried turkey.

Many people say the larger the better, but I like medium-sized crawfish best because: (1) they’re easier to peel, and (2) they soak up the spices better.

Use andouille or boudin sausage for an authentic Cajun boil.

Avoid eating the crawfish with straight tails: they went into the pot already dead and could contain harmful bacteria. Stick with the curled tails.

Dipping sauces: I like to eat my crawfish straight up without any dipping sauces as I prefer to taste the essence of the spices. But many people enjoy it with various condiments. The ones I often see are: (1) salt and pepper with fresh lemon juice; (2) mayo mixed with Sriracha (or rooster) hot sauce; and (3) Creole seasoning mixed with fresh lemon juice.

This recipe should serve approx. 10.

Variations

The longer the crawfish soak after turning off the fire, the spicier they will be. Soak for a minimum of 20 min.

My favorite crawfish restaurant in Houston is The Boiling Crab. They seem to use a ton of minced garlic on their crawfish, which I may try to emulate next time by upping my minced garlic by ten or something. If you get to this before I do, let me know how it is.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Vietnamese eggrolls (spring rolls?)

Eggrolls

Crisphy cha gio on top of a bed of vermicelli

Cha gio, or Vietnamese eggrolls: one of my favorite things to eat. I can make 100 of them and nibble on them every day for weeks. I never get tired of this homemade version which is a recipe I modeled after my own mother’s. And you know mama’s home cookin’ is the best kind of cookin’ they is.

My mom used to make these as a treat every once in awhile, and they’re so good that I don’t even eat them with nuoc cham, or the fish dipping sauce that is a staple condiment for many Vietnamese. I prefer the eggrolls virgin, untouched and unmarred by any any additional sauce or lettuce or vermicelli. Of course, eating them this way makes them disappear much quicker, so I like to feed them to others with a bowl of vermicelli (bun cha gio).

This recipe is not exactly my mothers–she passed away when I was 14, an age before I became interested in cooking. But of the dozens of Saturday mornings I spent in the kitchen peeling eggroll skin after eggroll skin for her, I got to “know” the ingredients by sight and smell. It sounds a little sick, but I loved inhaling the aromatic raw meat and vegetable mixture that is to become the eggroll filling. As a matter of fact, I still do that today when I make eggrolls–that’s the only way I know if the mixture needs more fish sauce or garlic or whatever.

So eggrolls being one of the things I missed most from my mama’s kitchen after she died, I came up with my own concoction that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, tastes incredibly similar to hers. Now if only I was talented enough to figure out her homemade pho from scratch.

Eggrolls contain pork, but one time in elementary school for an international culture week, my mom substituted the ground pork with turkey because I had a Muslim classmate. Now that I have a husband who avoids beef and pork, I too make my eggrolls with ground turkey. They’re not as juicy but they’re healthier. (Well, as healthy as they can be after being submerged in the canola oil.).

I must say cha gio are my masterpiece, but they’re only made like once a year because the whole process–from chopping the veggies to wrapping the eggrolls to frying them–used to take six hours or something insane. Thank God for the food processor, which now has cut my prep and cook time down to a mere four hours. (Har, har.) Don’t let that scare you away from attempting them though; keep in mind that I’m a slow worker, not to mention blind. So remember that if I can do it, so can you. And I encourage you to try this.

Recipe: Vietnamese Eggrolls

Summary: Based on my mom’s cha gio recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground pork or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & minced
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg. carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. dried cat ear mushroom (black fungus)
  • 6 (1.75 oz.) pkgs. dried bean thread noodles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 pkgs. egg roll wrappers or rice paper
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Soak mushrooms and noodles in hot water until tender, about 5 to 10 min. Then finely chop either with knife or food processor.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a lg. bowl and season with pepper to taste.
  3. If using eggroll wrappers, use beaten egg to seal. If using rice paper, simply wet paper and roll, using about 2 rounded spoonfuls of filling in each eggroll.
  4. Heat oil and test for readiness by dropping the tip of an eggroll into the oil. It is hot enough if it immediately begins to sizzle. Fry eggrolls until golden brown, about 4 to 7 min. each.

Quick Notes

Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows the flavors to meld together better.

Don’t overstuff your eggrolls or else they will either burst or not cook through.

The folding technique is as follows: if using the square eggroll wrappers, set the skin so that it is a diamond in front of you. Set the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold the corner pointing at you up over the mixture. Then fold in the two sides. Then roll eggroll away from you, sealing the far corner with a little bit of beaten egg. If using round rice paper for skin, simply wet the banh trang in a lg. bowl of very hot water. It just needs to be immersed for a few seconds; don’t oversoak–the paper will get more and more pliable as it soaks up the water. Oversoaking the rice paper results in mushy skin that will tear easily. Place the circular skin in front of you, place the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold in the same pattern as with the square skins, but omitting the beaten egg for sealing.

