Monday, November 30, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

If you know me, you know that I love delicious home cooked hits-the-spot hearty stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. One dish that definitely fits that description is baked mac 'n' cheese. It's warm and cozy and fills you up. When I made this for my weekly get together, Casey said that this was GLORIOUS! Yes, she really did use that word. I certainly won't argue with that! So, now that you know that it's GLORIOUS, aren't you just dying to give it a try???
I know you'll love it, especially if you try it with my Stewed Tomatoes. I literally NEVER make one without the other.
SO good!

1 lb. any kind of tubular shaped macaroni
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
salt and pepper
4 oz Swiss cheese
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz American cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
2 or 3 tbs extra melted butter
Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350F.
In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta until just al dente. Don't over cook it! Drain it, pour into a large buttered casserole dish, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, melt the better. Add the flour and stir until it combines to make a paste. Add milk and whisk until well combined. Add salt, pepper, and cheeses. When all of the cheese has melted, pour over pasta.
Combine extra melted butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over pasta. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned.

When you salt the pasta water, be generous. The water should be as salty as a broth. (Some even say that it should be as salty as the ocean). It really makes all the difference in the world.
Using shredded cheese makes for easier melting. Just sayin'.
Substitute any kind of cheese you like, especially cheeses with a sharp flavor such as bleu cheese or Gruyere.
When I made it for the gang, I added cooked bacon. They loved it! Just place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet, then lay the strips of bacon over it. Bake in your oven until the bacon is crisp but not burnt. Then chop it up and stir it into your pasta with the cheese sauce.
You could even add a steamed vegetable to it, such as chopped broccoli or asparagus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey London Broil

Usually, the term "London Broil" refers to a marinated flank or round steak which is broiled or grilled and is then cut against the grain into thin strips. But who says it has to be a cut of beef? Why not do the same thing with a whole boneless turkey breast?
Suppose you only have a few mouths to feed for Thanksgiving, and every year the leftover turkey goes to waste because there's just too much! Well, this is the perfect Thanksgiving solution when one doesn't want to cook an entire turkey. Serve it with some stuffing, cranberries, and a vegetable or two, and there's your perfect Thanksgiving turkey dinner!

a whole boneless turkey breast (with or without skin)
melted butter
salt and pepper
poultry seasoning

Heat oven to 350F.
Place turkey breast in a shallow casserole dish or small roasting pan. Drizzle generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Place the pan in the oven and roast it for about 20-25 minutes per pound. When it's no longer pink in the center and slightly firm to the touch, remove it from the oven. Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Add any spices you like! For a spicier kick, add a little Cajun seasoning.
To keep it moist while it's resting, baste it with some of the melted butter and turkey juices!
Your turkey breast can also be grilled or broiled. Just place the meat about 3 inches away from the heat source, and be sure turn it so it doesn't burn.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Here's an easy and delicious alternative to pumpkin pie that would be perfect to serve for your Thanksgiving dessert. It's a Paula Deen recipe, brought to my attention by my friend Mary Lynn. It couldn't be simpler to make and it's a great thing to make while your oven is busy with entrees and side dishes and such.
Give it a try!

2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.

Joey's Tips:
The first thing I noticed about this recipe is that it calls for pumpkin pie FILLING as opposed to solid pack pumpkin. No, they're not the same thing. But if you bought the wrong thing, or if you already have solid pack pumpkin, you can still use it. You just have to add sugar and spices to your canned pumpkin. Typically, it's pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice) and sugar that are added to canned pumpkin to make it "filling". So, just add about 1/2 cup sugar and about 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, then proceed with the recipe as directed.
If gingerbread isn't your favorite thing, try using a pound cake instead!
This is the perfect recipe to make the day before Thanksgiving. To save extra time, use instant pudding instead of the cook and serve, and use store bought gingerbread instead of baking it yourself. Yes, yes, I know I usually encourage making everything from scratch, but in this case, your time is a precious commodity and I promise I won't tell your guests if you won't!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Joey's Savory Sweet Onion Pie

