Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wine Braised Pot Roast for T

Now I am not a traditional, 1950s dinner kind of girl; this means that I don't usually make pot roasts, meatloaf or anything that sounds remotely like tuna casserole (I cringe at the words!). However, the husband loves pot roast and sometimes, just sometimes, you have to grant menu requests and make it despite your own feelings. So I found a decent recipe, adjusted it to my liking and made it a little healthier and took on the challenge of homemakers everywhere - the classic (sort of) pot roast for Sunday dinner.

First things first, wash the roast and then lightly coat it with some salt, pepper and a little pre-mixed steak seasoning (literally don't overdo it on the steak seasoning...a few sprinkles is enough). Then you want to sear the roast in the Dutch Oven pan on the stove with some grape seed oil (I don't condone vegetable oil), over medium heat, about 2 minutes on each side until it browns a little. Then set the meat aside and add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup chopped celery to the oil and juices in the pan. Reduce the heat and let that soften. Then add in 4 minced cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of sliced carrots. After another two minutes, stir in 1 cup of chicken broth, 3 spoonfuls of tomato paste and some hefty pours of DRY red wine (I used a Petite Syrah that's fit for drinking, not just cooking), close to 2 cups.

Meanwhile I cooked five slices of turkey bacon (again, I went healthier), patted it dry and crumbled it up for the sauce. I did NOT use the bacon grease...but that's your call, you can add it to the sauce. Put the bacon into the pan, along with the roast, two bay leaves and some fresh rosemary - say a tsp. Now heat the oven to 320 degrees, cover the roast and let it cook for 90 minutes. Then you need to flip the roast in the sauce and then cook it for another 45 minutes. Though you can take the roast's temp, a roast soaking in liquid will ALWAYS be more done than rare, so you want to make sure the roast is 'fork tender' meaning the from can be easily inserted and removed. This temp & length of time should yield that.

Served with roasted gold potatoes (made first in the oven in pyrex for 60 minutes and then crisped up in the cast iron skillet atop the stove). 

PS - I actually liked it, so we might even have it time he asks, that is. 

- Melissa 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Buffalo" Blue Cheese Burgers with Grilled Sweet Potato and Sea Salt Fries

     I will start off by explaining the quotes.  The Buffalo in this burger does not describe the meat, it describes the sauce I used to flavor it.  This recipe produces a slightly spicy and tangy burger that you will love!  The sweet potato fries are balanced with the application of sea salt and the charring they receive from the grill really adds another level of flavor to them.  Here is what you will need to make the burgers.

1 Lb. of Grass Fed Ground Chuck (Springfield Butcher!)
3 Tbsp. of Buffalo Sauce
1/4 - 1/2 C of Crumbled Blue Cheese
1/2 C of Plain Breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. of Onion Powder

     In a bowl, mix all of the above ingredients.  You need the breadcrumbs to take up some of the moisture you introduced by mixing the meat with the buffalo sauce.  This will allow you to make patties that stay together on the grill and cook evenly.  Without them, your patties will crumble on the grill.  Cook them on the grill at 400 - 425 degrees for about 3-5 minutes on each side.  Be sure that you only flip them once and under no circumstances do you ever press them!  You want all of that flavor to stay in the burger!

     To "dress" my burger, I made a buffalo ketchup to go on the burger.  This sauce really brought out the buffalo flavor and added a delicious tang to the flavor profile.  To make the sauce, simply use a 3:1 ratio of ketchup to buffalo sauce.  Simple, yet delicious!

     The fries are not your typical french fry.  They get a nice crisp to the outside layer but retain their softness on the inside.  Do not think deep fried when you are making these instead, bask in the glory of sweet and salty flavors adorned with just a touch of "char" to really bring the flavors together!  Here is what you will need.

2 Medium - Large Sweet Potatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

     Start by peeling and cutting the potatoes into 1/4" thick pieces then boil them until they are just about fork tender.  (Important note.  The pieces need to be large enough so you can easily manage them on the grill.)  If you boil them until fork tender, they will fall apart and you will not be able to grill them.  (Think as if you were making pasta and cooking it al dente.)  When they are done, drain the water from the potatoes and place them on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle them with sea salt as you see fit.  Flip them over and repeat the process.  When you are done adding the olive oil and sea salt you can move to the grill and finish cooking them.  Grill them at 400 - 425 degrees for about 5-10 minutes or until you are comfortable with their grill marks. 

     When you are done cooking, this is what you will have.

