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Monday, February 21, 2011

Steak Lovers

So....Valentine’s Day is mostly retarded, right?
I’m always amused to go shopping on Valentine’s so I can watch men feverishly trying to pick out the right piece of jewelry, the cutest stuffed animal, or the cheapest Valentine’s gift bag that Walgreen’s has to offer. While I think the logic and obligation that goes into Valentine’s is totally moronic, I have to appreciate that Ryan makes for a good Valentine...something I never thought I’d value.

This year, I was in charge of Valentine’s and because Ryan worked, I couldn’t make reservations so I cooked.
The menu was a 7oz. filet mignon (smothered in sautéed sliced mushrooms & sauce), grilled asparagus, roasted brussel sprouts, served a red blend wine.

Having never cooked filet mignon, I learned a few things that I figured I’d share.
Pull your steak out of the fridge about an hour before you intend to cook it. Cold steak on a hot pan will cause you to essentially steam your steak.
I’ve cooked steak on the grill and decided to try cooking it in the oven. Make sure you sear your steak on both sides before putting it in the oven.
Once a pan has been the oven, it’s easy to forget that the handle will be hot. Trust me, the handle will be very hot and your hand will have blistered the next day if you pick it’s pretty much the worst.
Because filet mignons are so thick, they cook more than most steaks do after they are taken off the grill. Mine ended up a little more done than I would have liked for this reason.
It’s worth the cost to get good steak from a proper butcher shop! Plus, you can feel good because you’re supporting the local economy...or whatever all the hippies are saying these days.
Don’t over-season your meat. A filet cooked properly should taste pretty amazing with nothing more than salt & pepper.

The last thing I learned is that the right garnish can make or break a steak. I debated between a couple different ideas for how to do the mushrooms but in the long run was glad I made the choice I did.

I started with 2 tablespoons of butter that I melted in a skillet. Then I added just a splash of red wine, salt, pepper, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf before throwing in all my sliced mushrooms (I think I did about 8 caps). Keep the heat pretty low and stir occasionally. The mushrooms will absorb a lot of the liquid, which is fine. If you need to add more butter and/or wine, go for it. Just make sure to remove the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf before plating.

The steak was okay but I’ll definitely make it better next time, especially now that I found a great butcher.
The mushrooms were phenomenal.
The asparagus didn’t get done.
The brussel sprouts were made from the easiest recipe ever.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts:
Cut bottoms of brussel sprouts off and cut sprouts in half.
Spread brussel sprouts out on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Toss and put pan back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Some of the outer leaves fall off when you’re initially cutting them and that’s fine. The outsides of brussel sprouts will turn black while cooking, don’t worry, they’re still delicious!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spring Fever Chicken Pot Pie

Yesterday marked my first day back to the gym after the new year. December and January are terrible times to be at the gym after work. Once February rolls around, it's noticeably less crowded, albiet still quite full.

In the spirit of getting back to my treadmill regiment, I'm back on my healthy eating decree as well. I always try to keep fresh veggies and fruits in the fridge, I drink plenty of water, etc. but winter always marks a time where my sodium intake probably triples due to my untainted lust for soup. Speaking of which, my Father decided that he was going to learn to cook the best French Onion soup there is. I respectfully disagreed as I decided that challenging him to a French Onion soup-off would be a good idea and mine will be the obvious winner. After one trial run of this soup, I feel confident that the tweaks I make next time will be all I need. Prepare for the worst, Dad.

So anyway, spring is on it's way in and that means healthy cooking but it's still cold out so it also means comfort food. Today: Chicken Pot Pie.

The beauty of this meal is that you can make it as lean and healthy or as rich and decadent as you'd like. Load it up with vegetables, use reduced sodium stock and substitute heavy cream with half and half or even milk.
You can make a pie crust from scratch or you can purchase a frozen pie crust or puff pastry. I tried the puff pastry which worked well if you're only covering the top. If you want a fully encased pot pie, use the pie crust.
If I can dig it up, I'll post my recipe for an amazing pie crust (the trick is the kind of butter you use).

Frozen pie crust or puff pastry
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
2 Cups chicken stock
1 Cup potatoes, chopped
1 Cup carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 Cup peas
1/3 Cup butter
2/3 Cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once up to heat, place puff pastry in for 5-10 minutes until it's risen and is golden in color. Remove from oven and let cool until you're ready to assemble.

2. Cook chicken in a skillet or in the oven by coating in oil, salt, and pepper. Once cooked and cooled, cut into bite-size pieces or shred.

3. Melt butter in a large stock pot. Slowly add flour, stirring until it's a thick, rich consistency. Slowly add cream, stirring constantly until you have an even consistency. Add a dash of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

4. Add vegetables and let cook until they're at a desirable texture. Add chicken and let simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste.

5. Pour contents of stockpot into your baking dish and top with the puff pastry and put into the oven for 5-10 minutes.

This makes a fairly large amount of pot pie so it's a great recipe if you're cooking for a family.
Leftovers are best warmed in the oven.