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Weekly meal plan 2.6.12

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The first salad I actually liked.

Mandy’s coming home this week which means I need to clean this crap up. The meals in the early part of the week are for just me and are designed to be easy to cook and clean up so I can learn how to turn on this Dyson. The rest of the week’s meals are what I’m sure Mandy will want after being out of Texas for so long.

Monday: Shrimp Tacos. These were awesome last week and Mandy won’t be back so I can have seafood in the house.
Tuesday: Steak, ‘taters and the same salad from last week. It was good, and I’m going to eat salad again.
Wednesday: Steak fingers and fries. Mandy told me she needs ketchup. This meal needs ketchup. I’m a matchmaker.
Thursday: Pork chops with shells and cheese. Right after ketchup, she said she needed shells and cheese. Matchmaking.
Friday: Date Night.

Weekly meal plan 1.30.12

Monday, January 30th, 2012

What I'll Try To Blame The State Of My House On When Mandy Gets Back From Africa

So while Mandy’s off in Africa, I decided I’d try to keep busy. I have almost a week’s worth of new recipe ideas of things I like to eat and things I want to cook, attempting also trying not to get scurvy while she’s gone. I might have gone a little overboard with that whole “keep busy” idea, because the menu is somewhat tricky and I have a list of things to do and a more important list of things not to do (I’m not allowed to set fire to anything except the burners of the stove, for example) around the house while she’s gone.

Tonight: Balsamic Chicken, Rice Provençal, Mimosa Salad. Yes, salad. I’m trying to branch out, and it may end up being something Mandy will get to try on Valentine’s Day.
Tuesday: Filet Mignon, Roasted Baby Potatoes with Chive butter, Pan Roasted Haricot Vert. I may get in trouble for doing this because Mandy loves this dish.
Wednesday: Shrimp Fajitas. I never get to eat sea food because Mandy can’t stand the smell or texture of any of it, so I aim to rectify this deficiency somewhat with this dish.
Thursday: Tea Brined and Roasted Cornish Hen, Mashed Potatoes, Corn. I love everything about roast chicken. Make all of that in a serving for one? Yes, please.
Friday: No idea. Probably Long Johns or something sea-foody.

The Veal Cream Sauce Philosophy

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The Boy here with another installment of And Now For Something Completely Different where we’re focusing on veal stock. Tonight we’re making a fairly simple cream sauce that works well on pretty much anything, but it’s more of a…. philosophy than a recipe. We like to use it on chicken and pasta, but it would be good with something mild like fish and pretty much anything starchy.

We’re going to start with some sautéed chicken (or fish, or turkey, etc). We’ll post a recipe for Chicken Provençal pretty soon, but just basic chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper sautéed in about 2 tbsp of butter will do quite nicely. Just after you get the chicken done and you have all those amazing little brown bits just begging to turn into a sauce. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Let’s start with two cups of veal stock. Just pour it in and scrape up the little bits with a whisk or metal spatula. Let that bubble away and reduce for about 2 minutes on medium to medium-high heat. Next up we’re going to pour in 1/2 a cup of heavy cream.

Hey? Where are you going? I said it’d be good, not healthy. Good. You can eat a salad or something with it.

So, we’ve added the cream and the sauce is pretty close to awesome. Lower the heat–for fear of having the cream de-nature and break apart (that’d be gross)–to medium or medium-low and let it bubble away for another minute.

Here’s where you need to make some decisions. If you plan on using it as a thin dipping sauce, like an au jus sort of consistency, then just skip this step. If you, like we, plan to make it a fairly thick sauce for pasta and chicken, then we need to thicken it up. The easiest way to do this is to make a slurry by mixing 2 teaspoons of corn starch and 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl or cup and mix it all together. This stuff will thicken any hot thing you pour it into very, very quickly. It’s like magic. Seriously, it’s pretty fun to watch.

Now you’ve got your perfectly thickened–or maybe still thin–sauce and it’s just about done. Grab yourself a clean spoon and give the sauce a taste. Mine needed about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. You also want to put something in here to tie it with your main dish; we used some herbes de provence and freshly grated nutmeg. But we’ve also used cajun spices, Italian seasonings and, well, I bet anything would probably work pretty well.

The sauce we just made is really tasty. It’s got a deep flavor with a velvety kind of feel to it; it also has enough body to stick to pasta but thin enough to keep from being a stew. Give it a try, and I promise, you’ll be hooked.

Veal Cream Sauce with Herbes de Provence

1 Pan full of little brown (not black) bits after cooking chicken
2 cups veal stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp water
1/4 tsp herbes de provence
salt and pepper to taste

After sautéing some chicken, quickly deglaze with 2 cups of veal stock being sure to scrape up all the little brown bits. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and allow to reduce for approximately 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and lower heat to medium and allow to simmer for a minute or two, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mix 2 tsp of corn starch with 2 tsp of water in a small bowl. Add the slurry to the pot and continue to stir until the sauce is all the same consistency. Simmer for another minute. Add 1/4 tsp of herbes de provence and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add just the tiniest pinch of freshly grated nutmeg at the end.

Veal Stock Country Gravy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Mandy and I love to cook, as you’ve no doubt noticed. But cooking 4 to 5 times a week in a relatively small town tends to mean that we go through the same few staple ingredients all the time. It’s really easy to fall into a rut of chicken and rice for every dinner, and I have definitely done that a bunch of times.

