Grilled Skirt or Flank Steak

It has been a crazy week and I haven’t made anything new to share so I thought I would bring back an oldie but a goody.  I have made this several times and it is always a crowd pleaser.  I hope if you haven’t made this recipe yet, it’s time – maybe for the fourth of July bbq?

If you haven’t ever purchase or tried a skirt or flank steak I really think you ought to check them out. I know they look pretty funky and not very appealing to the eye being all rolled up. And they are not as wildly available in stores as all the other yummy looking steaks; but if you do come across one or both of them give them a chance. They are fairly inexpensive, burn up fast and seasoning them is pretty endless.

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Sometimes you can find them in a cryovac bag which is even better. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had taken something out of the freezer for dinner. When I see any of them I tend to throw one or more in my cart they are great to have on hand and I like that I can get to it when I want versus having to cook up whatever I wasn’t able to get to and is going to spoil. Life happens and plans change all the time in my crazy world.

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There are a few tricks to these types of meat though. They are pretty fibrous and they really need to be seasoned well and they are best served medium rare and thin sliced. You also need to let them rest, but every meat is better if you give them time to rest to let the juice stay inside the meat instead of all over your cutting board. Once they have rested; slice them thin at an angle and against the grain for a tender bite. If you slice with the grain you will definitely know it as your jaw will be getting an incredible work out; and I fear you will never buy another one.

Dry Rub – enough for 2 or more Steaks

½ cup sweet Paprika
4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 ½ tsp onion powder
2 tsp chili powder
¼ – ½ cup peanut oil
2 lb Skirt Steak
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
1-2 limes

Preheat grill to 450-500’ – cook meat about 2-3 minutes per side

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together; rub steak with peanut oil, sprinkle steak with salt and pepper and 4+/- tsp of rub on both sides; place on hot grill turning once. Remove from heat; squeeze fresh lime over meat, let rest for 3-5 minutes. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

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Marinade – enough for 1 Steak

1½ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped scallions
½ cup peeled chopped pear
1½ tbs sesame oil
1½ tbs grated orange zest
2 ½ tbs chopped fresh ginger
8-10 cloves garlic
2 lb Flank Steak

Place first 10 ingredients in a blender. Blend into a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a heavy duty Ziploc bag; add steak and marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat grill 450-500’ brush grill with oil; place steak on hot grill 2-3 minutes per side turning once. Remove steak to a platter, cover with foil and let rest 3-5 minutes before serving. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

Fettuccini Alfredo – Leaving tonight (Fri) for Italy

I am feeling especially loved this week! I will have been in Rome for one day while you are reading this. The week of my departure, it was just too damn cute; my in-laws were waiting for me when I got home from work to say Arrivederci. Our friends that we met up with in Montreal came and spent the night, no less their anniversary night with us, my dad came to visit me, and my Mom wished me safe travels. My Co-workers were so happy for me and excited for the stories and pictures for when I get back. I went out last night with some good friends and hopefully meeting up for lunch with some more good friends; just feeling loved; I must admit it brought ought a funny comment from me. Damn you guys do know I am coming back right? Yes my husband made it quite clear that I had to come home!

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It all started when I made the decision that I would go visit my daughter before she ends her time in Japan later this year. We talked a lot about either going to her “home” in Japan or maybe meet somewhere else; like somewhere in the middle; cut the flight time for both of us. I looked up all direct international flights from Logan in Boston and from her local airport and of course Tokyo. That at least narrowed it to a few countries.

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We chose Italy which was really a no-brainer; my dream is to eat my way from the North to the South or vice versa I’m flexible either would work for me. While this trip is not my “dream” trip it will definitely be an awesome adventure that I get to share with my baby girl who is turning 25 while we are in Florence. And what a better way to spend her birthday than to attend a 7 hour cooking class. It includes a walking tour of a food market to purchase our items of course, then we are brought out to the country to an old farmhouse where we will make our 5 course dinner and dessert while trying the local vino. Yeah it sounds amazing, I will report back if it is as awesome as it sounds.

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My husband was insistent that I write my blog sitting at a café in Rome; while I LOVED the idea, I mean really; how flipping cool would that be. Unfortunately since I was traveling alone I decided packing super light was the only way to travel and since we were spending time in two or more cities; I wasn’t going to lug my laptop. Next time during my “dream” Italian trip, damn straight I will be sitting at several café’s writing and sharing everything around me with you.

