Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sloppy Shepherd's Pie

This dish looks like a normal shepherd's pie, but is made using leftover sloppy joe for the meat layer.  After eating sloppy joe for dinner and then lunch the next day, I was ready to transform the remainder into a new dish.  This sloppy joe recipe was made with lamb and turkey, and included chipotles in adobo to give it some smokiness and spiciness, onion, garlic, carrot, tomato sauce & paste, and a bit of brown sugar.  It was sweet, savory, and spicy- great on a bun as a sandwich, but equally as delicious as the base of this shepherd's pie.  For the vegetable layer I added in some peas and more carrot, and for the mashed potato layer on top I used a variety of potatoes with some cheddar cheese for extra yummy flavor.  The savory mashed potatoes balanced out the spice and sweetness from the sloppy joe.  Overall, this is definitely a keeper!

Ingredients: (makes one 9x9 casserole, 4 giant servings)
2 cups prepared sloppy joe
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, finely diced
1 cup peas, thawed if using frozen
4 medium potatoes (I think it was about 2 lbs- I used two red, one russet, and one golden)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Peel and dice the potatoes into one inch cubes.  Place them in a pot of hot salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender but be careful not to overcook.  I think it took around 10-12 minutes, but not quite sure.  Meanwhile, bring a skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil, and then the carrot with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  
Saute for about 10 minutes until the carrots have softened, and then add the peas for about 3 minutes longer.  
Remove from eat for assembling the pie, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When the potatoes are done, drain them and return to the pot.  Add the butter and let it melt.  Stir in the milk and yogurt, and mash the potatoes, mixing as you go.  

You may need to add more milk if the mixture seems dry.  Add 3/4 cup cheese and mix.  Taste for salt and pepper.  
To assemble the pie, use a 9x9 or similar sized casserole dish.  Layer in the sloppy joe, vegetables, and then potatoes.  Don't make the top smooth- create peaks and texture with the potatoes which will make some parts brown before the rest.  Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup cheese on top.  

Place into the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  For the last 2 minutes, turn the oven to broil to brown the top.  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn.  When it's browned, remove and let it cool for about 5-7 minutes before slicing in.  Each layer has it's own unique flavor, and together it all tastes amazing.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Asian Flank Steak in Lettuce Boats (with Sweet & Spicy Chile Sauce)

This is one of Sean's favorite dishes for his mom to make- I first had it at her house, and I remember several times later when she made it again per Sean's special request.  Not that I was complaining, because this Asian-style steak is sooo good.  It's probably the first time I ever had flank steak too, which I instantly fell in love with (though it's unfortunately a little pricey).  Anyway, I've never tried to make this before because I really can't compare with Joy's cooking, but when Sean recently requested it I couldn't resist.  We came up with our own marinade for the steak and created a sweet & spicy carrot-chile sauce to go on top.  The drippings and bits of garlic left in the pan after cooking the steak were mixed with rice and chopped kimchi for a tasty side dish.  I'm pretty sure our friends that came over for dinner were glad they came :)
2 lbs flank steak
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Thai chiles, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
freshly cracked pepper
2 heads of romaine lettuce, largest leaves torn off and washed 
more vegetable oil for cooking steak
For the carrot-chile sauce:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
5 minced Thai chiles (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 carrots, shredded

Prepare the marinade for the steak.  Do this in the morning so it can marinate for at least 6 hours.  Combine all ingredients in the first list (except the lettuce) in a bowl and stir to mix well.   
In a large zip lock, combine the marinade with the steak.  Press out the air and seal the bag.  Distribute the marinade so it is evenly covering the meat.  Place in the fridge and rotate every hour or so.  Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking.  When you are ready to cook the steak, heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  We had to cut our flank steak into two separate pieces because it wouldn't fit in the pan whole.  Pour about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the pan once it is hot, and place the steak down.  If it ever starts smelling like burning, turn the heat to medium.  
Cook for about 4-5 minutes and flip.  Cook for 4 minutes longer.  We adjusted our cooking time based on how the steak felt to see if it was done enough.  We prefer the meat medium-rare, and with the thicker steak we had to throw it in the oven for a few more minutes just to take it up from rare.  Check your steak as you cook it because the time will vary depending on how hot your pan is and how thick the steak is etc.  Both sides should be caramelized and browned- but not burnt.  Every once in a while I did have to scrape up the onion or garlic bits that were sticking to the bottom to make sure they didn't burn either.   
If you want to make the kimchi-rice when you are done with the steak, add 1 cup or more of chopped kimchi to the pan when the steak has been removed to set before slicing.  Scrape up all the bits from the pan, and pour the mixture into two cups of cooked rice.  Stir and add salt/pepper as needed.
Let the steak rest for at least 7-10 minutes before slicing.  Tent it with foil so it doesn't lose it's heat.  Slice against the grain in long thin slices.

