Monday, October 20, 2008

meat fab and the weekend I gained 20 pounds

Last week was a perfect week- I was off work for two days, my boyfriend was coming in for the weekend and we were road tripping together to go to Austin.

I also had a week of wonderful dining out and cooking. Monday morning began it all...

After a morning of Starbucks (hot green tea), Target and the bank, I met Cat at Central Market for lunch. I love the sandwich bar- so much to choose from.

I went for smoked turkey on sunflower bread (not on the menu but ask for it) with dijonnaise, provolone, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and avocado. I grabbed a side of pineapple and grapes and I was good to go.

Mine was tasty and simple but Cat's was definitely pretty I had to take a picture. She got the oven-roasted turkey on ciabatta with an olive relish, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, oil and red wine vinegar. She also opted for fresh berries and blueberry lemonade. We sat outside...too beautiful to be stuck inside- great Monday.

Last Monday night was culinary class- meat fabrication. For me, it was a complete disaster. Maybe I'm just too hard on myself, but traditional beef recipes are just not my style. Within my group of three, we made:

Meatloaf with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a horseradish, Worcestershire and ketchup glaze

Traditional beef stew with turnips, carrots and potatoes

Stuffed pork chops with a demi-glace

Pork shish kabobs with plum tomatoes, purple onions and rice pilaf

I was in charge of the beef stew, the rice pilaf for the shish kabobs and plating everything. The beef was tender, the vegetables were bright and the broth had good flavor but the stew never thickened to the right point, nor were the vegetables tender enough. The rice pilaf turned out ok. Sometimes the simplest things to cook at home are the most difficult to cook when you are in a industrial kitchen. So, in a nutshell...meat fabrication week was not my shining moment.

Thursday evening, my boyfriend Jared flew in from Nashville! By the time we got back from Love Field, most restaurants were closed so we hit up Boomer Jacks for some drinks and bar food.

Friday morning, we drove through Starbucks for a couple of hazelnut lattes, then headed to Austin to meet my Mom and my girlfriend Tyler for lunch at Blue Star Cafe. Amongst an appetizer of chicken quesadillas, we shared an Asian chicken salad, tarragon chicken salad sandwich, a maple-mustard turkey sandwich and a lemon cupcake. We returned to my parents house later for a quiet afternoon.

We had the whole family over for a Friday night cook-out. I was in charge of hors d'oeuvres, salad, sides and dessert (with my trusty sous chef, Jared) and Father James (good friend of the family) prepared the entree. The menu was:

Assorted beer and wine (La Crema chardonnay, Prosecco, Dos Equis and Shiner)

Roasted cashews with rosemary and cayenne

Roast unsalted cashews in a pan for a few minutes then toss with a few tablespoons of melted butter, minced rosemary and a few dashes of cayenne.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig in a pretty bowl.

Zucchini and shallot flat bread

Pre-made pizza dough is your best friend here- either get it raw from a pizza place or you can get the "dough in a can" stuff.
I rolled the dough into a rectangle, brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper on top.
Top with thinly sliced zucchini and shallots.
Cook on 350 for about 15 minutes.
If the edges get too dark, cover with foil until the inside is fully cooked.
Cut into squares and serve on a rectangular tray or platter.

Arugula salad with fresh figs, crumbled asiago, toasted walnuts and a honey-garlic vinaigrette

Make the dressing...combine champagne vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper and honey and whisk in your extra virgin olive oil. I always eyeball my dressing proportions. If you do it and it tastes too much like vinegar, add oil...too oily, add an acid. Set dressing aside.
Toast your walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes, slice figs and "crumble" your asiago wedge by taking off small chunks with a kitchen knife.
Toss all ingredients together with dressing, carefully not to bruise the figs. Garnish with more figs, asiago and walnuts on top.

Roasted new potatoes with rosemary

This doesn't get any easier. Slice red potatoes into uniform chunks (1.5 in x 1.5 in).
Arrange potatoes in a single layer on an edged baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and freshly-ground pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
Roast at 350 for about 45 minutes (make sure you toss the potatoes around throughout cooking time and add minced rosemary halfway through to prevent rosemary from burning).
Serve on a large platter with string beans and chicken.

Haricot verts sauteed with butter and shallots

Snap the ends off the beans and blanch beans in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.
Immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop residual cooking and maintain pretty green color.
In a pan, heat olive oil and butter then add sliced shallots to saute.
After the shallots have become translucent, add the beans and coat evenly with the fat.
Add salt, freshly ground pepper and more butter if desired.
Saute until the beans are at your desired crispness.

Grilled chicken (marinated in a fig-chipotle sauce) stuffed with grilled portabellos, sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto and goat cheese

I didn't make this one...but it looked pretty simple to to do.
Marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts in whatever sauce your desire. We used a fig-chipotle marinade.
Meanwhile, marinate two portabello mushrooms caps with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Grill both the chicken and mushrooms (only par-cook the chicken. After you stuff it, it will finish in the oven)
Butterfly each chicken breast and stuff with sliced, grilled portabello mushroom, a slice of prosciutto di parma, a pat of goat cheese, and a couple of oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes (the oil from the tomatoes will keep the stuffing moist)
Transfer stuffed chicken to the oven until breasts are fully cooked through

Apple tart with cinnamon and lemon zest

My mom and I would always make this on the weeknights when I was in high school. It is so simple and tastes homemade.
You can either bake your own apples until softened or use frozen apples. We baked them.
After the apples are baked and cooled, combine with cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest.
Using a refrigerated pie crust, spoon in apple mixture and fold residual dough over to seal the filling in.
Top with an egg wash and turbinado sugar for crunch.
Bake at 350 until dough is golden brown.
Slice and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or vanilla-bean ice cream.

Homemade brownies (a la my grandmother, Becca)

Everything turned out delicious and disappeared within minutes. After dinner, a group of us headed to Kenichi for some sake and Sapporo.

Saturday morning, my mom and I made breakfast for the boys while they were glued to watching football.

We made really simple migas:
Cut corn tortillas into slices, saute with a bit of oil until crispy
In a separate pan, saute onions and red peppers until softened, add beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper
When eggs are cooked, fold in tortilla strips and top with shredded cheese. Cover pan to melt cheese.
Serve with salsa and fresh avocado slices.

Saturday night, Jared, Megan, David and i went to the Covey for dinner. The boys opted for beer (Texas Wheat, Weiner Bock, Amber Ale) and Megan and I split a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Once again, we were starving so we ordered way too much (and ate it all). To begin, we split a southwestern Greek salad with sweet peppers, feta and a hummus crouton. Next, we ordered the Ta-Tanka pizza (shaved bison, spicy Asian dressing, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and cilantro). It was SO delicious...perfect flavor combination. The pizza usually comes with roasted red peppers but I substituted them for the onions and cilantro. Try it!

Next, we ordered the blackened halibut tacos with a jalapeno cole slaw and a black bean and corn salsa. The tacos were flavorful and light with the perfect amount of heat. The corn and black bean salad was pretty worthless to me- not much flavor. Finally, we ordered the chocolate souffle served with vanilla bean ice cream. It was warm and gooey and the ice cream was addicting. Perfect dessert to share for an evening out.

Our weekend eating binge ended with Sunday morning brunch at Gloria's...huevos con papas with guacamole- too full to walk.

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