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herb crusted balsamic lamb chops with creamy polenta and garlic spinach

4 Dec

HUGE DISCLAIMER: I was very upset with my plating technique because the bone extending from these lamb chops was so long that it made them too off balance to lean against the polenta properly. the plate ended up looking a bit clumsier than i would have liked BUT if you use this plate presentation with smaller chops or with chops with a shorter exposed bone then you should have a beautiful plate.

This is obviously a fancy shmancy dinner, not just your average weeknight grub. It is extremely delicious and will make you and your dinner buddy(ies) feel like you’re doin some fiiiiine dining.

These lamb chops were a creation of mine before I even knew that I liked to cook back in eighth grade. I remember venturing into the kitchen and telling my Dad that I wanted to make lamb chops-oh and we were in luck because we had frozen lamb chops in the freezer! My parents went out to dinner and I invented this brag worthy, sweet, succulent and totally rockin’ chop recipe.

So let’s start with the main event, zeee lamb! You will Need:

2 rib lamb chops per person

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar per 2 chops

dried italian seasoning (using fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil is obviously an option but to keep it budget friendly…err at least somewhat anyway, the dried herbs are just perfect!)

salt and pepper!

How it Happens:

marinate the lamb in the balsamic vinegar for about twenty minutes, while you prepare the rest of this dish which we will discuss in a bit.

Again, these stupid long bones got in my way as I didn’t have a container big enough to marinate them in but normally the lamb would be flat into the vinegar and there would be vinegar covering the lamb completely.  I had to bend this into a tupperware so the vinegar kept rolling off. Anyway, after they’ve been marinating for twenty minutes, heat a saute pan on medium-high heat. Take the lamb out of the vinegar, season it with salt and pepper liberally and cover with the dried herbs, patting down with your hand so the herbs adhere.

Once your pan is nice and HOT, add in enough olive oil  to coat the pan. Add in the chops, you should hear a very, very loud sizzzzzzzzle–this, is culinary magic. let the chops cook about 2-4 minutes on each side depending on how you like your lamb..I like mine very rare. a safe internal temp for lamb is 135. DO NOT CUT INTO YOUR LAMB TO CHECK IT BEFORE LETTING IT REST FOR 10 MINUTES. IT WILL BLEED OUT AND YOU WILL BE LEFT WITH AN HERB CRUSTED LEATHER BELT. USE A MEAT THERMOMETER, PLEASE, RESPECT THE LAMB!

sorry, obviously a heated issue for me. anyway, once your lamb registers at 135 (or 150 if you like them medium) remove them and tent them in tin foil to rest.

So you should put all of the following ingredients together while the lamb marinates so that while the lamb is resting you can cook the rest of the dish! The polenta and spinach only take ten minutes or less.

For 2 servings of the creamy polenta you need:

6 T quick cooking polenta

1 cup of water, cream, or milk (or a mixture of these is fine too) I use half water half cream

a large pinch of salt

parmesan or asiago cheese (optional, but yummmmmmy)

Da Stepz:

heat the milk/cream/water in a sauce pan bringing to a boil, add the salt.

Once boiling, slowly whisk in the polenta, it will IMMEDIATELY thicken. Whisk until it’s all combined and thickened. If it is too thick add a dash of cream (or water if we’r’e keepin it low cal, but don’t use water ) It should look a little thinner than this:

Taste it and add s+p as needed.

So, While the polenta liquid is coming to a boil, work on the spinach.

For the Speenach You Need:

…..Spinach.

2 smashed garlic cloves

1 T olive oil

salt

to do it:

Heat 1/2 T-1 T of olive oil in a skillet with 2 smashed garlic cloves over medium heat.

Add in a bag of spinach and use tongs to stir and coat.  Cover for 5 minutes and the spinach will wilt. Das All Folkz!

I also decorated my plate with a balsamic glaze which is optional but very pretty and its yummy to dip the polenta and lamb into. It is EXTREMELY easy to make. To make balsamic glaze all you need to do is reduce at least 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan over medium heat until it starts to bubble and thicken. It’s ready when it becomes syrupy and can coat the back of a spoon without dripping right off, but should still be drippy enough so that it’s not a hardened sticky mess. Think a sloooow drizzle of the spoon rather than an immediate drip.

