Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

I remember a long time ago, way back before I could even cook at all, that I really liked vanilla extract. Whenever I saw my mom take it out, I knew that something delicious was going to get baked. You know how some little kids love the smell of permanent markers? When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the kitchen, open her spice cabinet and just smell the vanilla extract. I’ve always loved what vanilla can do to sweet treats, and now that I bake a lot myself I absolutely will not do without it.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw savory applications of vanilla in recipes. I was intrigued and admittedly, a little unsure. I tried to envision what a savory vanilla dish would taste like, but couldn’t really get a grasp on it by thinking alone. The obvious concern is that it’s going to make the food taste too sweet, which then makes me nervous about wasting money on ingredients–if you bake with vanilla often, then you know it isn’t too cheap.

But y’know, as with most other things you’re afraid of trying, the best way to get over it is to just… try it out and see what happens. This was my first attempt to put vanilla into a savory dish, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well.

It starts out with a spice rub that you’re going to let marinade on the meat overnight. It’s also got soy sauce (my go-to ingredient for just about ALL of my marinades by the way), and a splash of orange juice. After you sear the meat the next day, you put together the braising sauce that’s made of wine, tomatoes, and the vanilla extract. Don’t worry if it seems a little…’tomato-y’ at first. Once it gets time for the flavors to develop in the oven, they do balance out.

I think that this is a very, very good recipe to use for those of us who aren’t used to eating vanilla savory-style. It’s an easy braise with easy to find ingredients, and actually very little hands-on time. I paired this beef with the Sweet Potato Challah Buns I made a little while back and they made absolutely DELICIOUS sandwiches. Just saying.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #233.

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Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from Nielsen Massey

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Ingredients

For Spice Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Soy Sauce
  • About 4 lbs of chuck roast, London broil, or tri-tip steak cut into large cubes

For Braise:

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 fl. oz.) can tomato sauce
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Seasoned Salt and pepper
  • A few dashes of soy sauce

Directions

Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl with a fork. Place the beef cubes into 2 freezer gallon size bags. Sprinkle soy sauce onto the surface of the beef and use your fingers to gently massage it in. Divide the spice mix evenly between the two bags. Seal the bags, then toss around until the meat is evenly coated. Place both bags into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side until browned. Keep the seared meat in a bowl covered with foil, as you may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of broth, then add the onions. Saute until the bits are loose and the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and the garlic is fragrant. Temporarily remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan combine the wine, sugar and the vanilla. Whisk together over medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Pour the rest of the broth, the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, reduced wine, orange zest/juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and the rest of the spices into the Dutch oven with the onions/garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, allow to cook down for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning (But flavors will also further develop while braising).

Place the beef cubes back into the Dutch oven, cover then braise in the oven for 2– 2 1/2 hours until beef is fork tender.

Pulled Jerk Chicken

I cook often, but my actual taste preferences are limited. I like what I like and because of that, I don’t tend to try a lot of new things. There are few things that can kill my mood than a meal that I didn’t like. So I don’t take the risk. However, if someone I trust recommends something new to me, I’ll give it a shot, which is what happened for my birthday back in 2016. My sister took me to a Caribbean spot downtown and I had jerk chicken for the first time. There were greens and plantains on the side. It was delicious.

We try not to eat out too often to save money, but recently I found myself still really wanting some jerk chicken. I did a quick internet search to see what goes into making it and found out it’s really not that complicated. And as chicken itself is one of the cheaper proteins, I decided to give it my best shot. This is what ended up happening and I thought it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I really believe in letting my meats sit in marinades overnight, even if it’s mainly just a spice rub. It gives the spices plenty of time to permeate the meat and maximizes the amount of flavor you’ll get the next day–and also minimizes the amount of extra seasoning you’ll have to add the next day of cooking. For this spice rub, I used a combination of cinnamon, cumin and allspice, along with soy sauce that I rubbed into the meat to help it stick (it also gives a great ‘rich’ salty flavor).