To make the chile sauce (this can be done in advance) place all ingredients except corn starch into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Turn heat down to medium.  Boil for about 10 minutes or until it has reduced by half.  Reduce heat to low and add the corn starch mixture.  Stir and let the sauce thicken.  When it has come to your desired consistency, remove from heat.  Taste to see if you prefer it to be more sweet, spicy, or acidic, and adjust as necessary by adding more sugar, vinegar, or chiles.  Remember you will be adding the carrots which will mellow out the flavor a bit.
Add the carrots to the thickened sauce and leave at room temperature or chill until ready to serve with the steak. 

To serve, place several strips of steak onto a lettuce "boat" (large cupped lettuce leaf).  Spoon some of the chile sauce on top, and enjoy this tasty meal!

We had leftovers the next day (above) and it was still delicious.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grits Muffins

I've mentioned previously how much I love grits, and this is a great way to use your leftovers.  I used to dread the "recipes" my mom would come up with on her own when I was a kid, because in general they just weren't that good.  (or so I believed at the time and refused to try them).  But, this was one she came up with that I loved.   Using the grits as part of the batter makes the muffins buttery and moist with a bit of texture and density that is surprisingly delicious.  These are a great addition to a full breakfast, or as a side dish with dinner.  It's worth making extra grits on purpose just so you can make these the next day!  I made these with leftovers from our jambalaya.  

 Ingredients: (makes 10... I'll have to figure out adjustments to get it to a full dozen)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cooked grits
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Whisk together your wet ingredients (minus the grits).  Mix in all of the dry ingredients next, and finally fold in the grits and cheese if using.  The mixture will be a little lumpy but that's okay.
Pour into a greased muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops have started to brown.   
Let them cool slightly before gently removing.  Serve hot.  (leftovers can be microwaved to reheat but they won't be quite as good)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ginger Apricot Lotus Salad

Whenever I stop at our local Japanese grocery store I can't help but pick up a few unique items that I've never cooked with before.  For a store smaller than our tiny apartment, they have an amazing variety of Japanese and Asian goods.  I once bought every supply needed to make sushi at this store, including the rolling mats!  This time I picked up a package of sliced lotus root, mainly because I love the way it looks.   When sliced, lotus root looks like a flower or lace doily and makes any dish look fancier.  
I decided to go for a simple flavorful salad since this was my first time making a dish with lotus root.  I sliced thin cucumber rounds for freshness, which happened to be about the same size as the lotus rounds.  The sliced apricot wedges added a burst of tart juiciness that was amazing with the rather tame flavor of the lotus.  And when I say rather tame, I mean literally flavorless.  The taste of the root definitely doesn't match up to it's appearance.  But it added some crunch to the salad to say the least, and absorbed some flavor from the potent ginger-garlic sauce.  This is a great fresh tasting salad perfect for these hot summer days.

  • thinly sliced lotus root (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 apricots sliced into thin wedges - I like them a little hard so they are sour more than sweet
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt to taste

To try and bring out flavor from the lotus root, I placed it in a bowl with the juice from one lime, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and sugar, mixed, and let it sit for about 10 minutes while I prepared the other ingredients.  

Grate the ginger and garlic with a microplane which will give you a very fine paste.  You won't be able to get the entire clove grated, but that's okay because garlic has such a strong flavor when raw.

 In a bowl, combine the paste with the vinegar, other half of lime juice, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, olive oil, and honey. Whisk.  
In a bowl, mix together the cucumber and apricot slices.  Drain the lotus root, and add it to the mix.  Stir in the sauce and let sit for at least 15 minutes, chilled, until ready to serve.  

This is also great the next day when more of the flavors have absorbed into one another.  It keeps for several days, in an air tight container in the fridge.  Enjoy!