Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Double Bacon, Swiss & Spinach Quiche Burgers

It's burger night and the weather is crappy out there. The deck is a mess of wind, rain, sleet and hail...kind of a perfectly miserable storm of horror to the U. S. Postal Service and a nightmare for the grilling aficionado. The postman might deliver in weather like this, but do WE really have to bundle up and suck it up to deliver a burger to the dinner table? No.

Sometimes an indoor burger is exactly right for the occasion. Any time I'm making a burger with chicken or turkey, I want to cook it ALL the way through. Not only that, but without the higher fat content beef has, poultry burgers don't hold together as well on the grill. Pan frying or broiling is definitely the way to go. Especially on a night like this.

The flavors of a classic Quiche Lorraine have been haunting my brain lately. Burger night...quiche...why not a burger that echoes that brunch fave? Crisp cooked bacon, red onion, fresh spinach and Swiss cheese would make one really good burger! Using ground chicken instead of beef, allows the quiche-iness come through more clearly.

If quiche is good, then quiche TWICE would be even better. So I doubled down the spinach, smoky bacon and melted Swiss on top of the grilled burger. The result? Real men DO eat Double Bacon Swiss & Spinach Quiche Burgers! Mark loved them! 

Double Bacon, Swiss & Spinach Quiche Burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 3 slices crisp, cooked bacon, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or more to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 8 slices crisp, cooked bacon
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • fresh spinach
  • 4 hamburger buns - gluten-free buns to make these GF

In a mixing bowl, lightly mix the ground chicken, shredded Swiss, chopped onions, chopped spinach, diced bacon, nutmeg and salt & pepper. Form into 4 patties.

Heat a heavy skillet and add a tablespoon or so of oil.  When the skillet is hot, add the burgers. Cook all the way through, but don't overcook them - keep them juicy!

Top the burgers with Swiss cheese and let it melt before building the burgers on buns with sliced onion, fresh spinach leaves and crisp bacon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Veal with Spinach, Gorgonzola & Mushrooms

Plans sometimes have a way of changing because of inconvenient little problems wrapped around pesky simian-sounding tools. A.K.A., monkey wrenches. Pow! The plan gets blown to smithereens.

That's exactly what happened with Saturday night's dinner. I'd planned (notice the past tense) to make a quick and simple veal cutlet with spinach, mushrooms, lemon and gorgonzola. I figured on a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up what I needed and dinner would be ready in a snap. We hadn't had veal in many years...couldn't wait!

After picking up pre-sliced fancy mushrooms and lucking upon a mild and tangy buttermilk gorgonzola, I headed back to the meat case at our local market - which shall remain unnamed. (Okay, the initials are GE and I'm NOT talking General Electric, if you get my drift.) A quick search of the service meat case produced no veal to be seen.

After waiting a while for the "butcher" to finally look up from his meat-wrapping intensity way in the back of the prep area, I asked if there was veal cutlet to be had. He came around the case, lead me past the "service meat" counter to the prepackaged meat case area and grandly showed me the "veal." 

Not only was it prepackaged, it hadn't even been packaged in their own meat department. Good lord, it was vacuum sealed from some big veal factory from God knows where and pre-sliced into what was billed as scallopini. Scallopini? Looked like scraps to me. Nope. Not gonna.

Okay, I'm flexible...instead of veal cutlet and weiner schnitzel, I'd compromise and do a pork cutlet and make it a schwein schnitzel. Nope. No pork cutlets either. Did I think "service meat" in a grocery store would be an actual butcher shop with real, cut-able meat? What century did I think I was living in?

So I headed to the Strip District and Strip District Meats. Surely the huge butcher shop lined on both sides with rows of end-to-end display cases, piled sky high with meats would carry veal. Yes! They did! 

The nice young woman behind the counter led me past those long lines of cases stacked with chicken, pork belly, pork chops and steaks to the veal area at the back of the store. To the FREEZER CASE in the back of the store! Oh they had veal alright, frozen, pre-packaged, vacuum sealed veal. Oh HELL no, not again.

I could have used chicken. But that's not what we wanted. Why waste good mushrooms and SPECIAL gorgonzola on chicken when both Mark and I were craving veal? Saturday's special plans came and went. I think I made omelets instead. Eh.

