Meatless Meanderings

So thanks to my husband, I have been eating very little meat (pork, beef, poultry) and so I’m finding contentment in meatless meals. One classic is macaroni and cheese. We all have a recipe for it, whether it comes from a blue box, made with a roux or even picked up at the store. Ironically, on Food Network the other night, there was a Macaroni & Cheese competition!

I cracked open one of my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks and decided to try one of their recipes out. It came out wonderfully, especially with my twist on adding french fried onions! In fact, I’m submitting this to the Thursday Night Smackdown blogging event in July. It’s a great event that encourages folks to use recipes from cookbooks and magazines, rather than those available online. Check it out and submit a recipe too! Here is the recipe for Stove top Macaroni & Cheese, from Here in America’s Test Kitchen, pages 158-160:

What We Wanted: A rich, creamy casserole with plenty of cheese flavor, properly cooked noodles, and a flawlessly smooth sauce.

What We Learned: Don’t use a flour-thickened bechamel or baked custard for this dish. For the best texture and flavor, make macaroni and cheese on the stovetop (not in the oven) and use evaporated milk in the sauce. For some crunch, sprinkle with toasted buttered breadcrumbs just before serving.
Toasted Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used panko bread crumbs)
pinch of salt
french fried onions

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
2 large eggs
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 oz sharp cheddar, American, or Monterey Jack cheeses, grated (about 3 cups)

1. FOR THE BREAD CRUMBS: Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add bread crumbs; cooks, tossing to coat with butter, until crumbs just begin to color., about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt; set aside.

2. FOR THE MACARONI & CHEESE: Mix eggs, 1 cup evaporated milk, pepper sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and macaroni; cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter; toss to melt.

4. Pour egg mixture over buttered noodles along with three-quarters of cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and the cheese starts to melt. Gradually add remaining milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with toasted breadcrumbs.

VARIATION: “Baked Macaroni & Cheese” – This dish is for those who prefer their macaroni and cheese served out of a baking dish. Smooth and creamy like the stove top version, this version is broiled just long enough to brown the crumb topping and french fried onions.

Follow the recipe for Stove top Macaroni & Cheese, pouring cooked macaroni and cheese into a 9 inch square gratin dish. Spread crumbs and french fried onions evenly over top. Broil until crumbs turn deep brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand to set a bit, about 5 minutes, and serve immediately.

Roasted Tomato Galette

The following recipe was made and shared at my Chef Spotlight dinner, highlighting Julia Child. You can read and view links to the other recipes HERE.

Susan’s Roasted Tomato Galette
recipe from Julia Child

1/2 recipe galette dough, chilled
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 ounces mozzarella , shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade or torn
2-3 firm but ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400-degrees F.
Roll the dough directly onto a piece of parchment paper into an 11-inch circle.
Toss the cheeses and basil pieces together in a small bowl.
Scatter the mixture over the dough, leaving a 2- to 3- inch border.
Place the tomatoes in slightly overlapping concentric circles atop the cheese.
Fold the uncovered dough border up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work your way around the galette. .
Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbly.
Transfer the entire baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the galette rest on the sheet for 10 minutes.

Starting the Day a Mile High!

A favorite breakfast of my husband’s is a denver omelette. In fact, everytime we go out to breakfast or brunch, that is what he tends to order. So fortunately for him, I had all the makings for his favorite omelette. However, instead of whipping them up as I usually do, I wanted to try out a recipe for a Denver Omelette from one of my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks.

Taken from the 2004 Companion cookbook, Inside America’s Test Kitchen:

What we wanted: A hearty American omelet with properly cooked vegetables and tender eggs.
What we learned: Dice the pepper and onion so they cook quickly and don’t poke through the eggs. Add the diced ham steak, garlic, parsley, and hot sauce to liven the vegetable filling. Add milk
or cream to keep the eggs moist as they cook and make sure to use a nonstick pan set over medium high heat.

I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfectly with a bit more flavor. The addition of the Tabasco sauce really made it stand out. Louis, my husband, thought this variation of the Denver omelette was great and I would definitely make this again. Here’s the recipe for Denver Omelette
Inside America’s Test Kitchen 2004
pages 256-259

Prepare the filling (recipe follows) and then begin making the omelet. The filling recipe makes enough for two omelets and can be doubled. You can make one omelet after another in the same pan, although you may need to reduce the heat. For the best results, serve all omelets on warmed plates.

