April 15, 2009

Basic Beef Stew in Photos

Posted in Soups & Stews tagged , , at 8:45 pm by jenniec00ks

So you’ve got at least 2-3 lbs of potatoes left; why not throw them in a classic, hearty beef stew?  I got this recipe out of Bon Appetit’s Keep It Simple cookbook and cooked up a batch in preparation for a busy weekend.  I must warn you, this’ll take a couple hours to make, but it’s definitely worth it.  Stew beef is pretty much any lean meat, since it’ll soften after a few hours of simmering.

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First we’ll flavor the base of the stew.  I’ve got 1.25 lbs, cut up into 1″ pieces on my bacteria-resistant cutting board while I warm up 3-4 tablespoons of oil in a 6 qt. stockpot over medium high heat.  You probably want to chop up 8 garlic cloves now too – you definitely want to use a different, clean board for this so you can use it for the root vegetables later.  I realize the knife I’m using for the garlic was a bit excessive, but it was the only one handy at the time.  Anyway, just lay the knife flat on the garlic clove, and give the side of the knife (avoid the sharp edge) a good whack, and the clove should pop right out of the paper.  Then just give ’em a rough chop, they’ll become more of a background flavor once melded in and not a bite like in the garlic-ricotta mashed potatoes we just made.

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Sear the beef on all sides so it’s got a nice color, then get the garlic in for a minute or two.  Then it’s time for the 8 cups of beef broth (that’s 2 of those boxes you see me pouring, or ~4 cans) and some more flavorings: a tablespoon (each) of sugar, dried thyme, and Worcestershire sauce, then 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and 2 bay leaves (dried or fresh).  You’re supposed to use beef stock; but use whatever you can find in the grocery store that day.  I’ve been meaning to try some of the premade boxed stocks that I’ve seen in a few supermarkets – if you have please let me know if they’re worth it.

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By the way, brands of products are completely up to you, but I’m usually on a budget.  I inherited some of my spices from my previous roommates, so what you see may not always be the most economical.  You don’t always need to buy a bottle of a spice/herbs – if you just need a bit for one recipe look for a bulk bin at your local grocery store.  I’ve seen bulk spices & herbs at the Sprouts, Central Market, and H.E.B. in Texas metropolitan areas.  Cover the pot, let it come to a boil, then lower the heat so that it can simmer for the next hour (keep it covered, no peeking!).  Time for the veggies:

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beefstew-031Seven carrots, an onion, and six medium sized potatoes.  I’d say I used about 14 oz. of carrots (look for them in a bag, they’re cheaper that way), 8 oz. onion, and 2.5 lbs of potatoes.  You need to wash and use a vegetable peeler on the carrots and potatoes.  To prep the onion, cut the top and bottom off, stand it on a flat end, slice it in half, and peel away the paper layers.  Chop all the vegetables up in about 1″ pieces, however you can get them in 1″ pieces since I forgot to take pictures to show you how I do it.  😀  Next time guys.

beefstew-032Next we need to saute the vegetables with some butter over medium-high heat until they’ve got a slight brown color to them – you might need to do 2 batches like I did.  It took me 10-20 minutes per batch to get the veggies golden.  Then it’s everyone in the stockpot for the next 40 minutes, but this time simmering uncovered.  Below are some before and after pictures – they don’t look terribly different but the smell that fills your kitchen over that 40 minutes is amazing!  I enjoyed the rest of an NCIS episode in the meantime.  When it’s ready, you can skim a little of the fat/oil off the top if it bothers you, but don’t forget to pull the bay leaves before you serve!  And this tastes just as good, if not better, up to 2 days later after the flavors have all melded (if it lasts that long).  Enjoy!  PS, you clicky and can see bigger pictures of these last two.

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Before...

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Ready to eat!

April 13, 2009

Mashed Potato Stuffed Chicken Breasts in Photos

Posted in Misc. Main Dishes tagged , at 8:00 pm by jenniec00ks

I found this recipe for Mashed Potato Stuffed Chicken Breasts in the February 2008 edition of Rachael Ray’s magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray. I believe the credited author, Silvana Nardone, is her editor. I’ve done it a touch differently here and added a side dish of ricotta-garlic mashed potatoes – because it’s much more economical to buy a 5 or 10 lb. bag of potatoes than 1 lb. out of the bulk bin. I’ll write the full recipe in a pretty PDF you can print soon.

