Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Artichoke, Mushroom, Chicken, Red Pepper & Feta Pasta Bake

Idea #372 under "400 Uses For A Rotisserie Chicken." Okay, I made that up. I haven't begun to get that far in my list of things to do with a rotisserie chicken...although, if my memory were sharp enough, it might be darn close!

This one is actually a Quickie, because the definition of a rotisserie chicken is practically instant dinner...the first night when you bring it home for a quick dinner and the multiple iterations of the leftovers, too.

Fortunately, I happened to have a few roasted red peppers from the weekend's grilled veggies and some extra baby portobellos, too. If you don't have grilled or roasted red peppers on hand or fresh mushrooms, canned and jarred is just fine. In fact, it would be even speedier. 

Once all the veggies were cooked and everything was warmed through, I simply mixed the veggies with cooked pasta, crumbled some feta in too, seasoned everything well and poured it all in the casserole dish. Into the oven for a spin and BOOM! Dinner. 

This one is easy and ready to delight the family in the blink of an eye. Okay, I made that part up, too. Not quite a blink of an eye, but pretty darned fast!

Artichoke, Mushroom, Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Pasta Bake

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked & drained (use gluten-free pasta to make this GF)
  • 2 C rotisserie chicken breast, torn into large pieces
  • 1 T butter
  • 1T olive oil
  • 12 medium-large baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed & discarded, caps sliced 1/2" thick
  • 1 C roasted red peppers, jarred is fine - cut into 1" squares
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 12 oz jar marinated artichokes, drained (I REALLY like the tang of the artichokes with the creaminess of the cheese!)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 6 oz feta, broken into large crumbles
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, just a little freshly shredded to finish the dish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a shallow casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a skillet, melt butter and olive oil. Add sliced mushrooms and garlic; cook until mushrooms begin to wilt down. Add the red peppers and drained artichokes to the skillet and mix well. Let everything warm before adding the chicken to the skillet, too. 

In a large bowl, mix cooked pasta and the contents of the skillet. Add the additional tablespoon of butter, the oregano, salt & pepper and feta. Mix gently and thoroughly. Pour into prepared casserole dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, grate a little pecorino romano over the top and bake another 15 minutes until the grated cheese is melted. Serve with a green salad.

NOTE: One half of the full chicken breast made 2 C...those Costco rotisserie chickens are HUGE! We'd already enjoyed the thighs and wings the first night, just used half of the breast meat for this know what that means, don't you? Chicken salad for lunch tomorrow! Mmmmm.

Also, I kept the veggie and chicken pieces large because penne is a larger pasta. If you choose to use a smaller pasta, feel free to cut the chicken and veggies smaller. Proportion!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

Sometimes there's nothing quite like a sandwich for dinner. Now I'm not talking about a PB&J on squishy Wonder Bread or even baloney and a square slice of American "cheese" straight from the cellophane (not to diss the cheese...unless, of course, we're talking Velveeta) with a smear of Miracle Whip. Nope, I'm talking about a favorite Italian entree turned into a glorious grilled cheese sandwich. The Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme.

What makes this grilled cheese supreme? Besides warm slices of crispy eggplant, slivers of roasted red peppers, bits of fresh basil, and slices of smoky provolone? Why, both outsides are finished with shredded mozzarella and double grilled to create a crispy, crunchy fried cheese surface. A frico exterior, if you will.

Costco has those beautiful little eggplants in the fresh produce section again, so naturally I bought a bag...then promptly forgot about making them - nothing new there (oops). Once remembered, I set out late in the evening to make a nice big dish of eggplant parm. I started out strong, but once the purple edged veggie slices were oven fried, I simply ran out of time and energy. Instead of cooking into the wee hours, I put them in the fridge for the night after enjoying a couple for "quality control" purposes. The next day, I had "fried" eggplant slices to play with!  

First, I built the sandwiches (and delivered an extra to my sister, Jeanie, for dinner last night). I still have slices to make into individual ramekins of eggplant parm and just to eat as a side dish with grilled chicken or a good medium rare steak. You know, I might just make eggplant slices ahead from now on...I bet it would even freeze to use whenever I wish. Ooooo...and often!

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

  • 2 C fresh or packaged fine breadcrumbs - I used 3 slices of gluten-free bread to make mine GF
  • 1 1/2 t granulated garlic
  • 1/2 t Kosher salt
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 6 small or 3 medium eggplants, tops and bottoms cut off, sliced lengthwise into 1/2" slabs
  • canola oil
  • Pam or other cooking spray
  • jarred roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • smoked provolone slices
  • shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  • Italian bread, cut diagonally into hefty 1" slices
  • a good jarred marinara

First combine breadcrumbs, granulated garlic, salt and oregano in a plastic bag and shake until well mixed. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using 2 baking sheets, pour enough oil on each sheet to just skim the surface. Spray both sides of the eggplant slices with cooking spray, then put a few slices at a time into the breadcrumb mixture. Shake and coat the slices well, place on the baking sheets and repeat until all the eggplant is coated and on the baking sheets. Spray the top sides with cooking spray to help them brown.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until all the eggplant is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Let cool. At this point, either use the eggplant right away for the sandwiches or store covered in the fridge until ready to make the sandwiches or whatever else you may be making.

Sandwich Assembly:
Butter the outsides of the bread slices. In a skillet or griddle, put the buttered side of one slice of bread down, add a slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the bread), then  a layer of eggplant (be sure to warm the eggplant quickly in the oven), strips of roasted pepper, torn pieces of fresh basil, another slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the contents of the sandwich), top with the other slice of bread (buttered side up) and grill until the bottom of the sandwich is beautifully brown. 

The proper amount of shredded mozzarella to finish the sandwich.