It’ll also come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of Monty Python. They’re zany, funny and a little different; but in the end they make me happy. It’s in the spirit of one of their least known stories I present:

And Now For Something Completely Different

And this time, the completely different ingredient will be veal stock. I understand some people may have some issues with veal, but I promise the second it touches your tongue, you’ll lose every last scruple. So go to that spot in your local mega-mart where you find chicken broth and grab a carton of veal stock instead. It’s totally worth it.

Confession time: gravy has been my kryptonite. It always tasted like flour or was lumpy or was too thick or too thin. Basically, I had a hard time with it and had pretty much given it up. I finally had some luck last Thanksgiving, and I think I’ve got it about figured out. Tonight we’re going to make it with veal stock and butter, but you can use a whole lot of different ingredients like chicken broth, milk, heavy cream, chocolate… It can get as weird as you want it.

A couple of quick tips:

  1. If you have a round-bottomed pan, it will suit you well. A saucier was pretty much made just for this.
  2. Have all your ingredients ready and within arm’s reach before the butter hits the pan, because once you get going you can’t stop.

The basis of any country gravy is what the French call a roux. It’s an equal part, by volume, of some melted fat and flour. We’re going to make a decent amount, so we’ll use two tablespoons each of butter and regular all-purpose flour. You’ll want to melt the butter over medium to medium high heat and add the flour just before the butter starts to brown.
flour + butter = the beginnings of awesome
Then whisk it all about till it’s all a whitish liquid. Then it’s time to let it cook a little while. The roux will start to darken, going from a honey blonde to a brick red and all the way to exhaust black if you don’t watch it. We’re going for my personal favorite: slightly dirty blonde.
Not <em>that</em> dirty
Of course, I’m a little partial.

Now that we’ve managed to get the roux right where we want it, we have to work quickly from here on out. We’re going to add a decent amount of our stock. You can start at half a cup if you just have to measure things, but it’s really better to just slowly add a few splashes until it’s thinned out to where you like it.
mmmmmmm.... veal
The butter in the roux really won’t want to mix with the stock you add, oil and water being the racists they are. The flour just wants everyone to get along, but it’s kinda lazy so you’re going to have to whisk a lot. It will come together eventually, and if it’s still lumpy, add another splash of stock.

Did I mention this is going to be a brownish gravy? Do you not like that idea? Add some milk, or heavy cream if you’re so inclined. You’ll have to whisk it all in pretty hard, too.

Now, you have to let it bubble away for at least a minute. This is the only way to cook out that flour taste, and to me, it’s the most important step. It’s during this time that you’ll need to go get a spoon anyway. You have to taste it now; probably a good three or forty times. You can add some salt, pepper, maybe even garlic powder if it’ll work with your dish. Just make sure it tastes good.

It’s time to put it on something. Like say freshly fried chicken nuggets, some biscuits or maybe some chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.

So, what have we learned? Gravy isn’t quite as hard as it seems–you know, after you figure it out. Hopefully we’ve illuminated some of the pitfalls I face-planted into the first few times I made gravy, so that you can avoid them: liquid roux at a pretty blonde, slowly add the stock or liquid, whisk it all together vigorously enough to combine (not vigorously enough to require extraneous cleaning), and let it boil away for a minute or so to cook out the bad.

Veal Stock Country Gravy
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4+ fluid oz of veal stock
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a round bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and allow to darken just past blonde. Whisk the stock in and add more if it’s still too thick. Allow the gravy to cook for at least a minute before seasoning with salt and pepper.

Second Anniversary Dinner

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

On this, our second wedding anniversary, I took it upon myself to prepare a dinner of an almost Faincy variety. And to do dishes. Most of them at least.

So, the menu for this evening is a steak au poivre with fried zucchini. The steak uses a rather interesting method of preparation and this was the first time I’ve ever tried it, to great success, thankfully. The secret: salt — lots and lots of salt.

You have to coat the steaks in salt — like a tablespoon per steak — about half an hour before you’re ready to cook them, then wash the salt off, pat dry, dust with freshly cracked pepper, and sautée on medium high heat for 4 minutes per side for a perfect mid-rare.

The zucchini is cut in a large julienne, like french fried potatoes, coated in flour, egg wash and then, muched up tortilla chips. I ran several handfulls of chips through the food processor, but I think some cornmeal would work just as well.

The final plate looked a little something like this:

The tao of steak
Step 1: Salt the steaks, use a lot of salt The Beef Is Encrusted In Salt For Around Half An Hour

Step 2: Rinse the salt from the steaks and pat them dry Rinse The Salt From The Steaks

Step 3: Put some pepper on the steak, freshly cracked is the way to go, and you can run some peppercorns through a coffee grinder if you like Steaks Dusted In Pepper
Ground Pepper

Step 4: Sautée with a little browned butter and oil. It smelled too good and I forgot to take a picture of it. I’m only sorta sorry about that.

Step 5: And this is one of the very most important steps of cooking a steak – let it rest. Put it on a plate and don’t touch it for at least 5 minutes and 10 if you can wait.

The zucchini files

Step 1: Forget to take pictures any of the prep work.

Step 2: Cut the zucchini in a large julienne, think Wendy’s French fries rather than McDonald’s.

Step 3: Dredge in flour seasoned with salt, garlic powder and whatever else might sound good; then a little dunk in egg; lastly put some of the chip crumbs on ’em.

Step 4: Fry in oil at somewhere around 350° F for a couple of minutes and dig them out. Hot oil can hurt your hands so use a spider. Spiders Save Hands. Use Them.

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