Monday, January 31, 2011

Hashbrown Casserole

I got a hankering for this casserole recently when some coworkers and I -- a globally dispersed group -- were discussing the concept of cookie salad, which is a phenomenon that seems to be pretty specific to the Midwest. It's good standard potluck fare, and any North Dakotan worth his or her salt loves a good potluck. (I'm generalizing, but I'm also right.)

One thing led to another in my mind, and I was thinking about this potato dish, which I first tasted -- yes, here it comes -- at a potluck. My coworker Jo brought it, and it was a huge hit. She has since told me that it's a pretty common recipe from community cookbooks and such, there are several variations, and you can't mess it up.

Basically, you take frozen hash browns, add some condensed soup, sour cream and cheese, add something crunchy on top, and bake it into this yummy, cheesy pile. And really, who doesn't love a yummy, cheesy pile?

Hashbrown Casserole
Serves 8-12

2 lb. shredded hashbrown potatoes, thawed
1/4 c. butter, cut in thin slices
1 can condensed soup, such as cream of chicken or cream of celery
8 oz. sour cream (light works)
8 oz. shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Colby-Jack)
Onion salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. crushed potato chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. Combine hash browns, butter, soup, sour cream, and cheese until well combined, and spread evenly in dish. (I combined this right in the dish.)

3. Sprinkle with onion salt and pepper, and then top with crushed potato chips.

4. Cover and bake for 1 hour.

5. Let set a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Teriyaki Strip Steak

The hubby loves sushi, but me, not so much. (Wait, that didn't come out right.) Luckily, most of the sushi places in the area cater to the cooked-meat crowd, and teriyaki steak is one of my favorite dishes to order when the hubby has the urge to dine on cold, raw fish.

But I feel a little like Goldilocks. One restaurant's sauce is too sweet and clingy. Another's is too thin and bland. Et cetera.

This teriyaki sauce, from America's Test Kitchen, is juuuust right. Actually, it's better than just right. It's perfect, and this really simple weeknight meal ended up being the best teriyaki steak I've ever had. Of course, I got to choose my own cut of meat, but the teriyaki sauce is definitely the star.

This will be my go-to teriyaki sauce from now on, and this dish will be part of our regular rotation.

Especially when the hubby picks up sushi.

Teriyaki Strip Steak
Serves 4

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 12-oz. strip steaks
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, cornstarch, and crushed red pepper flakes in a bowl.

2. Pat steaks dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, just until oil starts smoking. Add steaks and cook until well browned, about 5 or so minutes on each side.

You definitely want your steak on the rarer side for this dish.

3. Transfer steaks to a plate and tent with foil. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

4. Add soy sauce mixture to skillet. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.

5. Slice steak thinly against the grain. Pour sauce over the steak and sprinkle with scallions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

It's been so cold here lately that even Blogger froze up. I've been trying to upload a few posts all week, but my pictures won't load on my computer. Apparently it works fine on the hubby's, so I lured him away from his computer with some of this tart, and got to work.

This is an adaptation of a Gourmet recipe, and it's incredibly indulgent. The filling is almost like dark chocolate ganache, but flavored with some hazelnuts and -- you guessed it -- Nutella. The change I made was to sprinkle the top with a few tablespoons of chopped hazelnuts, rather than putting a cup in the tart filling. This was both because I wanted to preserve the lovely smoothness of the chocolate, and because I wanted the little man to be able to eat it.

This isn't your everyday dessert, but would be wonderful to serve to company or to finish off a dinner party. It was a perfect treat for the hubby and I today, because we've been trying to eat better but still allow ourselves to indulge once in a while. (We had the whole indulging vs. overeating discussion, so we each limited ourselves to a tiny sliver.)

And this baby's so good that even though it will break my heart, I think I need to find a new home for some of the leftovers, lest all my hard work be undone. Any volunteers?

Dagnabbit, I just can't do it.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
Serves 8-10

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/8 tsp. salt

10 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Nutella
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and salt, and press crust onto the bottom of a 9" springform pan. Bake crust for 7 minutes, and then cool completely.

