Truffled Beef Sandwich: Improv Challenge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’re going to get fancy up in here today.  Truffles are about. And sandwiches.

Sandwiches are some of my favorite meals: there are so many possibilities for what we can put between two pieces of bread (if you are another fellow sandwich lover, check out The Sandwich King on Food Network- love it!).  So when this month’s Improv Challenge was bread and butter, I knew that I was going to make a sandwich.

Bread and butter is a great start for a sandwich, so I mulled over a lot of ideas.  There were lots of grilled cheese concotions in my mind, but I wanted something hearty and special.  I made this sandwich during one of my red meat cravings, a time in which I want beef and I want it red and juicy, so I knew I wanted some sandwich in which beef could shine.

This special sandwich comes from the goddess Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten (I swear I do not mean to plug the Food Network today).  The truffle butter really does add something special to the sandwich: the truffle butter has a great savory taste with beef with a little saltiness and little bit of a rich savory taste. And we got Ina’s favorite shards of Parmesan with peppery arugula.

TRUFFLED BEEF SANDWICH
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1 pound top sirloin steaks
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Loaf of ciabatta bread
White truffle butter
Caramelized onions
Parmesan shards
Arugula

DIRECTIONS

Prepare and preheat grill over high heat. Brush steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill sirloin steaks, approximately 2-4 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your steak. Let sit for about 4 minutes. Slice against the grain into thin pieces.

Slice ciabatta bread for sandwiches. Spread with truffle butter and place on grill for approximately 3-4 minutes per side, until butter is melted and bread is warm. Spread additional truffle butter on bread.  Top bread with steak, caramelized onions, shards of Parmesan, and arugula.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Canyon Creek Burger

12-16 Canyon Creek Burger

Every now and then I get a huge hankerin’ for a good burger.  Juicy and full of red meat.

This was so good that I could only manage a hastily taken iPhone picture, but I promise you that this burger will deliver.

And I got this hankering last December- I haven’t been in the kitchen as much in this new year, but I am slowly starting to try out more new recipes and experiment.  This burger reminds me of how much delicious food can be made at home.

I saw this combo of burger toppings at Iowa Girl Eats, and I knew it would be love at first bite with me as well.  Since I love a little sweet mixed in with my savory, I was especially intrigued by the inclusion of blackberry jam (I ended up using raspberry instead- just as good!).  It definitely made for a sticky, messy burger, but it was worth every bite.  Very decadent and rich- perfect for relieving stress.

So what has stressed me recently you ask?  Well, last week I have the joy of wonder of sitting in my car, finishing up a conversation with my mom before I was about to head home to prep for a debate I had in my night class that night when I saw two college boys walking onto the street I was parked on.  “Oh my god,” I say to my mom, “Two guys are on the street setting up to hit golf balls.  These idiots decide to do this on a crowded street with lots of cars.”

Want to guess what happened next?  Well, before I could drive off from this risky activity, a golf ball comes flying through my back window, spraying glass everywhere.  Long story short (with a mix of an anger explosion and lots of obscenities), I have started to take care of the issue, but needless to say, I was quite stressed.  When I am stressed I turn to rich, fatty food.  Maybe not the healthiest option or the best coping a psychologist-in-training should use.  But that is neither here nor there.  This burger is perfect for those stressful days.  Or any day when you just want to marvel at the stupidity of people in this world.

CANYON CREEK BURGER
Slightly Adapted from Iowa Girls Eats

INGREDIENTS

4 hamburger patties
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (or any other variety)
Vegetable oil, for coating pan
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns
Candied jalapenos
Onion, thinly sliced
Raspberry jam

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet (or grill) over high heat. Coat pan with oil. Sear hamburger patties, 2-4 minutes per side (depending on your preferences for hamburgers). After the second flip, sprinkle cheese on top of each burger. Cover burgers with lid and cook until cheese is melted. (Add onions to cook with hamburgers if desired.)

Heat another skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with oil and crack eggs individually in the pan, making sure to leave enough room for each egg. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes and flip. Cook an additional minute.

Place burgers on bottom bun. Top with egg, jalapenos, and onion. Spread raspberry jam on the top bun. Place bun on top.

Makes 4 hamburgers.

Homemade Pierogi

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many cultures have their own version of a dumpling or ravioli-  a food in which a filling (often meaty or cheesy) is wrapped by some kind of pasta or dough.  And in every culture, I tend to love it.

My friends, meet the pierogi, Poland’s version of this wonderful food.  For the past several years, I have begun a family tradition of having pierogi for the New Year’s along with some other traditional Polish food fare.  Thank goodness for holidays and an excuse to eat more than normal.

Pierogi are a little work intensive since you are making your own dough and filling, but if you love to cook, they are fun to make!  You can also assemble the little dumplings the night before to bake off the next day. Common fillings are potatoes & cheese, meat, cabbage, and sauerkraut, but the sky is the limit if you are feeling creative.

