Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Ultimate Man Meal

This post may be titled The Ultimate Man Meal but I find it to be pretty tasty too. I utilized two of my favorite cooking techniques for this dish. The technique that takes first place is grilling, as you probably already know. My second favorite technique is roasting. Both of these methods concentrate the flavors and bring out the natural sugars of whatever you may be cooking. They are both quick clean up methods which is an amazing bonus!! Okay... On to the dish that the Happy Hubby just said, and I quote, 'If you're looking to get lucky...' cook this meal. However, the only way you are going to get lucky after this dinner is if you spike his drink with caffeine. I would bet money on the fact that you will see your happy partner quickly fade off into a food coma if you cook a real porterhouse cut. In my opinion this is the truly lucky moment!! I end up sharing an evening of complaint free Food Network or girly sitcom watching with a happily napping couch buddy.
Get Lucky Dinner
Let's get a few things straight about a porterhouse cut. The porterhouse is not the same as the T-bone. The porterhouse is cut thicker and comes from the part of the cow where the top loin (NY Strip muscle) and the tenderloin (filet mignon muscle) come together. A properly cut porterhouse should be at least an inch to an inch and a half thick and you should be able to trim the bone and end up with a nice thick strip steak and a good size filet. Some chefs prefer to cut the two sections off the bone after the meat has rested so that it is easier for the diner to handle. I have found that the manly man in my life prefers to remove the meat from the bone in his own special way, think bare hands and teeth here, after taking down the more gracefully eaten parts. Another item worth mentioning is that you need to let this, and all cuts of meat for that matter, come to room temperature before throwing it on the grill. Your meat/pork/poultry will cook much more evenly and quickly if you let it sit, covered of course, on the counter for about 30 minutes before applying the heat.

Now on to the side dishes which are my personal favorite part of this meal. Before any of you readers get all whiny about Brussels sprouts you need to open your mind. The effect that roasting has on these baby cabbages is AMAZING! All you have to do is preheat your toaster oven (if its the summer) or real oven to about 375 degrees, line a baking sheet with some aluminum foil (this is the easy clean up part people), cut those babies in half, and season with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. You then pop them in the oven until the edges start to turn a golden brown. If you want to stir them around a couple of times go for it, it will give you more even browning which means more nutty crunchy goodness all over. Other seasonings that pair well with the Brussels sprouts are garlic salt or lemon pepper or any of your favorite spice rubs that do not contain sugar.

The potatoes are just as simple as the sprouts. You can even cook them on the same baking sheet at the same time!! Just rinse your taters, cut into reasonable wedges (I can usually get about 8 wedges per medium spud), apply the oil and seasoning treatment from the sprouts and roast until golden brown on the edges.

One of Barry's favorites to go with roasted potato wedges is whole roasted garlic cloves. You can use these roasted garlic cloves to flavor all kinds of things from mashed potatoes to hummus to a roasted garlic aioli (garlic flavored mayo). You want to separate the cloves but don't take off the papery covering. The only part you want to remove is the hard base of the clove where it connects to the root. Give the cloves the same oil treatment as before and throw them in with the potatoes and sprouts. Roast them until they are nice and squishy inside the papery covering. BE CAREFUL not to burn the cloves!! They will taste like bitter burnt poo, and no, I am not exaggerating. Once the properly cooked little golden gems have cooled, squeeze the soft roasted pulpy goodness out of the papery gift wrap. You can serve the cloves whole, which I do with this dish, or mash them into potatoes, or blend them into a paste and stir them into dips, hummus or mayo and people will think you are super gourmet. Try it first with one head of garlic. The next time you will be making extra so that you have it in the fridge to add rich roasted flavor to other great home made dishes.

Remember, it doesn't take much time or effort to turn out pretty, restaurant quality, non-processed foods on a daily basis. And just think... you might get to have a nice quality night between you and whatever you might want do with a happy sleeping husband to hang out with :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Channeling the Mediterranean

As you may or may not know the Mid Atlantic states are experiencing a very early spring warm up this week. With average highs in the low 70s all week and daylight savings time giving us an extra hour of light in the evening, you can be sure that Barry (the happy husband) and I will be cranking out some yard work and cranking up the grill. In fact, last night we decided to tempt fate and sow in the radishes, carrots, turnips and beets in to our back yard garden. We also put our sugar snap peas, kale and collards in. Hopefully, by mid next week we will have happy little sprouts that are working hard to get big and strong so that they can make their fabulous debut in the Happy Husband Diner.

I have to say that grilling is by far my favorite way to cook. We have a gas and a charcoal grill but I only use the charcoal grill for special occaisons or for Barry's favorite, grilled chicken wings. I don't have any pots or pans to worry about washing and the marinating vessel is usually a ziploc baggie (Thanks Mom!). Any of you that know me are aware of the fact that I'm not the most enthusiastic person in the dish washing department. I grew up eating dinner on paper plates with those wicker charger type things for support. It was a special day when we got to eat on the Corelle set. Clearly mom wasn't much of a fan of dishes either. But anyway.... back to the food and more importantly the grilling!!