The next day I checked the internet and Googled "Pittsburgh Butcher Shops." Tom Friday's Market in BrightonHeights came up on my screen. I called good old Tom. YES, they do cut FRESH veal to order! Honest to God fresh, not frozen, veal the way it used to be done. Hallelujah! 

Mark stopped at Friday's real butcher shop today...that lovely little local, independently owned butcher shop with the helpful and friendly staff (and Tom himself!) and picked up exactly what we wanted. Instead of a quick Saturday night dinner, our special veal night became a quick Tuesday night dinner.  It was worth the wait!

I learned something in the process. Things change, not always for the better. "Service" isn't always what you might expect it to be. BUT. Persistence and a lucky Google search may eventually produce positive results. That and the discovery of a new-to-me REAL butcher shop that now has a customer for life.

Veal with Spinach, Gorgonzola & Mushrooms

Serves 4
  • 1 pound veal cutlet, gently pounded thin with the flat side of a meat mallet - cut into 6-8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk - echoes the buttermilk gorgonzola below
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup panko (more if you need it) gluten-free to make this GF, regular if gluten isn't an issue

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced - I like the gourmet variety with oyster mushrooms, criminis and baby bellas - use what you like best!
  • 1 bag spinach, baby, cut coarsely
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, plus extra for garnish - I used a mild, but flavorful, buttermilk gorgonzola (and yes, I got it at GE)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced, extra slices for garnish

Spread the panko on a large plate. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and pour into a second large plate. Dip each piece of veal into the egg wash, then into the panko and coat each side well. Set onto a third large plate until all are coated. Don't lay the pieces on top of each other; keep each piece separate to let the crumbs set. Season with salt & pepper.

Heat a large skillet.  Add oil & butter and melt over high heat. As soon as the pan is hot, add the veal pieces in batches.  Don't crowd. It won't take long for them to cook, just brown quickly on both sides and remove to a plate. Keep warm while doing the other batch(es). Don't overcook the's tender, delicate and you do NOT want it to be tough.

Once the veal is all browned and removed to a plate, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan. Quickly add the mushrooms and garlic and stir for a minute or two. Add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted. Add the gorgorzola and the juice of half a lemon. Stir and remove from heat.

Spoon the spinach mixture over the veal pieces, garnish with additional crumbled gorgonzola if you wish and a few lemon slices.

NOTE: Don't want to use veal because of the expense? I don't blame you.  That's why it's been so long since I've made it at home. Use pork instead or even chicken. Be sure to pound whatever you use thinly, but gently. Use bleu cheese if you prefer or leave out the cheese completely. The recipe is we all need to be. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beer-Braised Reuben Meatball Hoagies

There are favorite sandwiches all over this great country of ours...a Primanti's sandwich here in Pittsburgh, a Polish Boy in Cleveland.  Baltimore? The venerable crabcake sandwich. But there is one that sandwich that goes by different names all over the U.S.  What is it? Well, that depends.

Whether you call it a hoagie (Pittsburgh), sub (Baltimore), grinder (Boston) or a hero, the big, long sandwich on an enormous bun is one of America's favorite casual meals. 

Another favorite sandwich is a Reuben, so why not make it a best-of-both Reuben meatball hoagie? Why not indeed.

In quest of a union of the two esteemed sandwiches, I put together a mixture of canned corned beef (Why canned? It crumbled and combined SO well with the other ingredients!), ground pork, egg, panko, shredded Swiss, chopped Bavarian sauerkraut, mustard and other goodies. The result? The meatballs turned out light, tender and jam packed with Reuben-y goodness. A chunky topping of more sauerkraut, onion, butter and beer complemented the sandwich to perfection.

What an ideal make-ahead meal for the middle of the week! Heat them up and pile them on crusty buns. If you're lucky enough to find rye rolls, even better! Accompanied by a crisp and crunchy Kosher dill pickles, Beer-Braised Reuben Meatball Hoagies make a hearty meal in these cold winter months.  

Some very lucky guests would enjoy these at a weekend get-together, too.  In fact, I'm going to tuck this one away to pull out for Steelers tailgates next year! Is it too early to say, Go Steelers?!