Ok, ok, I know there must be one or two of you out there who are krinkling your noses at the thought of an onion pie, and to both of you I say lets talk about this for a minute!
For years I've said that everything I cook starts with cutting an onion. It's true! It's one of the most important ingredients in all of cookdom! Just like garlic or carrots or celery or green bell peppers, it's one of the key aromatics that is used as a foundation on which to build flavors in sauces, soups, stews, and casseroles, etc.
So, I figured, wouldn't it be nice to take this supporting player, this back-up singer, if you will, and bring it out into the limelight? We're talking front and center, with a big fat spot light on it, fit for a headliner! Well, this pie does exactly that!
Now, I know you might be saying "With all of those onions, isn't it too strong?" Nope. Not at all. First of all, we're using sweet onions such as Vidalia Onions. They're not harsh at all. And second of all, they're caramelized first before the pie is baked, which brings out the natural sugars and makes them more mild. Add a few seasonings and a splash of cream and you have yourself a DELICIOUS and unexpected addition to your lunch or brunch menu. Seriously! It's SO good! Have I ever lied to you before? And yes, I baked the one in the picture. Isn't it perty? Sometimes I even impress myself. hehehe
Give it a try!

5 tbs butter
5 large sweet onions such as Vidalia or HoneySweet
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme or poultry seasoning
S&P to taste
1 egg
1 tbs flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 pie crusts

Heat oven to 400F.
In a large heavy pot with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Slice off both ends of each onion, then slice in half, pole to pole. Now place them center cut side down, and thinly slice across the grain, giving you thin half rings. After thinly slicing all of the onions, add them to the pot. Cover. Let it cook for about 5 minutes. Remove cover and give it a good stir. At this point, you'll be saying "How in hell am I ever going to fit all these onions into one pie?" But trust me, they'll cook down quite a bit, and there's no need to swear.
Once the onions have softened, add the garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir the onions until they become golden in color. As they start to caramelize, be sure to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pot. This will take a good 20 minutes or even longer. Be patient! When most of the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat.
In a large bowl, beat the egg with the flour and cream until smooth. Add the caramelized onion mixture and stir well.
Place bottom crust in a Pyrex pie plate, making sure to leave some hanging over the edge. Pour in the onion mixture and smooth to an even layer. Place top crust over pie. Trim excess. Crimp the two crusts together, and flute to make a decorative edge. Cut slits in the top of the pie so that steam will be able to escape.
Bake in oven 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F and bake 20-30 minutes more, or until golden and set. Let it cool slightly before serving with a simple green salad or slices of fresh tomatoes.

Definitely use a sweet variety of onion for this recipe. I've tried it with red or white onions and it just wasn't the same.
Quick tip- When buying onions, the sweeter varieties are the ones that look like they've been squashed from pole to pole. They look like they started out round, but someone smashed them, giving them a sort of flatter shape, know what I mean?
For a more decorative touch, you can weave a lattice top for your top crust, or just lay half your strips of pastry in one direction, then go back and lay the other half across the first half, as pictured above.
To make a shiny golden crust, simply brush the top crust with an egg wash, which is an egg beaten with a splash of water or milk or cream.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Apple Fritters

Whenever I search for new recipes, the first question I ask is "What season is it?" Any good cook will tell you that fresher is better when it comes to choosing ingredients. So, it's always a good idea to choose ingredients that are in season. In the Spring, I might make something with asparagus or avocados. In the Summer, I might make something with Jersey fresh tomatoes or delicious ripe strawberries. (I do live in the Garden State, after all). And in the Autumn, you just KNOW I'll be making something with apples. They're crisp and juicy, and they're definitely one of my all time favorite foods. Clearly, this recipe needs to be included in the recipe archives. They're quick, simple and comforting. And they're the perfect way to celebrate the season!

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 large apples, peeled and cored
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together egg and milk. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until smooth.
Heat oil to 375F in a deep fryer or heavy bottomed deep pot or skillet.
Give the apples a rough chop. You want them to be well chopped but still chunky. Add them to the batter and stir well. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop some of the apple batter and gently drop into the hot oil, as one would do when cooking dumplings. Be careful not to splash! When they become golden on one side, flip them in the oil to cook the other side. When they're completely golden and puffed, remove them from the oil. Drain on paper towels and dust with cinnamon sugar while still warm.

You can use powdered sugar to dust the cooked fritters instead of the cinnamon sugar, or you can mix a little powdered sugar and a splash of apple cider for an easy glaze.
This recipe makes about a dozen fritters and is easily doubled if you'd like to make more!