After the chicken gets seared, you’re gonna put together the sauce–and I really do love this sauce. I did some tweaking from other jerk recipes I’ve seen, swapping out lemon juice for lime, cutting out the vinegar (as I think the lime juice makes it plenty acidic enough) and adding some brown sugar and chicken broth just to round things out. Altogether, along with those Scotch bonnets, it makes a sweet and spicy sauce for the seared chicken to braise in the oven with until it’s fork tender and falling off the bone. This is also another one of those braises that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have even more time to develop and deepen. For a perfect Caribbean meal, make it with these Maple Curry Plantains alongside rice and crusty bread.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Pulled Jerk Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 4 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, plus more for spice rub, divided
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into wedges
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Combine the cinnamon, cumin and allspice together in a bowl with a fork. Massage a few dashes of soy sauce into the surface of the chicken (not the 1/3 cup, that’s for later), then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the meat into sealable gallon size bag, seal it, then toss the meat around in the bag to make sure the seasoning is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of  Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the chicken on both sides about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove from pot once browned and keep covered with foil. Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits. Allow to simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off, then place the onions in the pot. Allow to cook until they’re translucent and softened, 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add the lime juice, molasses, orange juice, the 1/3 cup of soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar, scallions, cilantro, thyme, ginger, remaining 1 cup of broth and peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven, bake until meat is fork tender and pulling off the bone, about 1 1/2-2 hours. When the chicken is ready, remove it to a cutting board.  Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour it back into the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and discard them along with the fatty parts and skin. Place the meat back into the pot and toss in the sauce.

Serve with rice or on crusty sandwich bread.

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Hi, my name is Jessica and I have a confession to make.

Despite the name of this blog being Cooking is My Sport…I don’t always love to cook. Sometimes it’s the very last thing I want to do. I mean, the LAST. I envision putting on my baggy round the house clothes, pulling out pots/pans and standing in the kitchen for a while cooking–and I’ll just say to myself, “Yeah, nope. It’s not gonna happen today.”

And you know what? That’s okay. When those times arise, (and they will for everyone) there are a few different alternatives I will take to cooking a super ‘hands on’, full effort, time consuming meal:

First, I’ll order takeout–usually a pizza. Do I really need to do much explaining for this one? I mean, sometimes carb-heavy, greasy, sodium overload food is just what your body is craving. Life is short and if I don’t feel like cooking, pizza is a tried and true fail safe.

Second, I’ll eat cereal and milk. It’s quick, it’s not overly filling and so long as you pick cereals that aren’t loaded with sugar, it’s not the unhealthiest option either. (Honey Bunches of Oats and Hney Nut Cheerios is my winning combination in case you were curious).

Third, I’ll just pick up a rotisserie chicken.

Let me just say this right now: rotisserie chicken slander will not be tolerated on this here blog. I stan for rotisserie chicken and all the things that can be done with it. They’re awesome. They’re a pretty inexpensive buy whether you buy them fresh and cook them yourself, or pick a premade one up from your local grocery store deli. If the seasoning is done right by the deli, they usually taste pretty good on their own, but even if their bland on their own, it’s EXTREMELY easy to take the chicken off the carcass and give it a flavorific makeover within minutes.

I don’t like most chicken salad recipes because they’re mayonnaise based; mayonnaise triggers my gag reflex. So, I tend to stay away. However,  a little while ago I started experimenting with different ways to make the dressings for chicken salad, swapping out the mayonnaise entirely for other options, like this recipe where I used a base of Greek yogurt instead). This time around, I decided to go for a spin on chicken salad that was  made with a vinaigrette dressing rather than a creamy one.

I started out this post by saying I don’t always feel like cooking, and this recipe stays true to that. Literally the only thing that gets ‘cooked’ is garlic heads that are roasted in the oven. ‘Why do we roast garlic?’, you may ask. It cuts through the sharp flavor of raw garlic and improves it, giving a sweeter, richer flavor that really can’t be beat. You’ll be thanking me for this little trick and be using it in all kinds of dishes in the future.