Beer-Braised Reuben Meatball Hoagies

Makes 24 meatballs or 8 sandwiches

  • 1 can corned beef brisket, canned, crumbled with your fingers or mashed with a fork
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 1 14 oz. can Bavarian (with caraway seeds) sauerkraut, 1/2 c. removed & chopped, the rest of the can reserved  (if you don't like caraway seeds, use regular sauerkraut)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, gluten-free if you want to make this GF
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed (optional)
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded - preshredded is just fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted in a skillet
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • sauerkraut, what's remaining in the can above
  • 1 cup beer, gluten-free to make this GF
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 8 hoagie rolls, sliced - gluten-free to make this GF
  • Swiss cheese, shredded, extra for the tops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly mix the ingredients from corned beef through black pepper. Form into approximately 2" balls and set on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake 25 minutes, turn and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon into a large casserole dish.

While the meatballs are baking, melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until wilted. Add the rest of the can of sauerkraut, 1/2 t. caraway seeds and the beer. Quickly whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until thick.

Pour the sauerkraut/beer mixture over the meatballs in the casserole dish. Serve on hoagie (or sub or get the picture) rolls with a little shredded Swiss on top.

NOTE: If you don't like caraway seeds, leave them out!

NOTE 2: Wish I'd thought of this before....these would be great for a cocktail party on little slider rolls!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bacon Dusted Japanese Sweet Potato Fries

There's nothing better than a simple recipe with a twist. One that somehow becomes more than the sum of it's parts.
That's exactly what happened with this recipe.

 Simple fries made with Japanese Sweet Potatoes, cooked in lard with BACON and finished with Sweet Bacon Dust take plain ol' fries to a whole new level. Yup, this one kind of blew my husband's mind. In a good way.

Michael Symon inspired the cooking method. After seeing him cook bacon in lard and then use the lard to fry chicken, the recipe below was born. The thought of infusing bacon flavor into whatever was being cooked in the oil sounded like a stroke of genius to me. (If you haven't had the lard-fried fries at the B Spot in Cleveland (also at Pittsburgh International Airport) you MUST! You will thank me.) Thanks, Cleveland boy!

The other inspiration came from the spectacular fries served at Winghart's on Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. Always crunchy and brown on the outside and tender on the inside, I finally figured out what gave those fries their beautiful browning, their crunch and slight sweetness...the secret is sugar. That culinary discovery was confirmed by of the cooks who perform the magic behind the counter at my favorite burger joint in town.

And so this recipe was conceived. Simple ingredients combined in a new way became a favorite in my kitchen and in Mark's heart. 

Bacon Dusted Japanese Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 pound lard (find it in the grocery store in the Meat Department)
  • 4 slices bacon, thick slices - reserved after cooking

  • 2 large Japanese sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4" X 1/4" sticks (Russet potatoes or regular sweet potatoes work just fine, too!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 slices crisp cooked bacon (reserved from above)

Melt lard in a deep, narrow pot. When the lard is liquid, add the bacon and cook at 375 degrees until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside.

Toss the peeled and cut potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt until every fry is coated.

Maintaining the oil temp at 375 degrees, gently add potatoes to the oil in several batches. Fry each batch until crisp and golden and drain each batch on paper towels. 

While the potatoes are frying, make the Sweet Bacon Dust. Just whirr up the bacon and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a blender or food processor until fine. There you are, Sweet Bacon Dust! Yum.

As each batch comes out of the oil, sprinkle with Sweet Bacon Dust. Keep warm until all batches are done.
NOTE: Don't want to bother with Bacon Dust? Finish the fries with Salish Alderwood Smoked Salt. Deliciously easy.  


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Peanut & Pretzeled Gluten-Free Texas Sheet Cake


The excitement is building! Already recipes are thoughtfully being created! The next Annapolis Food With Friends event is only a month away and there is MUCH to do. The theme? Barbecue. Barbeque? BBQ? Whatever you call it, just be sure to call ME when it's ready, okay?  

BBQ experts are heading down from the far north of Canada and up from the deep south of Georgia to smoke up some of the best 'Cue out there. The experts? Two of our very own members: Adrienne, a BBQ competition judge who also heads up a BBQ competition team that has won awards across the U. S. A. She's the Canadian member, eh. 

