Saturday, December 8, 2007

Minute Steaks

This is another dish from my childhood; my father used to make it often. Minute steaks, also known as cube steaks, aren't steak at all; they're tenderized cuts of top round beef. They're fabulously inexpensive (sometimes you can even find them less per pound than ground beef), which make them very attractive when you need a cheap red meat fix. However, you have to braise them for a good length of time to break down the connective tissue. Your patience will be rewarded with fork-tender meat and a tasty, savory gravy.

1 - 1.5 pounds cube steak
1 medium onion, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)

Warm up one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep sided pan. Add the onions and cook gently until they start to turn translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Throw in the garlic and cook until fragrant, another 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the onions and garlic into a small bowl.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and warm up over high heat. Season both sides of the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Spread the flour out in a plate, and sprinkle in about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss the seasonings through the flour, and dredge each piece of steak in it, shaking off the excess. Lay the steaks in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side to get a nice sear. Once both sides are browned, pour in the beef broth, water, and the onion/garlic mixture. Stir in the grill seasoning. Let the liquid come up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and clamp on a lid. Let the steaks simmer for an hour, flipping them over half way through.

When the hour is up, taste the cooking liquid for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Dissolve the cornstarch in two tablespoons of cold water and pour into the pan. Give it a minute to thicken, and if it's not thick enough for you, feel free to add another slurry, using only 1 tablespoon of cornstarch this time. Stir in the parsley if you have it.

Serve a piece of steak and plenty of gravy in a shallow bowl over rice, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.

Yep, I still don't have any flat leaf parsley on hand--I forgot about buying it at the store the other day. I'm sure the pretty flecks of green would have made this picture look less, well, poo like!

Rating: This is awesome

It ain't pretty, but it tastes really good on a cold night in December.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

(Dinner for one)

This might be my ultimate dish for solitary dining: it's fast, easy, somewhat decadent and full of garlic. Just what I want when I'm not trying to impress anybody! Of course, you can increase the amounts to feed as many people as you want; I'm a firm believer that heavy garlic consumption at dinner doesn't matter as long as both you and your date eat it.

10 medium (41-50 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces linguine
A spritz of lemon juice or a splash of white wine
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Get a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, and cook the pasta for about a minute less than it says on the package, since you'll be finishing its cooking with the shrimp.

In a large skillet, warm up the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and gently saute until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Throw in the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook until pink on both sides.

Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss thoroughly and stir in the lemon juice or white wine. Let everything simmer together for 2 or 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the parmesan and some chopped flat leaf parsley if you have it (I did not). Take off the heat and serve. You might want to light a nicely-scented candle in your kitchen at this point since it will be reeking of shrimp and garlic!

Be careful not to add the shrimp too early; overcooked shrimp are the worst. If the onion and garlic have to cook a little bit longer on its own while the pasta finishes, that's fine.

Rating: This is awesome

Just lovely :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sesame Chicken

I have been wanting to make a good sesame chicken dish at home for a very long time, but it has eluded me so far. I tried one preparation several months ago that just tasted like flour. Blech! When I saw this recipe on Culinary in the Desert, I thought it would be worth a try. Instead of using a heavy flour coating on the chicken, it is dipped into a mixture of cornstarch and egg whites to give it a faux deep-fried crust. I changed a couple of things in his recipe, so here's mine!

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg whites
Peanut oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. If you didn't buy toasted sesame seeds, dry fry your seeds in a small skillet over medium high heat until they start to change color. Give them a flip every now and then to prevent them from burning.

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and egg whites until thoroughly combined. Dip the chicken pieces in the mixture to coat. Warm up a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium high flame.

Swirl the oil around the pan and add about half of the chicken pieces. DO NOT stir fry the chicken--just let them sit there and cook until golden on the underside, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and let cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. The pieces will be sticking together by this point because of the egg whites. Gently break them apart from each other with a wooden spoon and turn out onto a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Once the second batch of chicken is cooked, throw the rest of the chicken into the skillet. Pour over the sauce, and stir to coat. Let it come up to a bubble to thicken slightly.

I served my sesame chicken over white rice and steamed broccoli.

Rating: This is not awesome

It didn't blow me away. Back to the drawing board... :-(