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sirloin and bean chili with corn bread and smoked cheddar

28 Nov
Upon returning to a normally drought and heat stricken central Texas I was hit in the face by 50 degree wind gusts. CHILI TIME!!!  
even though everyone knows that i’m always ecstatic about what i call “chili weather”, i’ve never actually made chili before. and recipe schmecipe. so this evening was a great american staple adventure.
staple like quintessential dish, not like i went on an adventure for office supplies. (although, i do love supplies so if you know of any nifty useless supply websites, get at me)
There was a lot that went into this chili, not in the actual cooking but in terms of getting to the chili action. the grocery store trip was exhausting. I stood in front of the $12 sea salts for 10 minutes until I realized I do not have $12 to spend on salt (for the record: i went with slice and bake cookies, instead of a posh sea salt confection) Then, because I wanted to use really good cheese to garnish my chili, I stood in front of the “british isles/cheddar” section smelling every single cheese at least three times over.
there is a lot that I wanted for this chili. A lot that couldn’t happen, sadly. I wanted to use dried rather than canned beans, but since I didn’t know I would be making chili until an hour before dinner, I couldn’t use dried beans. Also, I originally intended to make a turkey white bean chili, but there was no ground turkey at the store and so I took that as a friendly nudge in the direction of big meat, ground sirloin, to be precise. 
once the glorious grocery store madness ended, it was chili improv time:
1/2 T butter, 1/2 T olive oil
1-3 lbs ground sirloin 
1 12 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1-3 cups chicken stock
1 can black beans, no salt added; drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, no salt added; drained and rinsed
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced
approx 1 T cumin (or to taste)
approx 1/2 T chile powder (or to taste)
approx 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 T dried oregano
approx 2 T salt (or to taste)
avocado slices for garnish
sharp yellow cheddar and/or smoked cheddar for garnish (and for melty cheesey gooodness)
a slice of cornbread or a pepperjack corn muffin if you are me and you are lucky enough to come across that in the store!!!!!! ( i wanted to make my own cornbread, i really did, but as i mentioned earlier, grocery stores are distracting and exciting for me and i don’t always meet all my goals)
How It Alllll Goessss Down:
1. melt the olive oil and butter together in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute until translucent but not brown.
2. Add the spices and stir to combine. and to make great aromas happen
3. Add the sirloin and cook over medium heat until fully brown.

4. Pour in both cans of tomatoes, crushing and mixing with a wooden spoon. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the meat and loosen up the chili, but not enough to make it brothy. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for at least 20 minutes (45 minutes or an hour will only make it taste better).

 5. After simmering for as long as your impatient taste buds can handle, add the beans, stir and taste. Adjust the seasonings and spices as necessary!

Put a slice of cornbread or a corn bread muffin into a bowl. Ladle the chili on top, garnish with both shredded (or oddly minced if you don’t have a grater like me) smoked cheddar and sharp aged yellow cheddar, avocado slices and sliced scallions. 

This is what it looked like after I mushed around all the garnishes and the corn muffin 🙂 it was a deliciously sweet, corny, meaty, spicy, smokey, cheesy bucket of YUM. except it was a bowl, i WISH it had been a bucket.

it’s officially been 2 days since i’ve made this chili and i wanted to add that i’ve eaten it for breakfast yesterday and today. it’s delicious, plentiful and only gets better as it sits 🙂 

low and slow lamb

16 Nov

with the holidays coming up I thought I’d provide an easy to prep and cook “holiday roast” type thang. 
What You Need:
a leg of lamb, bone in. I used a 3 lb leg since I am not having a holiday dinner today and did not need to feed anyone other than my hungry neighbors. Depending on how much your family/friends eat, 3.5 lbs is enough for about 5 people. (give or take)
a large bunch of rosemary sprigs (10-20)
a large bunch of thyme sprigs (10-20)
1 bay leaf
half a bottle of white wine 
1 cup of water
1 cup of low sodium chicken stock
1 garlic head with the root chopped off so all the bulbs are exposed
olive oil
lots of kosher or sea salt
ground black pepper

What You Do:
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. 
Heat a large pot over medium high heat.
Rub olive oil on the lamb, cover with lots of salt and some pepper

Using tongs, place the lamb in the hot pot. You should hear a VERY loud sizzle. 
Let sear on ALL sides about 7 minutes until a beautiful golden brown crust covers the lamb.

Remove the lamb to a plate or clean cutting board.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and pour the water, stock and white wine into the pot. Using a wooden spoon scrape up all the lovely brown goodness bits on the bottom of the pan.

Put the fresh herb sprigs and the garlic head into the pot.

Place the lamb back into the pot, cover with an oven safe lid or tinfoil and place into the oven. 
Cook until the lamb registers at 150 on a meat thermometer. (The carry over cooking will bring it to safe temp once it’s out of the oven) Baste it ever 30 minutes with the liquid in the pot, checking the internal temperature every 30 minutes after the first hour. Should take about 4 hours for a 7 lb leg of lamb, 2 hours for the lamb that I did. 
Once finished, remove from the pot, cover with foil and let rest so that the juices distribute back into the meat. 
While the meat rests, strain the braising liquid into a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow the liquid to reduce to a thick sauce. 

Alternatively, make a gravy. Make a roux by combining 1 T of butter and 1 T flour in the sauce pot over medium heat and then straining the braising liquid into the pot and whisking until thick. Adjust the seasonings and pour over the roast or serve on the side.


mac and cheese proscuitto cup cakes….