Greg is our Southern barbecuer who is a caterer, barbecue judge and is part of a amazing group of barbecue humanitarians working under the auspices of Operation BBQ Relief. What's that? What do they do? 

Operation BBQ Relief ( sends teams of BBQ competitors, along with their BBQ rigs, from at least nine states into disaster areas. They first organized to feed victims of the F5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011.  Since that time, they've set up operations in Alabama, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Kansas...just to name a few.

The rigs are self-sufficient fuel-wise, which allows the mobile cooking teams to serve up good food with or without power. Along with food, they serve up much needed hugs and friendship to victims and workers alike. (Check out the link above to find out more about the work this group does...make a donation if you wish!)

Back to Food With Friends, folks. The theme (BBQ) being established and the proteins being decided by Adrienne and Greg, the rest of us teamed up to create the rest of the menu. Marti, Brian and Carol are on appetizers. Donna and Maria are working on side dishes and Sherron and I are doing dessert(s). Other members head up other items and still others will lend a hand...not everything has been decided yet! 

Sherron, food blogger AND food photographer  ( AND one amazing individual and I quickly got our heads together behind the scenes to decide on a few BBQ-friendly desserts. I can't tell you what the big dessert items will be right now (I don't want to spoil the surprise), but I can tell you gluten-free Texas Sheet Cake is part of it. 

In researching gluten-free recipes out there, I found most used a different method of preparation and much different proportions of traditional cocoa, butter, water, flour, sugar, etc. Hmmm...does gluten-free flour react differently to heat? Is that why they use a mixer instead of whisking up the ingredients in a pot on the stove?

I trusted the "experts" on the internet and changed my regular recipe. The result? Not so wonderful. Instead of being fudgy, the cake was dense and heavy. The normally thick batter was runny. Instead of baking up into a beautiful cake, it ran over the sides and onto the bottom of the oven. And instead of taking the very precise 22 minutes to bake, it took over an hour before it set. Back to the drawing board. 

So I reverted to my old recipe and simply substituted a commercial gluten-free flour blend (Jules' All Purpose Gluten-free flour blend to be specific) instead of all the changes that clearly didn't (no pun intended) pan out. And it worked. Beautifully. So well that my taste testers at work couldn't tell it was even gluten-free. Success! The old and trusted recipe was a winner!

In addition to making the old recipe gluten-free, I turned it into a salty/sweet treat by crowning the fudgy frosting with crushed pretzels and salted peanuts. Nice. And I won't make you wait until next month for the recipe.  Here it is.

Peanut & Pretzeled Gluten-free Texas Sheet Cake  

(Not gluten-free? Just use regular all purpose flour!)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa, heaping (REALLY heaping!)
  • 2 cups Jules' gluten-free flour blend (or regular all purpose flour if gluten isn't an issue!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolve this in sour cream above)
  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa, level
  • 6 tablespoons skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound box powdered sugar

  • 2 cups gluten-free pretzels (or regular if gluten isn't an issue), measured before gently crushing
  • 1 cup salted peanuts

Put butter, water and cocoa into pot; bring to full boil.  Remove from heat and add flour, sugar and salt; beat until smooth and add sour cream (with soda in it) and eggs.  Mix well and pour into greased 17" X 9" X 1" high cookie sheet with rim.  Bake for 22 minutes at 375.

In same pot the cake was made in (and you don't even wash the pot!) add 1/2 cup butter, 4 level T. cocoa and milk and bring to a full boil.  Remove and add rest of ingredients.  Beat well.

Spread the frosting over cake as SOON as it comes out of the oven.  Evenly sprinkle the peanuts and crushed pretzels over the top of the frosting, pressing gently into the frosting to set them in place.

Refrigerate cake, cut into squares and serve.  Best when cold.   

Before cutting into squares - I just liked this pic!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spiced Carrot Tomato Creme with Wild Rice

Surely you don't think toys are only for kids, do you? Okay, I know some of you out there just said, "And don't call me Shirley!" You proved my point...some of us, hopefully MOST of us, are still kids at heart. 

Adult toys come in all shapes and flavors. For some it might be golf clubs and golf-related thingamajiggies, for the Tim Allens of the world it maybe it's the latest power tool. For me? Kitchen toys. You know things that make cooking even more fun than it already is.