Once the garlic is roasted, you really are practically done. From there, you just mix the rest of the dressing ingredients together in a blender, then pour it over the chicken and vegetables that make up your salad. I used roasted red peppers, cucumbers and onions (the usual suspects in my salads). There’s also a generous portion of chopped parsley leaves in there, which give it a zesty, peppery flavor.

I have to say, the dressing is the star here. The roasted garlic gives it a savory and almost caramelized flavor that’s gets balanced out with the remaining ingredients; acidity with the vinegar and honey mustard, and sweetness from the honey and OJ. Even if your rotisserie chicken isn’t seasoned right, this will spruce it right up. It tastes SO fresh and bright. It’s satisfying, but still light enough to where you won’t feel too full afterwards. This may have been a bare minimum effort meal, but we gobbled it up–I’ve already been asked to make it again. It’s really good and I think you ought to give it a shot on a non-cooking night when takeout or cereal isn’t tickling your fancy. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #219, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used malt vinegar, but you can feel free to use red wine, white wine or balsamic, according to your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • 1/2 cup baby cucumbers, chopped and sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yellow sweet onion, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of a blender/food processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily).

Pour the vinegar, honey mustard, orange juice, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper in the blender with the garlic. Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, cucumbers, red peppers, onion and parsley together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Orange Sage Glazed Ham

We don’t eat ham very often, but every time we do I wonder why and how I always seem to forget how much I love it. I don’t understand why ham catches the flack that it does–people either seem to love it or hate and the majority of people I know are inclined to the latter. Crazies.

Debate among yourselves about the whys–we like and eat ham ’round here and in case some of y’all will be too, I thought that Easter weekend would be a good time to share the most recent way that I made it.

I really don’t think that much needs to be done to a ham if it’s pre-smoked. So long as you have a good spice rub and glaze, the oven should be doing most of the work. That’s certainly the case here. It may take some time to cook, but this recipe couldn’t be easier to put together.

Citrus works really well with pork, especially orange.  You’ll be using both the zest and the juice; nothing wasted. For the rub, fresh sage gets mashed together with oil and the zest to form a thick paste that you’re going to schmear all over the ham. Let it do its thing in the oven while you put together the orange glaze that’s spiced with cloves and cinnamon. By the time it finishes cooking it’ll be thick, syrupy and spicy-sweet, which is exactly where you want it to be.

I know it takes a little bit, but your patience in letting the ham bake low and slow will allow the oven to render out the fat across the top. Once it’s cooked through and the glaze gets poured over it, the sugars in the glaze caramelize to form a thick, dark crust; it’s such a beautiful thing. The smells alone are gonna get you. The sweet tartness of the glaze balances out the saltiness of the ham. The spice of the cloves is also a nice flavor to balance out them both.

Also, let’s be honest: half of the reason I love making ham so much is that the leftovers make the BEST sandwiches or protein for salads. Or, if you really wanted to get creative you could use some of your leftovers on this bread pudding I made a few weeks ago.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and a Happy Fiesta Friday#217, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Angie@ Fiesta Friday.

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Orange Sage Glazed Ham

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

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Ingredients

  • 1 8-10 pound bone in, skin on spiral ham
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place ham in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Using a sharp knife, score the ham with cuts across the skin, about 2-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Cut diagonally down the slashes to form a diamond pattern; season the meat generously with the seasoned salt and pepper.

Roughly chop the sage leaves and place in a small bowl with the orange zest. Drizzle in the oil to form a thick paste. Rub the paste all over the ham, making sure you get down into some of the slits. Bake uncovered for about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the orange juice, the butter, brown sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Slowly cook down until it form a syrupy glaze—this will take 45-50 minutes.

At the end of the 90 minutes, pour all of the glaze over the ham, cinnamon sticks and all. Continue to bake and baste with the pan juices every 15 minutes for an additional 35-45 minutes. Crank the heat up to 400 to allow a dark sugary crust to form across the top of the ham, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the ham to rest before carving for about 15 minutes.

Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Hey y’all.

Sorry about missing last week. I don’t have a good excuse–I was just in an off mood and for some reason couldn’t get enough focus. I kept pushing back and procrastinating in writing the post until I finally just decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I have been doing quite a bit of both cooking and baking to try and perk myself up though, so you’ll get to see the product of that in the coming weeks.

When I cook and bake, I usually have a habit of making quite a bit of food at one time. This is mostly so that I don’t have to do very much heavy cooking throughout the week. I know it’s not for everyone, but we’re staunch believers in meal prep and leftovers round here. As such, I try and re-purpose the leftovers into new dishes, just to mix things up and not get bored.

Last week’s post were these English scones that I flavored with orange. Because I doubled the recipe we actually had quite a few left over and although it would’ve been fine to just eat them on their own, I got an idea for another way to use them.

We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week and I wanted to do something a bit different than biscuits or pancakes (either one is what I’ll usually make). When I saw that I also had some leftover ham in the fridge, I knew that there was one of two ways we could go with it: scone breakfast sandwiches, or I could go ahead and try to make a bread pudding-strata…thingy to share on the blog.

As you can see, the bread pudding-strata thingy won out.

First of all, I know that most strata and bread pudding recipes call for a French bread or a sturdy type of bread like challah or brioche to be used as the base. If you are in a hurry then you can of course go ahead and buy some in a store for this–it’ll still turn out great. However. If you’ve got the time, I really do recommend making and using the scones as the bread base. I know it may seem like an odd choice, as the scones are on the sweet side and this is a savory dish.

But they work. They really do. The orange flavor gives the dish a special taste that we agreed it wouldn’t have if I had just used regular bread. The next time I make this, you can bet I’ll be putting in the extra effort to and baking the scones to use as the base.

If ham is not your favorite protein, then you can definitely substitute it for another protein–sausage, turkey sausage, chicken-sausage. You could leave the meat out entirely if you’d like to make it vegetarian and just use mushrooms. Don’t sweat it too much. This bread pudding-strata thingy is very forgiving in terms of swapping out ingredients.

I know I could’ve left it plain and still had a tasty dish, but I’m a huge condiment lover. Plus, as most bread puddings DO have sauces on the side I decided I would make a sauce for this one.

This is what I like to call a little ‘recipe recycling’. You guys remember the spiced meatballs I made earlier last August? Well I decided on a whim to try and see if the sauce that I made to go along with the meatballs would also pair nicely with the bread pudding-strata thingy. The sauce looks like it’s a tomato base, but it’s actually roasted red peppers, roasted onions and roasted garlic that I pureed together in the blender, then simmered over the stove with smoked paprika and a few other spices. I really love it all on its own and I thought that it would be worth a try to see what else I could ‘recycle’ it with.

I was once again, pleasantly surprised. The sauce was a perfect smoky compliment to the bread pudding/strata, that in and of itself has a very nice balance of sweetness from the scones, and saltiness from the ham and cheese. Even with the meat and carbs, it filled me up without making me feel too full. I’m not really sure what the proper term for this thing would be considering that I think it somehow manages to check all the boxes of bread pudding, strata, casserole, and breakfast bake at the same time. I’m not sure the name of it really matters considering that we really liked this, and I think you would too. So why not give it a try?

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #214, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 4 cups 1-inch cubes of bread (I used these leftover English scones, but you’re free to use any kind of bread you like)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese

Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, garlic, sage, thyme and seasoned salt and pepper. Beat together with a fork.

Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the ham, spinach and cheeses on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the ham/spinach and cheese, then pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 55-60 minutes. Serve warm with the sauce.

For the Sauce: Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily). Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes.

Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

I’ve said before on the blog that I’m not a huge fan of most 30 minute or less recipes and with a few exceptions, I’m standing behind that. No shade to Rachael, but I just prefer to take a little bit more time with preparing my food. The longer that the spices have to cook, the more they can infuse into the ingredients and make them taste better. There are certain dishes–like braises or stews that I actually prefer to eat the next day after I’ve cooked them, just to give the flavors time to develop. I could name a few desserts that work the same way.

For the most part, it’s just better to have at least one hour of cooking time available for your dishes–better for the food and also better for your tastebuds. Now, I did say ‘for the most part’. There are exceptions to every rule.

After all, sometimes after a very long day when you come home hungry and dog tired,  the last thing you probably want to do is get out a bunch of dishes and stand over a stove for a prolonged period of time just to whip up a meal. You just want to sit down and be able to eat. I get it.

A perfectly cooked and steak can (and depending on the size, should) certainly be made in thirty minutes or less. With a tasty enough sauce, most stir fries can be whipped up in 30 minutes. I can make myself a delicious egg in the basket in less than 10. I’m certainly not above browning some ground beef, using a taco seasoning packet and taco sauce to make quick tacos. And if I REALLY don’t feel like cooking, yes. I too will pick up a rotisserie chicken, shred that bad boy and mix it into a homemade salad for dinner.

And then there’s fajitas. Chicken fajitas is another one of the ‘quick meals’ we whip up around here when no one feels like doing much labor intensive cooking, but we also don’t want to order out either. I usually make huge batches of it to last a few days and we can use the meat for various types of meals: tacos, salads, sandwiches, whatever. Today’s recipe is the latest version I made for us. Normally I stick to a Latin cuisine flavor profile, but this time I switched it up a bit. Here the chicken is flavored with soy sauce, mirin, ginger and sesame oil so that they have more of an Asian flair to them.

A few things I particularly love about this: first, it doubles as both a 30 minute meal, BUT the spices have also been given plenty of time to permeate the chicken and give them plenty of flavor thanks to a marinade that they sit in overnight. The night before, mix together the marinade and place the chicken inside. The next day when you’re ready to put dinner together, all you gotta do is cook the chicken over high heat so that it cooks quickly, then give a quick saute to some onions and peppers. That’s it. Plenty of flavor to go around for what’s a pretty low effort meal. I know I don’t have to say it but I will anyway: this was really good stuff. Please do help yourself.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #209, co-hosted by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

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Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion
  • A few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • Tortilla shells, for serving

Directions

Cut the chicken into small strips and place inside a gallon size Ziploc bag.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour over the chicken in the Ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Pour the oil into a large skillet and bring to a medium-high heat. Take the chicken out of the marinade and sear it in batches in the skillet until golden brown. Keep cooked chicken in a bowl you cover with foil until all of it is cooked.

Once the meat is finished, saute the peppers with the onions in the skillet until softened and slightly charred, about 5-10 minutes.

Spoon the chicken into tortilla shells with the veggies and serve drizzled with sweet chili sauce and/or sriracha.

Beef Carbonnade

I’m going to piggyback off my last week’s post where I gave some free advice that I’ve picked up along the way of my own cooking journey. I’ve mentioned before on here that I have a not-so-minor addiction to buying/collecting cookware, bakeware and kitchen appliances. The majority of my Amazon wishlist is composed of the above. The shopping spree of my dreams would legit be at Williams Sonoma, where I could literally buy any and everything that I want. The more cooking/baking techniques and different dishes that I learn, the more gadgets and appliances I want in order to make them or take certain dishes to a certain level.

Just as there’s a lot of cooking advice to be taken in, there are just as many pieces of cookware, bakeware, gadgets or appliances out there. It’s perfectly fine to get a collection going once you’ve hit your stride and feel pretty confident in your abilities. However if you’re just starting out and and are just looking to *begin* stocking your cabinets with pots/pans, my advice to you would be similar to the advice I gave last week.

Less is more– at least in the beginning.

If you go to just about any Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s or even Target and Walmart you’re going to be able to find the huge sets of cookware that usually come with a few pots, skillets and spatualas. Those are fine–I’d even say that they’re a worthwhile investment provided it’s from a good company/brand.