6 Nov

sorry that I don’t have a better picture. I hate cupcakes. I hate the cupcake trend that is sweeping the nation.
However, if that cupcake is a savory mac and cheese pig concoction…LEGO.

you can use normal size or mini size muffin pan so that you could make these a nice size side dish or a teeny little pass around appetizer!

Buy some proscuitto thats about 3 inches wide. And all the stuff for the mac and cheese.

What You Need for Mac and Cheese:

2 1/2 cups of half and half
3.5 cups medium grated sharp cheddar (don’t get reduced fat, this isn’t the time to count your calories, trust me)

2 cups of medium grated jack cheese or mozzarella

1/3 c sour cream

1 T flour

1 T butter

1/2-1 c panko for sprinkling

to make the mac and cheesy:

cook 1/2 lb of small elbows or small shells.

Melt 1 T of butter in a sauce pan (with talllll sides), once melted add 1 T flour and mix with a whisk or spoon until there are no lumps in the roux mixture (culinary talk for flour+butter). Whisk in the half and half and let thicken slightly, about four minutes. Whisk in 3  cups of the cheddar cheese and all of the jack cheese slowly so that no clumps form. Whisk frequently until all of the cheese has melted–you’ll know when it looks right because you will think, “wow this looks like cheese sauce heaven”. At this point you can add in the sour cream. Pour in the pasta and mix it all up!

 

to assemble the dish:

preheat the oven to 375

using a round cookie cutter that is a little larger than the size of your muffin wells, carefully cut out circles from the prosciutto and place them inside the muffin tins. the sides should come up to the top of the well or even a little bit higher. pop the muffin tin filled with the proscuitto circle cut outs into the oven for about 4 (yes, four)  minutes just to crisp a little bit. the pig will experience a little shrinkage, dont worry about it.

take the muffin tin out and fill the proscuitto lined muffin cups with spoon fulls of the mac and cheese topped with some panko and some extra shreds of cheddar.
back into the oven until the tops are golden and bubbly and the proscuitto cups are nice and crispy.
use a spoon to remove and let your taste buds experience a whole new world, a magical place that they never knew.

breakfast sausage in the hizzouse

22 Oct

oh hi, I didn’t see you there.
haha ok. anyway, today, I made breakfast sausage. I made it at school because one of the cool things about going to culinary school is that you gain access to awesome kitchen appliances that most people don’t have in their own kitchen-in today’s case that would be a meat grinder. You, however, do not need a meat grinder to make this because you can just buy ground meat at the store. I recommend either ground beef, ground turkey, or ground pork butt (the pork butt already ground may be harder to find.) If you choose to use ground beef, use hamburger beef with a ratio of 80 lean/20 fat, feel free to even kick it up to 30% fat too-you need some fat in your breakfast sausage..that;s what makes it a sausage, so don’t go below 20% fat. 80/20 ground beef is available in the meat section of almost any grocery store.

I wanted to get all fancy shmancy though and make a delectable combo of perfect breakfast sausage meats that would be unavailable unless I ground it all out myself. So my double trouble meat combo is pork butt (which is actually the shoulder, not the tush) and DUCK FAT. Duck fat, my friends, makes the world go ’round-hence the url of this blog.

Ok, so 1 lb of ground meat will make 5-7 sausage patties. Double the recipe if you need more. Oh also, you can make this the night before and cook the patties off in the morning if you’d like!

Here’s the Set List:
1 lb of ground meat
1 big garlic clove minced (or 2 if they are small, or if you love garlic like me)
2.5 teaspoons of dry sage/rubbed sage-same thing
1 teaspoon dry marjoram leaves
1/2 a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed-just crush the seeds with the back of a spoon
2 teaspoons of salt
a large pinch of brown sugar, maybe about 3 teaspoons
a pinch of dried cloves
a teaspoon of crushed red pepper (more if you like really spicy)
a pinch of black pepper

here’s a picture of my elaborate meat grinding set up:

so assuming you are starting here…

here’s how to rock and roll this breakfast delight:
combine ground meat and all other ingredients in a bowl. If you’re lucky enough to have been blessed with a hand, use it to mix everything together. (i wear gloves, both for sanitary reasons and also because you wouldn’t want to get any pathogens from the raw meat under my nails). DON;T use a spoon, it just wont incorporate all the seasonings as completely. 
Heat a skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, form a mini “tester” patty. Once hot, put the test patty in the skillet. You don’t need to add oil as the sausage is fatty enough to keep from sticking, if you are worried you can add a teaspoon of oil but don’t add any more than that otherwise you’ll have realllly greasy sausage. 
Let cook about 6-8 minutes, flipping once, then taste. Adjust the seasonings in the meat mixture as needed based on your tester patty (you may need more salt or more pepper, whatever your preference).
Once seasonings are adjusted, place patties into the skillet, leaving room between patties so that they can speak their piece. Let patties cook about 5-6 minutes on each side, don’t fuss with them, you want a nice crust to form on either side. 
and bravo! you are finished, look at how much work you did even before breakfast, you deserve a treat. good thing you have hot sausages.