What makes new cooking stuff fun? For me, it's something that brings a little smile when I use it...that brightens my day. Maybe a turquoise or polka dotted rubber spatula or an oval bright red casserole dish or, as in today's case, an electric appliance you've always wanted, but somehow couldn't quite justify. Enter my brand new Cuisinart stick blender. Welcome to my kitchen!  

Oh sure, I have a blender that performs the same function, but any time you can play motorboat in a pot of soup, THAT is fun! 

So what if there's more than one item to do the same thing. Come on now, do I really NEED another veggie peeler? What good is a microplane when I have a perfectly good 4-sided box grater? Aren't 3 crockpots (oooo sorry, "slow cooker" is the preferred term now) enough? 

If, like me, you're a kitchen toy addict, the answer is a resounding NO. Does not really needing something stop me from buying the fun stuff? That too, is a fervent NO! These purchases are guided by the fun factor of "playing" with new gadgets.  

That's how this recipe came about. Soup was on the menu for dinner, but part way through the cooking the mixture just begged to become a creamy soup. Normally, I'd puree a cream soup in the blender batch by batch risking the likelihood of spilling HOT SOUP in the process. No! There's a better way! Stick blender, here I come

The soup? Smooth and creamy (thanks stick blender!) soup studded with plump chewy wild rice, ever so slightly sweet and a little tart from the turmeric and yogurt, finished with just a touch of smoked salt to counterbalnce the other flavors and completely delicious.
Back to the needs and the wants. Did I really NEED a stick blender? No. Did it make my life a little easier? Yes. Was it one heck of a lot of fun? Hell yes! WANT to make your own cooking time more enjoyable? Break out the kitchen toys!

Spiced Carrot Tomato Creme with Wild Rice

  • 1 chicken carcass, dark meat left on what's left of a rotisserie chicken (once again, you know I can't let good bones go to waste)
  • 4 celery ribs, with leaves, chunked
  • 1/2 pound carrots, baby, chunked
  • 1 large onion, chunked
  • 1/4 cup dried minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Jane's Crazy Salt
  • 1 turmeric root, peeled, sliced lengthwise (new ingredients are like kitchen toys, too...found this little item in Whole Foods...yum!)
  • water, to cover

  • 3/4 pound carrots, baby, sliced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, fire roasted, with juice
  • 2 cups chicken stock (additional to the stock above)
  • 1/2  teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (or so) granulated garlic
  • saffron threads, 5 or 6 or so (I like "or so")
  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2/3 cup yogurt, Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup wild rice, raw

  • smoked salt, garnish

In a large soup pot, cover the carcass of a rotisserie chicken (the white meat was a quick Sunday dinner), the chunked carrots, celery, onion, the dried garlic, crazy salt and turmeric root with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bones and the stock is rich. Let cool slightly. 

Remove the solids from the stock with a slotted spoon. Let the solids cool completely before picking the meat from the bones for another use. (I use the meat in casseroles.) Pick out the cooked carrots and set those aside to add back in later.

Into the stock in the pot add raw sliced carrots, the can of tomatoes and the spices. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until the veggies are nice and tender. Add the reserved cooked carrots from making the stock back into the soup. Now here comes the fun!  

Using your STICK BLENDER (mine is a Cuisinart), puree the soup until smooth. Add the butter. Move the stick blender through the soup until the butter is melted. (If you don't have a stick blender, blend batch by batch CAREFULLY being sure the hot liquid doesn't explode from the blender....see why I bought a stick blender?)

Now add the Greek yogurt. Blend again! Woo hoo!

Add the wild rice, raise heat to ALMOST a boil, but not quite. Lower heat to a simmer and continue to cook until the rice is done.

Serve in bowls garnished with a lovely smoked salt.

My smoked salt. You can order this at Gourmet Delights!

NOTE: Turmeric root is a small, bright yellow root (rhizome) sometimes used in curries. Every so slightly gingery, it adds a note of "hmmmm...I like that, what is it?" to any dish.  Nice.

NOTE 2:  For you purists out there, another name for stick blender is immersion blender. I prefer the term stick, because who doesn't love driving a stick?! Yeah, more fun.