Line the cooked eggrolls on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil. Paper bags, I heard, do a better job of soaking up the oil without making the eggrolls soggy.

Variations

The authentic Vietnamese eggroll uses rice paper for the skin, but many use the Filipino lumpia eggroll skin nowadays. Just be sure not to use the Chinese eggroll skin; I made that mistake the first time I ever made eggrolls (yes, back in college), and the skin puffed up like a wonton crisp, which is NOT what you want.

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

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Tuna casserole

Starkist

Say hello to Charlie. Then eat him in this casserole.

The holidays are always a frenzy, especially in the kitchen. You’ve got all four burners going on the stove, three different things in the oven, another in the convection oven, something in the slow cooker, maybe even on the grill or deep-fryer outside. It’s no wonder that we just want to all take it easy after the holidays are over.

Enter the tuna casserole. It’s simple and quick to make, and produces a hearty one-dish meal for the entire family. And it also makes for good leftovers–send it with your husband to work, serve it to the kids after school, eat it yourself at your desk while trying to take care of work and household tasks. It allows a combination of flavors all in one dish, so there’s less clean-up without sacrificing blandness.

Maybe for some culinarians (is this even a word?), tuna casserole sounds oh so boring, unadventurous. And while I do think of it as the typical American meal originating from the 1950s with the picture-perfect housewife in her petticoat, apron, and pointy-cupped bra holding a spatula in one hand and the tuna casserole in the other, I was, for whatever reason, craving a college comfort food. Yes, in college, I was the master of Hamburger Helper and Tuna Helper. It was one of the first things I learned to “cook.” But now that I’m a decade older, I thought maybe I should skip the meal-in-a-box and try making it from scratch.

Besides being a college comfort food, Starkist tuna is a childhood favorite. I know most of you will cringe at the thought of this, but my mama used to feed me rice mixed with tuna and fish sauce. The tuna always had to be the kind in vegetable oil (I don’t even know if they had the spring water kind then, and even if they did, it would’ve been too dry and blegh), and she’d mash the rice/tuna/fish sauce mix with the back of the spoon–the oil aiding in coagulating the rice mixture, shaping it into a mound inside the bowl before placing it in my happy, open arms. To this day, I still crave this comfort food from my younger years every so often. My husband always makes a face, saying it’s disgusting, but one can never explain one’s comfort food, right?

Anyway, this tuna casserole is an adequate Americanized substitute for my rice and fish sauce variety. I found it still tasty for days afterward. I love the browned cheese. Yum!

Note: As much as it is delicious, tuna casserole is definitely not photogenic For this reason, I decided to forego the picture and just post a pic of Charlie the Tunafish instead. Don’t ask me how I know the logo’s name.


Recipe: Tuna Casserole

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 oz.) pkg. egg noodles, cooked to al dente
  • 2 (6 oz.) cans tuna, drained
  • 2 (10.75 oz.) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 c. fresh or canned sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/4 c. minced onion
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. Ritz crackers, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a lg. bowl, combine, egg noodles, tuna, cream of mushroom, peas, mushrooms, onion, and 1 c. cheddar cheese. Spread in a lightly greased 9″x13″ baking dish. Cover with cracker crumbs and remaining cheddar cheese.
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 min. or until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Variations

I used Ritz crackers in my version since this is what I had on hand. But the original recipe calls for 1 c. crushed potato chips. If this is what I happen to have on hand next time, I’ll use chips instead. Or try using Panco bread crumbs; as Alton Brown puts it, they offer a better breading alternative than just regular bread crumbs.

Cooking time (duration): 25

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: lunch

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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This is a dish I really did cook entirely on my own, so if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Vietnamese shaking chicken (or beef)

Ga luc lac or bo luc lac are French influenced dishes consisting of seared and sauteed bpcubes of meat served with a vinaigrette dressing. The term “luc lac” comes from the sound of the meat shaking in the pan while cooking. The dish is usually made of sirloin or ribeye steak, but I decided to go a slightly healthier route and make it with chicken. Whichever meat you choose, it’ll be tasty.

You can serve it with white rice or a French style fried rice (recipe posting TBD). This is often a favorite at Tan Tan and Sinh Sinh restaurants (reviews of these places also TBD).

The picture below is of the beef version which is on Rasa Malaysia. The one we took of our chicken version turned out too dim for the web.



