Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pork Chops Giardiniera with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

I love this dish! It’s perfect for the weather we are experiencing right now in the mid-west, cold and rainy. A Hardy, spicy, meal loaded with protein that helps keep me full and energized for the evening without that over stuffed feeling.
I first had it around 1994, back at the first Italian restaurant I worked at… I was love at first bite. My mother in law makes a fantastic version herself. I really had forgotten all about it until she made hers, then I started making my own. It is a great fall dish without getting bogged down with carbs.
Pork Chops- 12 (sliced thin)
Roasted Red Peppers- 1 ¼ cup (sliced)
Giardiniera oil- 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Giardiniera Peppers- 1 ¼ cup
Baby Spinach- 3- six ounce bags
Salt & pepper- To taste
Olive Oil- 2 tbsp
Ingredients for the Breading station
First the Flour mix
Flour- 1 cup
Salt- 1 tbsp
Pepper- 1tbsp
Method- Mix all ingredients together.
Second the Egg-Wash
Eggs- 5 (large)
Salt- 1 tsp
Pepper- 1 tsp
Milk or Heavy Cream- ½ cup
Method- Whisk all ingredients together.
Third the Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs- 1 cup (plain)
Salt- ½ tbsp
Pepper- ½ tbsp
Parmesan Cheese- ¾ cup (fresh, grated)
Basil- 1 tbsp (dried)
Oregano- ½ tbsp (dried)
Method- Mix all ingredients together.
Method to the Madness
1)      Set up your breading station. It should always be in the same order; Flour mix, Egg- wash, and the bread crumbs. Season the Pork chops with salt & pepper and dredge them through the breading station. You can do this ahead of time or right before your start cooking them.
2)  Pre-heat oven to 400.Working in batches. Heat 2 tbsp of the Giardiniera oil over medium high heat. Sauté the Pork chops on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. When cooking the second batch of chops add 2 more tbsp of the Giardiniera oil. Set aside until all chops are done. If the Oil runs low add some Olive oil.
3)      In the same pan; heat 2 tbsp of Olive Oil over medium high heat add the Giardiniera peppers and cook for 3 minutes.
4)      In another sauté pan heat some oil over low heat wilt the Spinach, toss in the Roasted Red Peppers. Finish cooking the Pork chops in the oven for 8 minutes.
5)      Place one Pork chop on a plate, top with the Spinach, top that with another Pork chop, then add the sautéed Giardiniera peppers.
6)      ENJOY!!
·         Note: You can find photos of the breading station in both the Chicken Parmesan and Quick tips posts.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mom’s Thanksgiving Table

Just thought I would do a quick post about Thanksgiving at Mom’s house. For the last eighteen years I have lived in The Chicago area, and the parents live in Michigan. So that means I usually travel to Michigan for one of the two big holidays, and this year Thanksgiving won. It’s always a bummer to have to split up the holidays, just seems in my modern day life there’s not enough holidays to spread around. Someone is winning and losing one or both. When did this tradition start??

As far back as I can remember Mom is a table-scape expert… Even before the word “table-scape” became a word, and I’m still not sure it is (Microsoft-word is telling me it’s not). But she always has had a way with her tables, holidays or not. So this year I thought I would grab the camera and take some photos of her work, and share it with all of you. I know these are a day late and a dollar short for this Thanksgiving, but I think she did a great job, and I will be saving these for next year. Lucky for me she was starting her Christmas table the very next day, and I was able to grab some photos. I’ll save them for a little later, but not after Christmas.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and spent as much time as you could with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just in time Pumpkin cheesecake