Last night I decided we would take a culinary trip to the Mediterranean. I didn't have any lamb on hand but I did have a beef rump roast in the freezer and didn't have any plans of taking the time to cook the roast whole. I thought to myself... Self, how can we make this cook fast since we have a lot of work to do in the gardent tonight?? The answer I came up with was kebabs or kabobs depending on where you are from. After it was thawed out I cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and put it in a zip loc bag with some store bought Italian dressing. I'm telling you, if you have never tried using Italian dressing (Wishbone brand is my favorite) as a quick and effective marinade, you are missing out! I also prepped the greek inspired Tzatziki sauce before the garden work as it has to sit for an hour to two or over night so that the flavors can meld. The sauce is super healthy, I mean like 35 calories per 3 tablespoons healthy, and its super yummy and creamy. It basically consists of fat free greek style plain yourt, grated cucumber, fresh lemon juice, grated garlic and some dill weed.

Ok so the marinating is done and its time to grill!!!! I skewered the meat, a zucchini, cut into rounds, and an onion, cut into petals. I spread a little olive oil on the veggies so that they would get some good caramelization. That's grill marks for any of you non-Food Nework addicts out there. In the Happy Husband Diner, all meat is cooked to medium rare or so. If we go past med rare we end up with a not so happy husband... but by all means cook the meat and veggies to the doneness you prefer.

So now the protien and veggies are dealt with for the most part. Next step is the starch because I have yet to meet a man who doesn't like to have a little or a lot of carbs with his meat and veggies. As I had decided to go on a culinary journey to the mediterranean (and because I had a ton of cooked pasta left over from the weekend), I went with a oil and vinegar based pasta salad.

The salad is super easy to prepare. Its basically a mix of any pantry and fresh ingredients on hand. For this one, I went with the other half of the english cucumber from earlier, a can of non marinated quartered artichoke hearts, a handful of chopped kalamata olives, a little bit of chopped sweet onion and some diced tomatoes. I like to call this method of quick and delicious salad making "Pasta Salad a la Jovita", Jovita being my fabulous mother in law. She has really taught me a thing or two about throwing together what you have on hand to make a delicious and healthful dish. As far as the dressing is concerned, this is another option that is left up to what is around. If you have some prepared Italian dressing, by all means throw it in. If not, consider some dried Italian herb mix, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. My only caution would be to avoid the balsalmic vinegar on any pasta that isn't tri-color... Trust me, not many people want to eat a big pile of brown noodles!!

In closing, I wanted to make a few thing clear concerning this and future posts. First off, in no way should two people be eating the amount of meat shown in the first photo in one sitting. That amount made enough for our two dinners and two sets of lunch leftovers. So, you could very easily feed four adults dinner with those three skewers. The other thing I wanted to mention is about the portions shown in my plated photos. The photos you are seeing are the plates for my 6' 4" husband. He is a contractor and works hard every day, so he can eat a plate of food that size. My dinner plates are much smaller in diameter which helps with portion control. My small plate is still full of food, which plays to eating with my eyes, but there is much less volume of food on my plate. Remember, even balanced meals when over consumed can be hell on your waistline.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Leftovers for Breakfast

Leftovers can make for some of the best breakfast ideas!!

Friday night we had marinated pork tacos with a grilled pineapple and avocado salsa, and sauteed corn and black beans. Saturday was to bring a very long day of garden prep and flower bed mulching so the hubby and I were going to need a healthful, protein packed start.

To make this dish I reheated the corn and black beans in a saute pan and melted some shredded Mexican blend cheese (any brand will do) over the top. I then transferred the bean base onto a plate, being extra careful to keep the melty cheesy goodness in plain sight for my hungry husband. He, like most men I know, happens to be a HUGE fan of cheese. I thinly sliced the leftover pork chop and sauteed it in the now vacant bean pan. It turned out to be a nice and filling bacon or other breakfast meat substitute. The next step was to warm the leftover salsa which had been in the fridge overnight and needed to come up to room temperature rather quickly. I very slowly, 15 to 20 seconds at a time, took the chill off in the microwave.

Finally, we came to the part that made it breakfast instead of just leftovers. The perfectly poached eggs!!! As any of my close Hokie buddies could tell you, I have had a lot of practice poaching eggs. Eggs Benedict breakfasts for 5 to 10 people were a regular occurrence at my house during our senior year. The easiest way that I have found to poach an egg is to bring the water to a very gentle simmer and then pour a little white vinegar in. The vinegar will help to keep the extra runny parts of the white in one piece while they are cooking. Another tip, after you have reached your desired yolk consistency, is to remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and blot them on a paper towel so that the vinegary poaching water doesn't interfere with the flavor of your dish.

My husband and I ended up getting a ton of yard work done that day and I used the yard work exercise as an excuse to have a couple of glasses of bubbly goodness after dinner.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the first post to The Happy Husband Diner :)