Bo luc lac (Shaking beef)

Photo courtesy of Rasa Malaysia



Recipe: Vietnamese Shaking Chicken (or Beef)

Summary: Original recipe for beef from Ravenous Couple on Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs or beef sirloin or ribeye, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Marinade:
    • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
    Vinaigrette dressing:
    • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tbsp. salt
    Dipping sauce:
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch watercress, long stems trimmed (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients with the meat. Refrigerate and let marinate for 30 to 90 minutes.
  2. Prepare vinaigrette by combining vinaigrette ingredients. It should be a balance of sour, salty, and sweet. Pour 3 to 4 tbsp. over the onion and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat. Add onion and meat 1 layer at a time and sear for about 2 minutes. Then shake the wok to sear all sides of the meat, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Prepare dipping sauce by combining ingredients.
  5. Drizzle vinaigrette on top of meat and serve with tomatoes, rice, and dipping sauce.

Variations

I accidentally added cupfuls of sugar instead of tablespoonfuls. (This is what happens when you are blind and have to juggle all the measurements in your head.) We managed to throw a lot of it out and salvage the dish, but in the end, it wasn’t too sweet at all. I also used brown sugar instead of white as a healthier alternative.

The original recipe called for slightly pickled red onions but I prefer mine sauteed with the meat. I can’t get enough of that scrumptious sauce flavor so I just added the onion to the wok while cooking the meat. I also substituted green onion since that’s what was in my fridge, and I needed to get rid of it. But using actual onion is preferable.

I also cut the rice vinegar by half for the vinaigrette. This worked out much better. I would maybe try white vinegar and even less of it next time to see how that turns out.

Lastly, the original recipe called for more oil to be added to the wok for cooking but I found the sesame oil in the marinade was enough to keep the meat from sticking to the wok surface. Otherwise, it’d be a super greasy dish.

Cooking time (duration): 30 (excluding marinade time)

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Prime Rib Au Jus with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Ta da! The main entree served with the roasted new red potatoes and the country green beans is prime rib.

I have not had the privilege to consume a lot of prime rib in my life, but I can tell you the best prime rib I’ve had is at San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib. They serve succulent slices of prime rib cut off the cart right in front of your table. And the best thing is seconds are on the house. They don’t advertise this on the menu but guests are allowed a second serving of prime rib–all one has to do is ask.

I decided to do a prime rib with horeseradish cream sauce for this year’s Christmas lunch because my dad was tired of fried turkey, and as the thought of roasting a duck for the first time at a family holiday gathering was intimidating, I settled on prime rib instead. Originally, I was going to purchase a pre-marinated prime rib from Costco but when I realized that marinating your own prime rib was a fairly simple process, I decided to forego the ready-to-go prime rib at $8.99/lb. and go for the naked slab of USDA beef at $7.99/lb. I bought a five-pound hunk of prime rib, assuming that my family, with their dainty appetites, will only eat about half a pound each. (I heard my relatives are also bringing lobster and chicken wings.)

The must-have tool for cooking prime rib (and just about any big chunk of meat, for that matter) is the digital meat thermometer. We got ours last-minute from Target the other night for roughly $20. Cooking meats–whether it’s beef, pork, and chicken, and whether you roast, grill, or fry it–requires an exact temperature reading to indicate doneness. It’s a shame I’ve been cooking all these years without using one; I usually just get John to cut the meat open and look to see if it’s pink or bloody or done. But as cooking is as much a science as it is an art, the best way to produce consistent, edible, and desirable results is to use a thermometer. There are even digital talking thermometers for the blind, and I will one day get to blogging about all these independent living aids for the blind (I know I keep saying that, but I promise.)

The prime rib should be served with two sauces: an au jus and a horseradish. Au jus is French for “with juice,. In French cooking, au jus is usually made by taking the natural drippings from the roasted meat and served as an accompaniment to enhance flavor. In American cooking, however, au jus refers to a sauce that may or may not be made from the pan drippings but is almost always prepared by combining other ingredients such as beef broth, soy sauce, or worcestershire sauce and reduced to a sometimes gravy-like consistency. American au jus is frequently made separately using additional external ingredients whereas the French au jus is purer in the sense that it’s the natural juices produced during cooking.

Horseradish cream sauce provides a little creamy kick to the savory meat. I find that horseradish meshes well with beef: think of a roast beef sandwich topped with horseradish sauce. (Hello–Arby’s!) So without further adieu, here are the triple decker recipes to make prime rib, au jus, and horseradish sauce.

Note: Pictures to come after Christmas.