A little story about my wife; about three year ago she started baking. This is a great thing for me, but not the waist-line. Over those years I have enjoyed many of her creations, all of which is her own seeing as she does not like to use recipes… I was a little worrisome, seeing that I was always taught to use a recipe for baking. I wasn’t sure this experiment was going to work, boy was I wrong.
This is my favorite recipe, Pumpkin Cheesecake. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving, and for me. I have had so much enjoyable pumpkin pie over the years; I didn’t think I would enjoy any other Thanksgiving dessert, until this one came along. She first made it two years ago for me and her family (73 members strong) it was a huge hit and enjoyed by all. I had to pass it along to all of you. Moist buttery goodness filled with great Pumpkin flavor with sprinkles of nutmeg and cinnamon. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have and I will again this weekend!
Cinnamon Graham crackers- 1 ½ cups
Butter- 5 tbsp (melted)
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Pecan chips- ½ tbsp
Cream cheese- 3 eight ounce packages (softened)
Sugar- 1 cup
Vanilla- 1 tsp
Pumpkin- 1 cup (canned)
Eggs- 3 (large)
Cinnamon- ½ tsp
Nutmeg- ¼ tsp
Allspice- ¼ tsp
Whipped cream
Heavy cream- 2 cups (whipped)
Cinnamon- ½ tsp
Nutmeg- ¼ tsp
Method to the Madness
1)      Pre-heat oven to 350.In a food processor, mix crust ingredients together, until coated and crumbly. Add to an 8 inch spring form pan. Cover entire bottom and go 2/3 of the way up. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes, set aside.
2)      In a large mixing bowl combine the cheese, sugar, and vanilla blend until smooth with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin, eggs, spices and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into the crust, and bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and bring to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
3)      While the cake is baking, in a large mixing bowl add the heavy cream and spices and whip until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready.
4)      Plate pumpkin cheesecake and top with the whipped cream.
5)      ENJOY!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spicy Salmon with a crunchy Asparagus and Celery Salad

Well I have to tell you… All this comfort food is really expanding the old waist line. We have been making comfort food now for about two months. (UGH) topped off with a full blown Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, and now the real Holiday is coming up. So last night I was really craving something on the healthy side. No carbs.
So last night was a simple Salmon dish with a crunchy salad; super easy and delicious. It took me about twenty minute’s total time; it was just what I was looking for. This is the first time I made this salad, and it was a real hit among the in-laws and myself. It offers great texture and flavors. It really was perfect for what I was looking for, light, healthy, and full of flavor. I think I felt ten pounds lighter this morning, thank God because the over-indulging will start sometime on Thursday. And cheers too that.
Asparagus- 1 bunch (pencil thin, sliced on a diagonal)
Celery- 1 bunch (peeled-like a carrot)
Lemon- 1 (the juice)
Olive oil- 2 tbsp
Salt & pepper- to taste
Salmon- 4 six ounces
Pecans- 1/3 cup (chips, toasted)
Blackened seasoning- 2 tbsp
Method to the Madness
1)      Peel the celery stalks like a carrot and submerge in cold water and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Slice the asparagus on a diagonal and set aside. Lightly toast the Pecan chips and let cool- careful they toast fast.
2)      In a large sauté pan over medium high heat add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Season the Salmon with the seasoning and cook for 3-4 minutes per side. Until cooked through.
3)      While the Salmon is cooking. Strain the Celery; in a mixing bowl combine the Asparagus, Celery Pecans, Lemon juice, oil. Season with Salt & pepper and mix well. Plate the salad and top with the Salmon
4)      ENJOY!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blueberry Stuffed French toast

Fast forward… It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, most of the Turkey and the fixins are still rambling around in everyone’s tummy, especially after that midnight run to the fridge.  And now it’s time to get your “A- game on” for some serious Black Friday shopping. Believe it or not you are going to need some more carbs, to make it through all the crazies at the mega-mall. We’re in for a long day.
Confession; from the time I was about 18 to about 30, I would go shopping with my Mom, sister, Grandma, and Aunt Bonnie. Yes I would go shopping all day, and yes I’m a man…At least in my eyes. It was a great time and is one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. Who doesn’t want nice new stuff courtesy of Mom?? I’m a lucky man; it was a great time in my life.
We would hit Michigan Avenue on some sort of stealth mission, starting at six a.m. with one break for lunch, at The Zodiac Room in Neiman Marcus for their delicious Pecan Balls. After lunch it was back to the races, not stopping until Dinner. This was always at Harry Caray’s, still one of my favorite Chicago restaurants. We would pretty much have the same meal there every time. Calamari, Bruschetta- for Grandma, Caesar salad, and I would have their New York strip with peppercorns and a bordelaise sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about that meal.  These are fantastic memories and I will always cherish them… Thanks Mom, for always “forcing” us to all go.
Blueberry Stuffed French toast
Brioche- 1 loaf (day old and sliced ½ inch thick, 8 slices)
Blueberries- 2 containers
Maple syrup 2 cups
Egg batter
Eggs- 6 (large)
Cinnamon- 2 tsp
Half & Half- 1 cup
Heavy cream- 1 cup
Nutmeg- 1 tsp
Triple Sec- 3 tbsp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Powdered sugar- ¼ cup
Method to the Madness
1)      In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients, mix well. Set aside.