If you are planning a New Year’s party or gathering, I highly recommend you consider including some pierogi.

PIEROGI
Adapted from Aunt Helen

INGREDIENTS

For the Meat Filling:
1 pound ground meet (beef or pork)
1 onions, minced
1 tablespoons margarine/shortening
1 slices stale white bread
Milk or water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

For the Mushroom & Sauerkraut Filling:
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces dried wild mushrooms (optional, can just use more normal mushrooms)
16-24 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 – 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained

For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

Butter, for pan frying

DIRECTIONS

For the Meat Filling:

Brown ground meat. Drain grease and remove. Dry off grease with paper towel. Stir fry onion in butter in a heavy skillet 5 minutes. Add ground meat. Remove from heat.

Soak bread in just enough milk to cover. When thoroughly soaked, about 10 minutes, squeeze out excess milk. Stir bread, salt, and pepper into onion mixture until well combined.

For the Mushroom & Sauerkraut Filling:

Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for at least 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion & 1 tablespoon butter until until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and remaining butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 6-9 minutes. Stir in sauerkraut and adjust seasoning to taste.

For the Dough:

Mound flour on a bread board and make a well in the center. Drop eggs and salt into well. Add water; working from the center to outside of flour mound, mix flour into liquid in center with one hand and keep flour mounded with other hand. Knead until dough is firm and well mixed.

Cover dough with a warm bowl; let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into halves. On floured surface, using half of dough at a time, roll dough as thin as possible. Cut out 3-inch rounds with large biscuit cutter.

Place a small spoonful of filling a little to one side on each round of dough. Moisten edge with water, fold over and press edges together firmly. Be sure they are well sealed.

Fill a large saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil.  Drop Pierogi into boiling salted water. Cook gently 3 to 5 minutes, or until pierogi float. Lift out of water with perforated spoon.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add butter to coat pan.  Fry pierogis in batches, about 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown.  Serve warm with sour cream, cabbage, or applesauce.

Mexican Pizza with Homemade Refried Beans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love making homemade food from scratch in my own kitchen, but sometimes you just cannot beat the fast food restaurants.  How McDonald’s gets their French fries so perfect is a mystery.  Why Chik-Fil-A’s chicken is so wonderful is one of the world’s great questions.  And the Taco Bell Mexican flavors have never been recreated in my kitchen.

I really thought I had an in to fast food secrets when my sister worked at McDonald’s last summer, but these mysteries still remain unsolved.

I used to eat Taco Bell about 3-5 times a week when I was a sophomore in college.  I was sick of dining halls, so I would drive out one night either to Subway or Taco Bell.  I would either get a 12 inch sandwich (BMT, lettuce, olives, American cheese) or 3 tacos & a Mexican pizza.  Then I would have dinner for 2 nights in a row.  Two days later, I would probably go out again.  When the people at Subway started to recognize me and my same order, I started to branch out.

Once I got an apartment and started cooking for myself, I haven’t hit my old haunts so much (with the exception of a DQ blizzard for dinner every now and then).  I love my own homemade Mexican food, but sometimes I still crave that Taco Bell taste.  So taking matters into my own hands, I decided to make my own Mexican pizza.  This version is probably a lot healthier and gets close to that TB flavor.  Definitely a winner for a way to mix it up on taco night.

With toppings, the sky is the limit. This time around I added in some hominy for some corniness flavor, and I loved it.  You can also used mashed black beans, make it vegetarian, add sour cream, or add hot sauce.

Wrap it in a cardboard box, and it will definitely taste even better.

Mexican Pizza
From Cinnamon Freud

For the Homemade Refried Beans:
1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked and cooked
Can sub 2 cans pinto beans, drained
1/2 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 cup chicken/vegetable broth

For the Mexican Pizza:
4 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 smoked parika
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound ground meat
6 – 9 tortillas

For Toppings:
Shredded cheese
Green onions, sliced
Jalapenos, sliced
Avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Homemade Refried Beans:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and 1/4 tablespoon butter.  Add onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in pinto beans, remaining butter, cumin, and smoked paprika.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour in chicken/vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the beans are soft.  Transfer to a food processor and process until you reach your desired smoothness.

For the Mexican Pizza:

In a small pan combine tomato sauce, vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and sugar.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Let cook until slightly thickened, about 10-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

In a large saute pan, melt butter.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add ground meat and cook until cooked through.  Drain if needed (this will depend on the type of ground meet you use).  Mix in the sauce (use the amount that you want).  Remove from heat.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  Coat pan with butter.  Fry tortillas one by one, until crispy.

Preheat broiler.