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Let’s start with the potatoes – I really only ever use the Red and Russet varieties because they are common and therefore inexpensive. The Red ones are great, and my #1 choice, because the skin is so thin you can eat it in every preparation (read: no peeling required!) The Russet potato is only good for baking and those long cooking recipes that need a potato to hold it’s shape. I had about half of a 5lb bag of Russet Idaho potatoes left over from making beef stew this past weekend (that’s another entry), but feel free to use any amount you have on hand – it’ll just determine how much side dish you’ll get. First I peeled & washed the 7 potatoes, cut off any dark black spots, then began to cut them into ~1″ pieces. The smaller you chop, the faster they’ll cook – and we’re going to mash these up anyway so might as well save some time!

mashedpotchkn-008I toss the chopped potatoes in a pot, covered them with about an inch of water, cranked the heat under it, and gave ’em a stir every few minutes to ensure even cooking. If you’re slow at cutting up the potatoes, keep the ones you’re not using in water so that they don’t discolor. Once the water came to a boil, it took about 5 minutes to get fork-tender. If you’re not sure they’re done, just pull a piece and pierce it with a fork – it should go through fairly easily (hence the “fork-tender”). For reference, I used a 6 qt. stockpot and it was about half full.

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Next up, the garlic to be sautéed in butter for the garlic-ricotta mashed potatoes. About six medium cloves, diced up as fine as you can handle biting into. **By the way, these potatoes will definitely have a bite to them, if they sound too pungent for you, use the roasted garlic suggestion I make later. I melted 3 pats of butter (~1.5 tbsp?) in my frying pan over medium-low heat and tossed the garlic in for a few minutes until they were wonderfully fragrant. By the time I took the garlic off the heat, the potatoes were ready to be drained.

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mashedpotchkn-016I used a colander to strain the potatoes, then tossed them into a bowl suitable for my stainless steel masher (I’m pretty sure I can’t use metal utensils on that stockpot because of the non-stick finish; you probably shouldn’t either). A stainless steel pot/bowl or a glass bowl should work fine.  Add about 1/3 cup of milk, another tbsp of butter.  Oh, also salt and pepper to taste – then it’s time to mash away.  There’s no real rule after that – mash a little if you like it chunky, msah it a lot and a little more milk if you like it creamy.  When you’re pleased with the texture, scoop out about 1 cup into a separate bowl to be stuffed in the chicken breasts.

mashedpotchkn-0171Then I used a microplane (a fine grater) to zest a lemon and mixed it into the mashed potatoes (the zest is only the thin yellow layer, if you get any white pith it’ll be bitter).  You can pick up any kind of fine grater at your favorite kitchen store for between $10-$15.  It’s a pretty good investment, even for the casual cook – good for zesting lemons/limes/oranges, cheeses (think parmesan toppings and emmental fondues), fresh nutmeg and even garlic when you don’t want to bite into chunks of it.

Alright – time to load up the chicken and get it in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rules to remember: make sure you keep raw meat away from everything else, wash your hands after handling it, and always wash your chicken!!!

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We start by separating the skin on two bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (~1 lb each).  You can trim off any excess fat if you’d like as well.

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Stuff the lemon mashed potatoes under the skin as evenly as possible.  I pretty much coat the top of the chicken breast – even if the skin doesn’t cover it all the way.

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Then I dress up the skin with dried thyme, salt/pepper, and garlic powder.

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Finally, I rub the seasonings in with about a tablespoon of olive oil per breast.  Also, if you want your side dish to have a mellow garlic flavor, here’s where you can toss some garlic cloves (whole, still in their paper) with some olive oil and roast them on a separate baking sheet/piece of foil.  I’d recommend 5-7 cloves for the amount of potatoes I did, depending on how much you ❤ garlic.  When the oven’s preheated, put the chicken in the oven for 40 minutes (the garlic cloves only 30 for the cloves, or until soft to the touch).

mashedpotchkn-019Time to finish up the side dish.  If you’re going the roasted garlic route: when they’re cool enough to handle, you should be able to squeeze them out of their paper casing and mash them with a fork.  Anyway, garlic and about a 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese get mixed well into the poatoes and you’re done.  I used ricotta because I had recently made a Ricotta-Spinach pasta; whatever cheese you like and have on hand will do!  Be creative!  The chicken juices should run clear and the skin will be fantastically golden brown after 40 minutes in the oven.  Make sure you drizzle any delicious juices left on the pan over the chicken when serving.

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Just what you've been waiting for!