Mascarpone Mix
Mascarpone cheese- 8 ounces
Heavy cream- ¼ cup
Vanilla- 1 tbsp
Powdered sugar- ¼ cup
1)      In a mixing combine all ingredients, mix well set aside.
Maple syrup- 2 cups
Blueberries- ¾ cup
Butter- 3 tbsp
1)      In a sauce pan add the syrup, blueberries, and butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, reduce by ¼ quarter. Strain if preferred, I did not.
Bringing it all home
1)      Pre-heat over to 400.Lay your sliced Brioche out. On half of them spread the Mascarpone mix, and then add Blueberries. Top with their partner slice and make sandwiches. For best results make sandwiches a day ahead of time and refrigerate.
2)      In a large sauté pan or griddle over medium heat melt 3 tbsp of butter. Dunk the sandwiches in the egg batter; let it soak for 30 seconds completely submerged. Place the sandwiches on griddle and cook for 3-4 minutes per side. Place finished toast on a sheet pan until all sandwiches are done. Finish cooking them off in the oven for 8 minutes.
3)      Slice sandwiches in half, top with the blueberry syrup, and sprinkle of powdered sugar.
4)      ENJOY!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pesto crusted Turkey

Well this is my final offering for Thanksgiving Day, it’s sad in a way. As I mentioned in yesterdays post my friends and I would gather all the employees that didn’t go home for the holiday, and cook them Turkey dinner. We did this for five years, so as a result I have had many variations of the bird.
  This is one of my long time favorites, it combines my personal favorite; Italian food with the tradition of Thanksgiving. I love, love, love Pesto sauce… Something so simple to make that has tremendous flavor. Not that I’m “drinking my own kool-aid” but this Turkey is great, it always gets great reviews.
Pesto Crusted Turkey
Turkey breasts- 10 pounds (bone-in)
Basil- 2.25 ounces (fresh)
Pine nuts- ½ cup (toasted)
Parmesan cheese- ½ cup (fresh, grated)
Garlic- 2 tbsp (fresh, chopped)
Salt & pepper- to taste
Olive oil- ¾ cup
Carrots- 2 (chopped large)
Onion- 1 (quartered)
Celery stalks- 3 (chopped large)
Chicken broth- ¾ cup
Method to the Madness
1)      In a sauté pan over medium to low heat toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Be careful they will toast fast. Set aside.
2)      In a food processor add the Basil, Pine nuts, Garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pulse a couple of times. Drizzle in the Olive oil with the processor running, and season with salt & pepper. Set aside until ready for use. For best results make the Pesto a day ahead and refrigerate over-night.
3)      Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out, pat dry with paper towel. Carefully make a pocket between the skin and the breasts, and stuff with ½ of the Pesto. Season the bird with salt & pepper, and cover the rest of the bird with remaining Pesto sauce. You could also do this a day ahead of time or at least 4 hours ahead.
4)      Pre-heat the oven to 325. In a roasting pan add the carrots, celery, onion and chicken stock in the bottom. Place the roasting rack on top of the veggies and the bird on the rack. And bake for 20 minutes per pound. With about an hour to go put a stick of butter on top of bird. When the    internal temperature reaches 160. Take out the bird and let stand for 15 minutes, carry-over cooking will cook it the rest of the way. Save all the juices for your gravy.
5)      Carve it up and enjoy!!
* Note 10 pounds worked out perfect for 4 people.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Curried Raisin Cranberry Sauce