     I cannot explain to you how well the buffalo flavor goes with the blue cheese.  The buffalo ketchup really elevates the flavors to another level!  The sweet potato and sea salt combination is a sweet and salty lovers paradise!  I know you will love this and I will be bringing more burger recipes to the blog as the weather gets better!  Enjoy!

- Chris 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Veal Saltimbocca

Veal is easily one of our favorite things to eat, but, living where we do in the PNW, veal is limited to occasional restaurants that are authentically Italian enough to serve it. Which means, not many at all. So imagine my delight when I came across some reasonably priced veal scallopini cutlets at the store - I tell you, tears were a part of it. So I decided to make my favorite of all veal dishes - the saltimbocca.

The first key to correctly preparing veal scallopini is to pound it out...yup, I'm talking about using a meat tenderizer and layering wax paper both under and atop the cuts of veal and then pounding the hell out of it. This not only reduces and toughness but thins the meat out, so beware of overcooking it. Next you want to take the pounded veal and dredge it in egg (two whisked in a bowl is good) and then through flour. I use a mixture of whole wheat flour and a little almond meal, but regular flour is obviously fine. Then you want to lightly salt and pepper the veal and get ready to build the dream.

The dream (which is not nearly as complicated as the movie Inception, so relax) involves taking two slices of the veal (or if there's a large piece, just folding it in half) and layering fresh sage leaves with slices of prosciutto inside. Typically each piece of veal gets a few sage leaves and at least one slice of veal...but I am not hear to restrict your gluttony. To fasten the 'packet' of veal together, you want to secure the open ends with a toothpick. 

I cooked the veal in a very hot, deep sauce pan with enough olive oil and butter to coat the bottom. You want to make sure the veal is touching the pan and that none of the pieces are piled up. Each side of the veal should cook for about 2-3 minutes (it will get slightly browned, as shown in the photo above) and that's it! Anymore and you will kill the dream. The last step varies with every chef, but's here how I do it: when the veal is almost done (remember, this is a quick process, so have everything nearby at the ready before you start!!!!) I add some dry white wine (think less than a 1/4 cup, so really a few healthy splashes) to the pan and turn the heat down. You want the meat to get a taste of the wine, but not to be drunk. Let that simmer for just a minute and serve with lemon wedges. 

I paired the veal with a straight risotto (see:, haricot verts sautéed with lemon/garlic/pink himalayan salt, and a heady Merlot we picked up in northern California. 

- Melissa 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finally a TRUE Mexican Restaurant, Tacos El Costalilla in Alexandria, VA

     If you are like me, you enjoy well prepared, authentic Mexican cuisine.  The problem with living in the Alexandria area is that you are surrounded by "authentic" Mexican restaurants that are run by El Salvadorians.  Now please do not read too far into that statement,  I am a huge fan of El Salvadorian food but it is not Mexican.  Plainly stated, if you go to a Mexican restaurant, you want to eat Mexican food. 

     Having said that, if you are following this blog, I am about to reveal a hidden gem of epic Mexican flavors!  The restaurant I am talking about is called Tacos El Costalilla and it is located at 7862 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, VA.  (If you do not have a basic understanding of Spanish, you will have a hard time ordering here.)  This restaurant primarily serves tacos but they have some amazing alternative dishes.  When I say tacos I am talking about a flavor palate that stretches from the usual beef and chicken to beef tongue and tripe!  The possibilities are endless and if you are willing to put your apprehensions aside, you will not be disappointed!  

     My wife ordered a beef taco and a shrimp ceviche tostada (They also offer fish ceviche).  She said the shrimp ceviche was equivalent to the exceptional ceviche she experienced on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico.   What's amazing about the tacos is when you order them, all you get is the freshly made corn tortillas and the meat accompanying it.  On the side, they offer a small toppings bar to dress your tacos with.  The bar has: cilantro, radishes, diced onion, lettuce, lime wedges, a mild cilantro salsa, and a spicy chili salsa. 

     My true test of a Mexican restaurant is the tamale.  The tamale is nothing short of an art form and something that is passed down from generation to generation.  This restaurant does not disappoint!  I decided to order a chicken tamale and a beef tamale.  The only thing that I can say to give justice to how exquisite and delicious the tamales were is to explain to you that the last time I had one so well prepared I was in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico.  At the end of my meal I decided to try a leche empanada and all I can say is wow!  The above should be enough to convince you to try this magnificent restaurant. 

- Chris

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