American

dress up your stuffing mix

Stuffing is one of those dishes with the most liberal of interpretations, depending on who makes it and what ingredients are used. Technically, what I make is not stuffing, but rather dressing. It’s not stuffing because it’s not stuffed in anything. (I never roast my bird, and frying a stuffed turkey would just be bad news.) But I like calling it “stuffing” anyway, because that word is just more fun to say than “dressing.” (Plus I always think of salad vinaigrettes when I hear “dressing.”)

One of my earliest memories of stuffing was when I was in college and had a box of StoveTop for whatever reason. Maybe I was looking for an easy side to accompany some chicken I’d made. But I quickly became addicted to StoveTop and would eat it by itself as a full meal. There was so much flavor, and there was something about the pillowy texture that exuded comfort.

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whipped potatoes

When I think of American comfort food, I think of potatoes. I love potatoes in all forms: fried, baked, mashed, smashed, or whipped.

What, you might ask, is the difference between mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, and whipped potatoes? After digging around online, I’ve come up with this answer.
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in the polyscience: sous vide turkey

This was the first Thanksgiving in 12 years that I did not serve a fried turkey for our family Thanksgiving meal. Since my mama-in-law shrinks away from fried foods, we decided to put the new PolyScience immersion circulator to good use and sous vide our turkey instead.
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sous vide new york strip steak

I’m bringing food back! It’s been quite a long while since I posted a recipe. But I recently got a brand new PolyScience immersion circulator, something I’ve been eyeing for quite some time, and now our kitchen has become a 24-hour sous vide factory.

I’m still learning the ins and outs of this beautiful machine, but I thought I’d write about the first food item we cooked in the immersion circulator: New York strip steaks. Now, the strip is not my favorite cut because it’s rather lean when compared to the more marbleized (and, thus, fatty) ribeye. But that’s what we had on hand (because I like variety, and I always get ribeye), and I was anxious to try out the Creative series immersion circulator. The first two strip steaks were cooked at 138°F for 2 hours, and they came out to a medium well. They were good, but not the medium rare I love.

So the second time around, the strip steaks went in for 90 minutes at 130°F. And these were quite possibly the most tender strip steaks I’ve had outside a five-star steakhouse.

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roasted brussels sprouts with candied bacon

Brussels sprouts, as they’re named, are of Belgian and Roman origin. They resemble miniature heads of cabbage, and while that may not sound appealing, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables of late. They’re nutritious and delicious with their anti-cancer properties and earthy, nutty flavor. Overcook them, and they’ll be gross. But when made right, Brussels sprouts offer just the right balance of texture: tender yet crispy. So forget those soggy, bland, dull gray Brussels sprouts of yesteryear. Roast and/or broil them, and you’ll get some stellar sprouts. My foodie twin, Sherry, fed me Brussels sprouts tossed with candied bacon and a classic homemade vinaigrette, and I’ve been dreaming of them ever since. The candied bacon combine both salty and sweet components and add an oomph of flavor to the Brussels sprouts. Then the vinaigrette pushes it into bliss with the acidity edge. Serve them as a first course salad or as a vegetable side component like I did with the dirty rice stuffed Cornish hens. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

Recipe: Candied Bacon

Ingredients

  1. 12 slices bacon
  2. Ground black pepper
  3. 1/3 c. Light brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put bacon slices in a bowl. Season with pepper and toss with brown sugar. Cover baking sheets with parchment or foil and arrange in a single layer. Sprinkle any leftover sugar from bowl over the bacon. Top with another layer of parchment or foil, and top it squarely with a second baking sheet. (This will flatten the bacon as it cooks.)
  3. Place tray in center of oven and bake for 12 to 16 min. Halfway through cooking, flip bacon and drag through syrupy liquid. If bacon is not yet golden brown after 16 min., bake for another 5 to 10 min or until dark as mahogany.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  1. 2 lbs. brussels sprouts, unwashed & halved lengthwise
  2. 3 tbsp. Cooking oil
  3. 2 tbsp. Melted Butter
  4. Salt & pepper
  5. Candied bacon, cut into bite-sized pcs. (see recipe – 2 servings)
  6. 4 tbsp. Vinaigrette dressing (see recipe – add 3 tbsp. reserved bacon fat)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 or 420°F.
  2. Toss brussels sprouts with oil, butter, salt & pepper. Arrange sprouts, cut side down, in one layer on a baking sheet covered with foil. Roast sprouts for 30 to 35 min. Until crispy on top.
  3. Combine sprouts with bacon. Right before serving, toss with vinaigrette dressing.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Recipe: Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients

  1. 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil and/or bacon fat
  2. 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 heaping tbsp. Brown sugar
  4. 1 generous tbsp. honey
  5. Juice from 1/2 lemon
  6. 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  7. Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a sm. Bowl, combine ingredients and whisk until blended.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

roasted lamb chops

Juicy lovely lamb

I don’t understand people who claim they don’t eat lamb because it’s “too gamey.” Duck and lamb, when it’s a good cut of meat and when it’s fresh, have got to be some of the least gamey meat around. But to each his own, I guess.

For me, I adore lamb. And not just because it used to be a cute cuddly hand puppet (I say “used to” because it’s now a juicy pink piece of meat on my plate) but because it tastes pretty darn good. But because it’s expensive, I’d always been intimidated to try it at home. But during a recent trip to Costco, I couldn’t resist. Into our cart went a half rack of lamb (which yields about 7 bones) for $22. After tinkering around online, I found a surefire recipe online. The only thing I changed was to omit the bread crumbs since John was eating low carbs.

Before cooking this, you MUST have a meat or food thermometer. It is vital to cooking all meats—you cannot cook a perfect steak, pot roast, turkey, prime rib, or rack of lamb without one. I just got my digital thermometer at Target, and it’s served me fine. For convenience, buy one with a timer and a alarm option for when it reaches a certain temperature. That way, you can set it to ___°F and go watch “Jersey Shore” until it beeps and announces your rump roast is ready. (Just kidding—don’t watch “Jersey Shore.”)

So here is an easy way to cook a rack of lamb. Try it next time for a special occasion. It makes for a beautiful presentation, especially when served with some colorful vegetables like asparagus and purple potatoes. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Roasted Lamb Chops

 

  1. 1 single (7-bone) rack of lamb, trimmed & frenched
  2. 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  3. 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  4. 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  5. 2 tsp. salt
  6. 1.25 tsp. ground black pepper
  7. 4 tbsp. olive oil
  8. 1 tbsp. dijon mustard

 

  1. Roasted Lamb ChopsMove oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a lg. bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture.
  3. Season rack of lamb with remaining salt & pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in a lg. heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 min. on all sides. Set aside for a few min.
  4. Brush rack of lamb with mustard. Roll in bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the bone ends with foil to prevent charring.
  5. Arrange rack boneside down in skillet. Insert thermometer into rack. Roast for 12 to 18 min. depending on desired doneness. Let it rest for 5 to 7 min., loosely covered, before carving between ribs.

 

To “french” a rack of lamb means to clean the meat, cartilage, and fat between tips of the bones to make for a neater presentation.

Allow for the internal temperature to be 5 to 10 degrees lower than desired since meat will continue cooking once removed from the oven.

Bloody rare – 115-125 degrees
Rare – 125-130 degrees
Med.rare – 130-140 degrees
**Med. – 140-150 degrees

**I like my lamb medium.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

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.

prime rib au jus with horseradish 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 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 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)

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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 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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