Spread refried beans on tortilla. Top with meat mixture.  Top with cheese and jalapenos.  Place on baking sheet and broil for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Top with green onions and avocado if desired.

Makes 6-9 Mexican pizzas.

Chorizo Chimichanga

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For me this recipe is really called taco roll.

I’ve mentioned before that I often eat steel cut oats for lunch since I find them delicious and they help keep me full.  Now that school is back an session and lunch is often squeezed int office hours or eaten during class, I have been eating a lot of oatmeal.  Unfortunately, our building’s communal microwave is out of commission during a remodel, so my oats are often room temp or slightly chilled.  Not my ideal lunch situation.

So, lunch on the weekends really needs to count.  This chorizo chimichanga is inspired by one of my favorite elementary school lunches.

Did you get those monthly hot lunch calendars when you were in elementary school?  For me, it took a little planning at the beginning of each month to decide my best lunch options.  I would often buy lunch when there was pizza or pasta- pretty easy choice.  But I also would have mom pack me a lunch (she often packed a good lunch).  If I wanted to feel sophisticated, I would sign up for the chef salad for lunch (this was often the teacher’s lunch choice- I was basically an adult when I ate that big salad with mountains of toppings.

But there was one lunch that the school served that I always bought.  Taco Roll.  Years later, I learned that this was basically a chimichanga: a deep fried burrito filled with cheddar cheese and ground beef.  And it was delicious.  So I decided to recreate my favorite childhood lunch with a few updates.  I mixed up some chorizo, pepper jack, garlic, and onions.  Stuffed in a burrito and deep fried.

It tasted just like I was eating it off a plastic tray many years ago.

The best lunch I ever ate at school though?  When our middle school first opened, they sold pints of ice cream.  My friends and my lunch of choice then was obviously a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.  Lunch of champions right there.

But for a more balanced diet, I guess I can eat this chimichanga for lunch.  And then the ice cream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CHORIZO CHIMICHANGA
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 pound chorizo (or ground beef)
4 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 ounces cheese, shredded
5-8 large flour tortillas
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Melt butter.  Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.  Stir in chorizo/ground beef.  Cook until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel.  Let cool completely.

Fill a pot or pan with 2 inches of vegetable oil.  Heat oil to 375°F.

Warm tortillas in the microwave.  Divide filling between the tortillas.  Top with cheese.  Fold tortillas.  Fold the top/bottom first then the sides.  Use toothpicks to secure the chimichanga closed.

Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel.  Keep warm in a 200°F if needed.

Makes 5-8 chimichangas.

S.O.S

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Who wants some shit for dinner?  Shit on a shingle to be exact.

Please do not click the x on your browser yet.

Not a lot of people will talk about their dinner as shit and then proceed to post it on a food blog.  But today let’s have a little visit to a place in the United States called the northeast.

I just got back from a  vacation with my mom to visit family in Delaware.   Lots of fun, but it was definitely too short and I am definitely not ready to return to reality.  I am now back home and about the start a new, busy semester.  My only way to to console myself is to make myself some northeastern food in my own kitchen (pity party with a RSVP for one). Then eat it while I sadly prep lectures, read articles, and write papers.

The northeast is home to my wonderful family and a wonderful array of foods we don’t eat that much in the south.  Cheesesteaks, subs, scrapple, and SOS to name a few.  I love when my parents introduce me to a childhood dish- I get the best of both of our culinary worlds. North meets south.

My parents culinary home is the land of shit on a shingle and scrapple.  Mmm.

S.O.S is basically a different version of the south’s biscuits and gravy.  Instead, you use chipped beef (or any other dried meat) in the gravy and smear it over toast.  Simple, quick, and easy.

Perhaps the Civil War could have ended sooner if they all shared a plate of S.O.S and biscuits and gravy together?

And yes, you could call this dish by it’s more kid-friendly names like Stew on a Shingle or Same Old Stuff, but where is the fun in that?  Then you can’t say you ate shit for dinner, and that is a huge part of the appeal of this dish for my inner childishness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

S.O.S: SHIT ON A SHINGLE
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

4-6 ounces chipped beef, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toast

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a small saucepan (Feel free to add more butter but the recipe will work with this amount) over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and 1/2 cup of milk.  Cook for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Increase heat to medium high and whisk in remaining milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir in chipped beef and Worcestershire.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until sauce is thickened to your liking.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over toast.

Serves 2-3.

Pub Style Burger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Are you ready for the best burger you have ever eaten?

No, really.  Are. You. Ready?

Stop what you are doing right now and change your Memorial Day BBQ plans.  Whatever you are planning on making, forget it.  It won’t be as good as these burgers.  You want this burger in your stomach.  In fact, you should probably un-invite everyone you planned on having over because you are going to want to keep these burgers all to yourself.