3. Finely chop chocolate.

This is hard work. I was too exhausted to use the treadmill after this.

4. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream over chocolate.

5. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth, and then stir in Nutella and salt.

It looks gloppy at first, but it all works out in the end. I promise.

6. Pour mixture over cooled crust and top with hazelnuts.

7. Let chill in freezer for 25 minutes, or in fridge for 2-3 hours. Remove sides of pan before serving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken, Potato, and White Bean Soup

The little man's favorite food these days -- and probably for all time -- is chocolate. His second favorite? Forget chicken finger or grilled cheese or hamburgers, or all those perennial kid favorites. My little man likes him some beans.

I've made this soup several times, tweaking the ingredients here and there to find what I works best. And each and every time, the little man gobbles this up like it's his first meal in days. Beans first.

The soup starts with bacon, but pancetta would be a fine substitute, or even some ham. Or you can try it without the bacon altogether. Although I'm not sure why anyone would pass up the opportunity to make bacon. (In fact, we usually cook up the remainder of the package of bacon and keep it in the fridge for another of the little man's favorites -- BLTs. With mayo. And minus the L.)

Chicken, Potato, and White Bean Soup
Serves 6-8

4 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. potatoes, cut into cubes
2 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 32-oz. container (4 c.) chicken broth, plus one 14-oz can
1 1/2-2 c. chopped cooked chicken
2 15.5-oz. cans small white beans, drained
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the potatoes, carrots, bay leaf, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables start to sweat, about 4-5 minutes.

4. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the chicken and white beans and cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shredded Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

We had back-to-back blizzards here the week of New Year's, and more than a week later, some of the roads are still glare ice. Needless to say, we stuck around the house for New Year’s Eve -- and had ourselves a little fiesta.

I’m a huge fan of enchiladas with red sauce, but even when we go to a Mexican restaurant with a huge variety of combo platters, I have difficulty finding my favorite combination: one shredded beef and bean enchilada and one cheese enchilada. (If you combine them all together, the cheese flavor gets lost.) Luckily, it’s quite easy to make these at home.

For the beef filling, I used my shredded beef taco meat recipe, which is so versatile. Plus, it’s easy to make a day or two ahead. And while I strongly encourage making your own enchilada sauce, I didn’t have the ingredients I needed on hand. But I did have enchilada sauce. Go figure.

Shredded Beef and Cheese Enchiladas
Serves 4

1 c. refried beans (I usually use fat-free)
2 large can enchilada sauce
2 beef bouillon cubes
Pinch of sugar (seriously, just a tiny pinch)
8 8-9” tortillas (corn is traditional, but I prefer flour)
1-1½ c. shredded beef taco filling
6 oz. shredded cheese (I prefer Monterey Jack)
1 c. shredded cheddar or Colby-Jack cheese
The usual accompaniments for serving: lettuce, tomato, olives, sour cream, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat refried beans until they’re of spreading consistency. (I sometimes add a bit of water or broth to mine to make them a bit thinner.)

3. In a small saucepan, heat enchilada sauce to a simmer and add beef bouillon cubes. Stir occasionally, until bouillon is thoroughly dissolved. Add a pinch of sugar.

4. Ladle a bit of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. This helps keep the enchiladas from sticking to the bottom.

5. Heat each tortilla in the microwave for about 10 seconds. For the beef and bean enchiladas, layer some beans on the tortilla – however much you prefer. (Or leave them out altogether if you’re not a bean fan.) Top with beef.

6. Tightly roll the tortillas and place them in the baking dish.

7. For the cheese enchiladas, add beans if you prefer, and tightly roll tortilla. Place in baking dish, alternating with the beef and bean. Or however you want to arrange them.

8. When finished with all 8, top with enchilada sauce.

9. Spray the dull side of a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and cover the pan (spray side down). Bake enchiladas about 30-40 minutes, or until heated through. Immediately sprinkle with 1 c. cheese.

10. Serve with toppings.