Carefully turn the sandwich over, carefully put a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on the already grilled side. When the other side is beautifully browned, carefully turn the mozzarella-ed side down and repeat the shredded mozzarella on the upside of the sandwich. Carefully turn again and brown the second mozzarella-ed side. Be careful not to burn the mozzarella...just brown it until crisp. Remove to a plate and serve with warm marinara to dip.

After the final grilling with the mozzarella browned, crisped, and ready to cut and serve.

DO try this. It. Is. Fabulous! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Smoky & Spicy Pecan Bacon Pimiento Cheese

Busy, busy, busy! Life changes again. This time it's moving and moving on. 

Kimber had moved home quite a while ago when help was needed with Mark, taking shifts at the hospital, getting him to and from doctors appointments once he got home and with this big ol' house (and snow shoveling, mowing, and just the day-to-day stuff). After being back here and working in the 'Burgh, she's decided Pittsburgh is a pretty special place (although she still misses Cleveland) and is making Pittsburgh her home for good. Yay!

Family and neighbors are pitching in together over the next couple of days to move her to her own apartment. Although she's been an awesome roommate, it's time for her to do her own thing again. Thanks, Kimber, for all the help and support over the last year and a half. I couldn't have begun to do this without you...both the tough times and the fun times, too.

Our neighbors across the street - the ones whose three boys Kimber babysat when they were little - are loading up their two pickup trucks, my sister's pickup truck and my SUV and we're tackling this mother as a team! Oh, and those boys Kimber babysat those many years ago? They're big strapping young men who are helping, too. 

Naturally, I'm feeding the crew. It's the least I can do! Pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and pimiento cheese are on the menu. Good hearty food that boys love and that will replenish our reserves to finish the job in one fell swoop. Why pimiento cheese? Joy is from Georgia and just happens to love my version of the southern classic. So this is for Joy and the boys...and Kimber, too. With love and thanks. 

Smoky & Spicy Pecan Bacon Pimiento Cheese

  • 1 1/2 C mayo - Hellman's, of course
  • 1/3 C drained, diced jarred peppadew peppers - or pimientos if you can't find peppadews
  • 1 t worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 t finely grated onion
  • 1 t chipotle powder
  • 1/2 t ancho chile powder
  • 1 t hot paprika

Mix all the above and set aside.

  • 1 1/4 C chopped, toasted pecans
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded - shred this yourself, it makes a world of difference in texture!
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded - shredded on the largest holes of your box grater

Toss the cheeses, pecans and bacon in a large mixing bowl. Pour the mayo mixture over top and mix thoroughly with a heavy duty wooden or metal spoon until completely incorporated.

Spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until about 2 hours before serving time. Letting it come to room temp helps it spread more easily on crackers and makes it easier to dip into with veggies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Carne Rojo (Shredded Beef With Red Chilies)

Happy Cinco de Mayo, all! What's the Mexican classic on the Dinner Plan-it table tonight? My version of a Mexican classic, Carne Rojo, over cilantro rice and garnished with black beans, crema, jalapenos and cilantro. There WILL be a molcajete filled with guacamole, too.   

This recipe may be a little too late for you to make it for tonight's happy celebration of the Mexican victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla, but there's nothing stopping you from making it all throughout the year, is there?  

Are you wondering what makes Rojo red? A TON of chilies! I used Ancho, Chipotle and Guajillo peppers and threw in the additional rosy hue of three kinds of paprika for emphasis...sweet, hot and smoked. For both depth of color and flavor, next I added in ground espresso and ground cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs added sweetness as well as depth and dark brown sugar added even more of a balance of sweetness against the heat of the chilies. Garlic, onion and kosher salt rounded out the rub.

I'd recommend making a double batch so you have plenty of leftovers for tacos or tostadas for the next night's dinner...IF there are any leftovers. Oh. Don't forget a damned good margarita to celebrate in style!

Carne Rojo
(Shredded Beef With Red Chilies)

  • 3 lb chuck roast

  • 2 whole dried guajillo chilies, crumbled - get the dried chilies at Reyna's in the Strip District or even in the Mexican section of Giant Eagle, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's 
  • 3 T ground espresso
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 2 T granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 2 t chipotle powder
  • 2 t ancho chile powder
  • 2 t cocoa nibs, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 t hot paprika
  • 1 t sweet paprika
  • 1/2 t cinnamon

  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 1/2 C water

Combine all the rub ingredients - crumbled guajillo peppers through cinnamon - and mix well. I used my molcajete for this step and ground the guajillo peppers and cocoa nibs together. You could easily use a spice grinder or just mix it all up in a bowl. This makes more than you will need, but save what's next for the next time you make this...there WILL be a next time.

Molcajete filled with Rojo Rub.

Put the beef on a baking sheet and put 2 T of the rub on the top side. Rub the rub into the meat thoroughly, pressing it into the meat and rubbing well. Flip the beef over and do the same thing on the other side.

Rojo rubbed chuck roast ready for browning.

In a deep enamel pot with a cover (one that just holds the beef is ideal, but a larger one is just fine, too), heat the oil on the stovetop. Once it is hot, gently place the rubbed beef into the pot. Brown on one side, then flip gently and brown the other side. Carefully add the water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover with the lid and simmer until the beef falls apart easily. It took 3 hours for mine to get where I like it. Yours may take more or less time, so keep an eye on it and don't let it dry out. If necessary (it wasn't in my case), add a little more water.

Using two forks, shred the beef into the pan liquids and either serve immediately or keep warm until dinner. Or make it a day or two know how things are better the next day! 

Serve over rice or spoon into tortillas or just serve it up in bowls. I spooned it over rice and will use the leftovers for tacos tomorrow.  Don't you love a versatile and delicious recipe? I know I do.