Now, I am sure of you are doubting if this really is the best burger ever.  Well, it is.  If it were legally feasible, I would marry this burger and live out the rest of my days with it.  This literally is the best burger I have ever eaten. Better than any fast food, fancy restaurant, or any other burger that has made entry into my stomach.  The recipe is simple and perfect.  No need to hide the burger under strips of bacon, globs of mac and cheese, or onion rings.  Those are all toppings meant for lesser burgers.  Simple toppings let this burger take the spotlight and shine.

The trick for this burger is grinding your own meat.  Yes, this is more work, but I promise you it is truly worth it.  It doesn’t take long to cut up the short ribs for the burgers, and with a food processor or meat grinder, you can have everything done within an hour at most.  And yes, it is more expensive to buy shortribs, but the total cost of these burgers still runs much lower than most restaurants.  And can you really put a price on true love?

No, you cannot.

PUB STYLE BURGER
Barely Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

For the Pub Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, minced

For the Burger:
2 pounds beef short ribs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil, for coating pan
4 hamburger buns
Thinly sliced onion
Chopped lettuce
Sliced tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

For the Pub Sauce:

Combine mayonnaise, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and scallion in a bowl.  Whisk together until combined.  Chill while preparing burgers.

For the Burgers:

Trim fat from the short ribs.  Cut into 1/2 inch size pieces.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Freeze for 20-25 minutes.

Place 1/4 of the meat mixture in a food processor   Pulse until 1/16 inch size pieces form (this will look like ground beef), about 35-40 pulses.  Remove meat from food processor and repeat with remaining meat.

Place ground beef back on baking sheet.  Pour melted butter over top and mix together with hands.  Mix in pepper and a pinch of salt.  Form the meat into 4 loosely packed, 1/2 inch thick patties.  Chill until ready to cook.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Heat a griddle over high heat.  Season the burgers with salt on the outer layer.  Grease the pan with about 1 teaspoon of oil (or use nonstick spray).  Sear the burgers for 2 minutes for each side.  Transfer to baking sheet.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, until burgers register 125°F for medium-rare. Remove from oven and let sit at least 5 minutes.*

Build your burger with hamburger buns, pub sauce, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes.  Eat and enjoy.

Makes 4 burgers.

*Another burger consideration is doneness.  I like mine bloody and pink, so Cook’s Illustrated gave a great technique for cooking these to get my perfect doneness by searing and then finishing off in the oven.  If you prefer more well done meat or don’t want to turn on your oven, you can still cook these on the grill on in a hot pan as per normal burger methods.

Beef Sandwich with Whole Grain Mustard and Cranberries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So we all froze several bags of cranberries at the end of the winter holiday season, right? No? Just me? I am the only who is crazy enough about cranberries to fill a good portion of my freezer in order to have cranberries throughout the year?

I understand and accept that.

I also accept that I may be one of the few who love cranberries on sandwiches- and this is not limited to the glorious leftover Thanksgiving sandwich you eat until the beginning of December.  And it’s not just limited to turkey sandwiches either. I love cranberries on all types of sandwiches.

If you are  feeling a little adventurous one day and you see cranberry sauce at the grocery store, you may feel the urge to spread some cranberries on a roll and top it with some juicy beef, and I completely support this.

It will be wonderful, but I have a warning when you are putting this sandwich together.

I always have the urge to add more and more toppings on my sandwiches and end up with a huge sandwich that can barley fit in my mouth.  But with this sandwich especially, restraint is important. We are using some toppings with strong flavor.

Take this from me: use a light hand. When I spread way too much whole grain mustard on my first sandwich, my mouth was on fire. Who knew mustard could be spicy? Remember, less can be more. Except when it comes to the cranberries: more is more. In fact, I ate some cranberries on the side with this sandwich.

And just FYI, some grocery stores sell frozen cranberries that you can stock up on. And fresh cranberries will be back in stores in about 5 months. Just saying.

Join me in my happy, cranberry-filed world.

BEEF SANDWICH WITH WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD AND CRANBERRIES
Adapted Slightly from Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cranberries
1 cup water
3/4-1 cup granulated sugar
1-2 tablespoons butter
4 6-8 ounces steak*
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Red onion, thinly sliced
4-5 ciabatta rolls

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries and cook until the cranberries pop and most of the water is absorbed. Cool slightly and set aside.

Season steaks with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Melt butter. Cook two steaks (do not overcrowd the pan) for 4-5 minutes (for medium). Flip once and cook and additional 4-5 minutes. Repeat again with remaining two steaks. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice against the grain.

Warm ciabatta bread. Stir together mustard and mayonnaise Spread lightly on bread (the mustard can be potent) Spread cranberries on bread. Top with steak slices.

Makes 4-5 sandwiches.

*Use any cut of steak you like/can afford. I used a New York Strip this time because it was on sale and came in a decent sized portion.