Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grown-Up Smokey Joes

As I've mentioned before, my mom is an amazing cook.  I grew up with homemade-all-the-way breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week.  (We actually got to go home for lunch all the way through 9th grade.)  I'm not exactly sure where I'd tried them- but I got on a Manwich kick somewhere along the line.  In middle school- I used to sneak cans of it into the grocery cart at the store with mom.  Its not that she would have had a problem with the Manwich mix per se, but semi-home-made cooking-from-a-can wasn't really her style.  Thus it was one of the dishes I mastered for myself early on.

I recently saw Iron Chef Michael Symon make a grown-up version of a sloppy joe slider (sans canned mix) on the Cooking Channel and it brought back some memories.  This Southwest-style version kicked up with savory veggies and smokey chipotle peppers resembled a hearty chili in a way.  The sandwiches were delicious served with easy chile baked sweet potato chips on the side.

Makes 6 sandwichess

1 1/2 pounds ground beef  (I used ground round, Chef Symon used pork, turkey would be great too)
1 bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 13 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon corriander
1/3 cup water
salt and pepper

fresh cilantro and avocado slices for garnish
6- soft sesame rolls or hamburger buns (or slider size rolls if you prefer)

Start by browning the ground beef/pork/turkey over medium high heat in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion, bell pepper and garlic and place in a food processor.  Pulse until everything resembles a fine dice. (Or finely dice everything by hand if you prefer.)

Saute the veggies in another drizzle of olive oil in a second skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until everything is tender.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Once the meat is golden brown, spoon off any unwanted grease in the bottom of the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the vegetable saute, the chipotle peppers, cumin, corriander, tomato sauce and water to the large skillet with the meat.  Season with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Cook everything together for 8-10 minutes to let all of the flavors marry together.  If it gets too thick, add more water to loosen it up.  Serve a generous scoop of the filling on slightly toasted buns. (You still want the bread to be very soft to avoid losing all of your filling out one side when you take a bite.)  Garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado slices if desired.

If you're interested to make the oven chips- I would actually get them in the oven before you start on the smokey joe filling because they take 30 minutes or so to bake...

Baked Sweet Potato Chips:   NOTE: this recipe serves 2 people generously

1 large sweet potato, peeled thinly sliced**
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

**To slice the potatoes: I used my food processor's slicing blade since it was already out, a mandolin or slicing with a super sharp knife by hand would work too.  You want the slices to be no thicker than 1/8 inch in order to get them crispy.

Toss the potato slices in a bowl with olive oil, spices, salt and pepper so that they are evenly coated.  Then spread them into a single layer on two cookie sheets (lined with foil for easy clean up).  Use some non stick spray on either the pan or foil to ensure you can easily peel the chips off later.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans half way through to ensure they bake evenly.  They should be crispy with a few brown spots.  Watch closely toward the end, they can get too brown rather quickly. Taste to be sure you have enough salt.  Serve immediately.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Penne with Chicken Sausage, Broccoli and Arugula

I'm back!  For those of you paying attention- I took a brief hiatus from the blogosphere, from the kitchen in general for the most part.  The bad news is that I haven't been feeling much like cooking (or eating much other than cereal, toast and baked potatoes)... the good news is that it's because we're expecting a Baby Lacy October 8!!

Now 17 weeks along and cruising nicely into the second trimester, I'm feeling much better, my appetite is back and the Accidental Syrup kitchen has reopened for business.

I'm trying when possible to pack lots of nutrient rich foods into my diet to be sure the little one is getting everything she needs.  (Don't get me wrong, there has been plenty of mint chocolate chip ice crem and many a powdered sugar donut as well.)  This recipe offers whole grains from the pasta, low fat protein in the form of chicken Italian sausage and broccoli- a pregnancy super food- is a good source Calcium, Iron, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, and Potassium.

Serves 2.5 people with left overs

2-3 chicken Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 small broccoli crown- cut into bite size pieces (approx 2 cups)
3-4 cups of baby arugula
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
zest and juice of one lemon
Parmesan cheese for garnish

First I put a pot of water seasoned generously with kosher salt on to boil for the pasta.  Next I browned the sausage in a skillet over medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil until it was brown and cooked through.  (Breaking it up with a wooden spoon into as it cooked.) I transfered the sausage to a bowl lined with a papertowel to drain.  The chicken sausage doesn't have much fat yet the juices left in the pan have lots of flavor so I reserved the same skillet for the sauce.

Once the pasta water was boiling- I first blanched the broccoli for 2 minutes. (It was tender but still had a little crunch to it.)  When done, I fished it out with a slotted spoon into a colander tucked into a bowl of ice water.  The cold water stops the broccoli from cooking any further and locks in the bright green color- the colander makes it easy to pull the broccoli out and drain it before adding it to the pasta.

I cooked the pasta in the same pot of boiling water per the package instructions and then strained it- reserving 1 cup of the pasta water for later- and put the pasta back in the empty pot, adding the broccoli and the sausage.

Lastly, I made a quick pan sauce to tie it all together.  I gently sauteed the shallot and garlic in the skillet (over medium heat) until softened- 3-4 minutes max.  I added the wine, stock, lemon juice, zest and some salt and pepper before increasing the heat to medium-high.  After about 5 minutes at a gentle boil, the sauce had reduced and thickened nicely.

I tossed the arugula into the pot with the pasta and then poured the sauce over top. As I tossed it all together, I found I needed a bit more liquid to make a silky sauce so I added 1/3 cup or so of the pasta cooking liquid as well.  The heat of the sauce gently wilts the arugula and its ready to serve!

Of course no pasta is complete withouth a healthy sprinkle of good parmesan cheese over the top...