Recipe: Prime Rib

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (5 lb.) standing beef rib roast
  • 2 tsp. kosher or rock salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Allow roast to stand at room tempreature for at least 1 hr.–very important!
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a sm. bowl. Place the rib roast on a rack in the roasting pan, fatty side up. Rub seasoning on the roast.
  3. Place the thermometer in the meat, and roast in oven for 1 hr. Turn off oven, and let roast sit inside the oven for 2 to 3 hrs. Do not open oven door–the roast is still cooking. Before serving, turn the oven back on to 375 degrees and roast for another 30 min. or so to heat through. The internal temperature should read at least 145 degrees when ready. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 min. before carving and serving. Serve with au jus and horseradish sauce.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Recipe: Au Jus

Ingredients

  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can French onion soup
  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can beef broth
  • 1 can cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Bring ingredients to boil in a med. saucepan. Strain, discard onions, and serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 3.5 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Recipe: Horseradish Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. to develop flavors. Serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 1.25 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Roasted new red potatoes

2010 will be our first Christmas celebrated as husband and wife. To mark this mini milestone, John and I are hosting Christmas lunch for some of our family. So what’s on the menu this time?

Well, I started off the month of December with a cold, and so the rather unfortunate circumstance had me rethinking whether we should even host a holiday gathering at our house at all. But then after some of the Nyquil fog cleared from my head, I decided maybe we’ll just buy pre-marinated meats from Costco, pop it in the oven Saturday morning, and call it a meal. But when we went to Costco to look for something, there weren’t really many options. And so back to the ol’ drawing board it was; time to go to plan B.

Then I found a recipe for [insert mystery meat here] online and decided the [insert mystery meat here] wouldn’t be too difficult to make. So after running it by my husband, we’ve decided to go ahead and attempt yet another fancy dinner from scratch. So what is the mystery entree? You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out. What I will tell you is that this side dish and the quick and easy and delicious country green beans are what we’ll be serving alongside the main entree. Can you guess what it’ll be?

Potatoes are so versatile and yummy. They can go in soups, stews, or salads. They can be baked, mashed, pan-fried, or deep-fried. At the grocery store, there are mountains of potatoes, and I’m talking potatoes of all kinds: russet, white, yellow, gold, red, new, fingerlings…The options are endless. So how do you go about choosing the perfect potato? It all depends on what you are trying to do with the spud. This calls for a lesson in potatoes, which I’ll be posting soon. But for now, let’s cut to the chase. We’ve got four days till the Noel and no time for B.S.

These potatoes should be fabulous complements to a savory meat. Serve a few as a side next to roasted chicken, roasted duck, rack of lamb, strip steak. Their simplicity should add to the dynamic flavors of the dish, not vie for center stage. And with only four ingredients and two cooking steps, this is definitely a dish the Blind can Cook.


Recipe: Roasted New Red Potatoes

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. small new red potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Adjust rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, salt & pepper. Arrange, cut side down, on a single layer on a lg. lipped cookie sheet or baking pan.
  2. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 min. (Check after 20 min.) Transfer to a serving bowl.

Variations

For something a little extra, try sprinkling rosemary, parsley, or basil over the potatoes halfway through roasting.

Cooking time (duration): 40

Diet type: Vegan

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Gingerbread cookies

Hello! Happy holidays! Welcome to the week of Christmas. Every day this week up until Saturday the 25th, I will post an entry featuring–of course–food. So let the blogging and cooking begin…

As with most desserts containing warm, rich spices of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and/or cinnamon, gingerbread cookies are a tasty holiday treat. I usually like to bake these and snickerdoodles to give away during Christmas. I’m posting the recipe a few days before Christmas just in case you’d like to have them all wrapped up in pretty ribbon for your guests by the holiday.

The first time I ever bit into a gingerbread man was when I was in the seventh grade, and my friend, Jennifer, had baked a dozen as my Christmas present. They came neatly wrapped inside a paper box designed to look like a little gingerbread house. At first, I didn’t think I’d like the spicy cookies–I didn’t like much of anything with ginger in them, let alone dessert–but I was pleasantly surprised that the cookies were very delicious. In fact, the spices made them perfect for munching on a cold winter’s day. Gobble them up with a glass of milk by the fire, and you’ve got a true American Christmas. And as always, if the Blind can Cook it, you can too.

A photo will be posted as soon as I bake them and get John to take a picture.


Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies

Summary: An easy recipe that doesn’t require molasses. Originally from All Recipes. Number of cookies made depends on the size of your cookie cutter. Usually makes 15 to 30 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, cream together butterscotch mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir in the pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hr.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
  4. On a floured board, roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness using a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter (I have both gingerbread man and mitten shapes) to cut into shapes. Place about 1″ apart on the cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 min. or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack. Decorate with frosting if desired.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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