The only thing is, the majority of cookware sets aren’t going to have what I personally consider a must-have in the kitchen collection of amateur and expert cooks alike. Any guesses on what it is?

Never mind, I’ll just tell you: it’s a Dutch oven.

One of the best decisions I ever made on my cooking journey was to invest in a good Dutch oven. It was a real game changer. Prior to that I had been using a stock pot. Trust me, there’s a big difference and in my opinion, no comparison between the two. There’s just no beating how many different uses you can get out of a Dutch oven.

You’re going to get more latitude from a Dutch oven which gives more surface area for a more even cook. I learned how to fry chicken while using a Dutch oven (they’re taller and also hold/distribute heat even better than cast iron).Most are pretty big–enough too make big pots of stew, soup and chili. They’re big and also wide enough to fit whole roasts and the vegetables. The Cephalon ones are my favorite; it’s a good non-stick surface that doesn’t wear out and the structure of the pot itself is strong and durable.

A good Dutch oven isn’t the cheapest thing you could buy for your kitchen, but I would still say it’s probably the best thing you could buy whether you’re starting out or not. It’s a *really* good investment. Anything you can make in those chintzy skillets or pots you got in a set, you can (and likely should) be making in a Dutch oven instead. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say for this post, all I could think about was how perfect it turned out BECAUSE of my Dutch oven.

So listen, guys. The advice for the week is: get a Dutch oven.

This recipe is pretty basic, as stick to your ribs food should be. Meat + onions + gravy = Boom. I think the mace and the smoked paprika in the spice rub give the meat a special ‘something’ that really works.  Beef & chicken broth, beer, and apple cider form the base of the gravy. There’s also juuuuust a tad bit of apple cider vinegar that gets added to it–I was nervous about the acidity but it’s actually just right.

Dutch ovens were *made* for meals like this. You want a Dutch oven so that you too can make rich, hearty braises with savory meat that simmers away in rich, hearty broth until it’s fork tender, filling your kitchen with the most glorious of smells. Now theoretically, could you make this in a stockpot if you didn’t have a Dutch oven yet? Eh…yeah. I guess. But the Dutch oven will give you the space and heat distribution that will give you the best results. SO GET ONE.

Sharing this post at Fiesta Friday #207, co-hosted this week by  Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com.

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Beef Carbonnade

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds top blade steaks, chuck roast, or tri tip steak, trimmed of gristle and fat cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium sweet yellow onions, halved and cut 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) dark beer or stout
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • A few dashes of soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Seasoned salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a small bowl, combine the seasoned salt and pepper, onion powder, mace, smoked paprika, dried thyme, and brown sugar with a fork.

Place the meat into a large bowl and sprinkle about half of the spice mix over it. Stir, then sprinkle the rest on top and stir until evenly coated.

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (or butter, or solidified bacon fat) in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides until browned. (You may have to do this in 2 batches in order to not crowd the pot) Remove the meat to a medium bowl and keep covered with aluminum foil.

Deglaze the pan with the apple cider, allow to simmer until the liquid is mostly dissolved, then add the onions to the pot,  and lower the heat down to medium. Allow the onions to cook until translucent and limpened, around 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir  and allow to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions, allow to cook until flour is slightly browned, about 2 more minutes.

Add the broths, beer, cider vinegar, bay leaves, soy sauce. Stir to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat back to medium. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Place the beef back into the pot.

Cover the pot with a lid, or tightly with aluminum foil and place on the bottom rack of the oven. Cook until a fork inserted in the beef meets little resistance; it should be close to pull apart tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

To make gravy: In a small bowl, combine a few tablespoons of flour with about 1/2 cup cool water. Use a whisk to stir until the flour dissolves. Strain several cups of the cooked beef broth into a saucepan, then pour in the flour water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, stirring a few times. Allow to simmer until thickened into a gravy, about 15-20 minutes.