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon cream or milk
salt & ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1. Beat the eggs, cream or milk, and salt & pepper to taste with a fork in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.

2. Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides and the butter just begins to turn color, pour in the eggs. Cook until the edges begin to set, about 2 to 3 seconds, then, with a rubber spatula, stir in a circular motion until slightly thickened, about 10 seconds. Use the spatula to pull the cooked edges in to the center, then tilt the pan to one side so that the uncooked egg runs to the edge of the pan. Repeat until the omelet is just set but still moist on the surface, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the surface of the omelet and allow to partially melt, 15 to 20 seconds. With the handle of the pan facing you,. spoon the filling over the left side of the omelet. Slide the omelet onto a warmed plate, filled-side fist, and with a slight twist of the wrist, invert the pan so that the other side of the omelet folds over the filling. Serve immediately.

Filling for Denver Omelet
A ham steak is our top choice for this recipe, although canned ham and sliced deli ham will work. (If using sliced deli ham, add it with the garlic, parsley, and hot sauce). If you can find them, Cook’s brand ham steaks are our favorite.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded & diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded & diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces ham steak, diced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)

Heat the butter in a medium non stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the peppers, onions and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the ham and cook until the peppers begin to brown lightly, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and hot sauce and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and cover to keep warm.

Quiche… give it a try!

What a wonderful Sunday morning. After a fulls night’s rest I was engerized with making a flavorful breakfast featuring ham, broccoli & 4 cheese quiche. I also submitted this dish to Nandita’s “Breakfast Blogging Event” through her blog, Saffron Trail.
So what is quiche? Well, it’s derived from French cuisine that consists of a baked dish made primarily of eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Other ingredients such as cooked chopped meat, vegetables or cheese are often added to the egg mixture before the quiche is baked. It’s great for breakfast, lunch or even dinner!
Here’s my recipe for ham, broccoli & 4 cheese quiche:

1/2 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup chopped, steamed broccoli
1/4 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup monterey jack cheese
1/4 cup colby cheese
seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
6 eggs, scrambled
pie crust dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Press the pie crust into a shallow baking pan or a torte pan.
Sprinkle the ham and brocoli over the crust.
Top with the cheeses.
In a bowl, scramble the eggs and carefully pour the eggs over the ham, broccoli and cheese.
Carefully place the quiche into the oven and allow it to bake about 45 minutes in preheated oven or until middle has set.
This is great with a salad or on its own!

pie crust ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water

Combine flour, butter, salt & sugar in food processor or in a bowl with a pastry cutter.
Slowly add the ice cold water until the dough comes together.
Form dough into a ball, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before using.

Cooking Outside the Blue Box

I was in the mood for comfort food and what came to mind was mac & cheese… homemade mac & cheese. Tonight it was served more as a side dish accompanying pork chops with steamed broccoli.
Originally, macaroni was consumed largely by the upper class, as a majority of the pasts was made in Europe. A few factories existed within the United States, but not enough for wide-spread distribution. After the American Civil War, more pasta-producing factories opened. This allowed the price to drop, and macaroni became available to the working class.

Macaroni increased in popularity throughout the country. The noodle could be served with a wide variety of toppings or sauces.

In 1937, Kraft Foods introduced the Kraft Dinner, macaroni noodles with a cheese sauce. The dinner has become radically popular.

Macaroni and Cheese remains a common food today. Kraft remains the most prominent distributor of boxed Macaroni and Cheese. Kraft also makes a variation of its boxed Macaroni and Cheese dinner as “Easy Mac,” which requires less detailed preparation, is microwavable, and has a lengthy shelf life.
Here is my recipe for MJC Mac & Cheese:

2 cups dried macaroni, cooked al dente
1/4 stick of butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup half & half
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack & Colby shredded cheese blend
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 cups Monterey Jack & Colby shredded cheese blend
1/4 cup panko Japanese breadcrumbs

In a sauce pan, melt butter.
Add flour and stir, cooking about 1-2 minutes.
Slowly whisk in half & half and let it thicken.
Take off heat and slowly add the 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
Place cooked macaroni in a large bowl or pot it was cooked in.
Add the cheese sauce to the macaroni; stir.
Stir in garlic powder and parsley; combine thoroughly.
Grease baking dish and add mac & cheese.
Spread evenly in dish.
Combine remaining cheese & breadcrumbs.
Top mac & cheeese with breadcrumb mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
Let it stand about 15 minutes to firm up.

* I served this with garlic pork chops (pan fried) & steamed broccoli.