I’ll start this post with a confession; for me the jury is still out on any Cranberry sauce, I’m not sure why but I just can’t seem to like this dish. Through the years I have had many variations of it to no avail. From the good old can with the rings still on it, (Yuk) to recipes handed down generation to generation, until I stumbled upon this one. This one I like, and found myself asking for seconds.
 Back when I owned my own restaurant we would cook Thanksgiving dinner for all the staff and their friends that didn’t go home for the holiday. We would close the place down, me and two of the other managers, (my two best friends) would arrive early and cook all day long… No one should go without a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, right?   Around 2 o’clock everyone would start showing up, we would open the bar, turn on Football, and start serving appetizers. The full feast would be served at 6; we went all out with two 25 pound turkeys and all the trimmings. These are some of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving. Always stress free and always a great time. Below is the recipe we perfected over a five year period. Super easy, with a 10 minute prep time for best results make it a day ahead of time.
Curried Raisin Cranberry Sauce- Serves 12
Sugar- 2 cups
Cider Vinegar- 1 cup
Port Wine- 1 cup
Orange Marmalade- 1 ½ cups= 1- 20 ounce jar
Raisins- 1 cup
Ground Cinnamon- 1 ½ tbsp
Curry Powder-3 tsp
Salt- 1 tsp
Fresh Cranberries- 2 (12 ounce bags)
Method to the Madness
1)      Pre-heat oven to 325.In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vinegar, port, marmalade, raisins, cinnamon, curry, and salt. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add the cranberries, and mix well.
2)      Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the cranberry mix and cover with foil. (this can be done a day ahead of time or a few hours in advance)
3)      Bake covered for 60 minutes, until cranberries are soft, and some of them burst. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
4)      ENJOY!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brioche and Cornbread stuffing

Well Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and its high-time we got to some recipes. So this week that’s what we will be talking about, I’ll start with Stuffing, move onto Cranberry Sauce, and then a Pesto-Crusted Turkey. Then we are going to finish with a Stuffed French Toast for breakfast on the Friday after; you’re going to need all those carbs to make it through “Black Friday”.
I’ll admit I cheated a little on this one by using some store bought Cornbread stuffing mix. The rest is all original; the Brioche really added some great buttery flavor. And let’s face it when was the last time you saw Brioche in Stuffing… I never have.
Brioche and Cornbread stuffing
Cornbread stuffing- 2 cups
Brioche-3 cups (cubed)
Chicken Stock- 2 ¾ cups
Onion- ½ cup (small diced)
Celery- ¾ cup (small diced)
Apples- 3 cups (medium diced, Granny Smiths)
Italian Sausage- 2 ½ cups (spicy, bulk)
Sage- ½ cup, divided (fresh, chopped) ¼ cup for garnish
Salt & Pepper- to taste
Method to the Madness
1)      Dice Brioche, and lay the cubes out on a baking pan let rest overnight. Two days if you have the time.
2)      Pre-heat oven to 350. In a sauté pan cook Italian sausage until brown on all sides. Remove from pan saving the juices. In the same pan with the juices sauté the onion and celery, until onions become translucent. Remove from the pan set aside.
3)      In the same pan sauté the apples until just tender and turning golden brown 4-6 minutes.
4)      In a large mixing bowl combine everything together, season with salt & pepper; mix well. Put everything in a 3 quart baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. For a crunchy top do not cover.    

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Improvements & Reposts

Well we are fast approaching the four month mark of this adventure in blogging, and what a learning experience I have had. It’s pretty clear to me that when I started blogging I had no idea what I was doing. After reading articles on “How to improve your blog” I have tried to do so, I’m also regularly reading about 25-30 food blogs to help the cause. In that time I have discovered many wonderful food blogs… Most of them are very impressive, so I’m going to do my best to add to the conservation. So from time to time I’m going to go through the archives and pick a post to improve. For the most part I will be adding photos.
If there are any requests or suggestions, please feel free.
Thank You

Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair Pasta
Angel Hair pasta- 1 pound
Olive Oil- 2 tbsp
Pancetta- 2 ounces (diced)
Jumbo Shrimp- 1 ½ pounds (peeled, deveined)
Garlic- 1 tbsp (minced)
Red Pepper flakes- ½ tsp
White Wine- ½ cup
Lemon juice- 2 tbsp
Green Onions- ½ cup
Roma Tomatoes- 1 cup (seeded, diced)
Parsley- ¼ cup (fresh, chopped)
Rosemary- 1 tsp (fresh, chopped)
Salt & Pepper- to taste
Method to the Madness
 1)      Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. In a sauté pan over medium- high heat crisp the pancetta and remove leaving the fat. Add the Olive oil, sauté the shrimp, garlic and red pepper. Remove shrimp.
2)      Deglaze the pan with the white wine and lemon juice, simmer and reduce by half. Add tomatoes, green onions, and rosemary. Return shrimp to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, or until firm. Be careful shrimp cook really fast.
3)      Drain the pasta. Toss with the shrimp and the sauce. Add the parsley and Pancetta, season with salt & pepper and toss well.
4)      ENJOY!!!!!!