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It was delicious but this picture looks like it needs more pepper

In honor of my trip I am going to share my quick version of Fettuccine Alfredo that I made for my guys this last week with the homemade pasta I brought back from Montreal.

Alfredo Sauce

1 pint heavy cream

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Freshly cracked black pepper

Broccoli – cooked in the pasta water till aldente – optional

Shrimp – cooked in the Alfredo sauce or cook in garlic butter before adding – optional

Cook pasta according to directions using fresh or boxed works fine

Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat in a deep straight sided saute pan

Add butter and whisk gently to melt, do not boil but simmer for about 5 minutes or so to thicken. Sprinkle in the cheese and stir to incorporate; Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Add cooked pasta to the pan and Mangia Mangia!

Arrivederci – I need to go pack now, I leave tonight!

Super Simple Potato Salad – just in time for summer

Sometimes impromptu BBQ’s just happen. It seems in my life; it happens more than it doesn’t; luckily I am pretty used to them; whether throwing or attending. I can pull together a side or two fairly effortlessly sometimes with the help from a few key ingredients. This happened to us just yesterday; friends invited us over for a BBQ dinner and a fire. I spent the day doing out of town errands so not a lot of time to make something entirely homemade. I love potato salad but I have never found a store made one that I could purchase that I liked.  Trust me I keep trying; just in case; it would make life a little easier when in a rush.

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Grocery shopping was the last stop on my day of errands. I knew I needed to make a potato salad to bring and I contemplated buying some from the store; I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  BUT I did notice they had a package of hard boiled eggs. I didn’t even hesitate to pick them up. I have mentioned a time or two before that while I can cook a perfect hard boiled egg, peeling them is just not in my wheelhouse. More than a few are literally only good for making a potato salad since you chopped them all up.

My husband was walking by while I was opening the bag of already cooked eggs. stopped in his tracks and asked; “what are those?” I said it was totally legal, he thinks he’s funny and continued walking say “I don’t know about that” He’s such a brat!

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Tomorrow being Memorial Day you never know if you’ll get a phone call inviting you over for a small BBQ. This version is really easy and you might just have what you need on hand.  It is only 8 ingredients and 4 of them are pretty much optional since the dressing has loads of spices.

3 hard boiled eggs

1-2 lb Small red bliss potatoes

½ cup Mayo

1-2 stalks of celery diced small (opt)

3 tbs Zesty Italian dressing such as Kens

1-2 scallions finely diced (opt)

Kosher salt (opt) let each person add it at the table

Fresh cracked black pepper (opt) let each person add it at the table

You can either cut up the potatoes before boiling or after. I was busy emptying my truck and putting things away so I left them whole.

Boil potatoes in cold salted water for about 20-25 minutes; till soft but not mushy

Cut into 1 inch pieces and place in a zip lock bag; add Italian dressing zip the bag closed and mix with the dressing being careful not to break up the potatoes and place in the fridge to cool.

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By adding the dressing while still warm the potatoes take on all the dressings’ flavors.

Once cooled, add the mayo and cut up hard boiled eggs a little salt and pepper; mix just till combined. Sprinkle with scallions or chives.

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It is that simple and has a great flavor

Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salad

I seem to break the cardinal rule of “never make a new dish to serve company” fairly often. I also always confess up front that this is a new dish; I am not sure how it’s going to come out or taste. I think I confess upfront just in case it’s not a hit; kind of a cop out isn’t it! Maybe I will turn over a new leaf and just pretend “Oh I make this all the time” yeah I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

I do take pride in making a family Sunday dinner. I actually take pride in making family dinner almost every night. When my kids came along no matter how hectic life got, we all sat down for more dinners together than not. I think that might be where the whole family being foodies came from.  I even have as part of my cooking class mission statement “Help bring your family together at the dinner table”

Last Sunday being Mother’s day I made my guys and in-laws a couple of new dishes that were on my list to make at some time during the week; which I never got around to doing, so Sunday dinner I made them both, a little worried that they didn’t necessarily “go together” I was making them both since I had bought all the ingredients and hoping for the best. They were both a hit and actually worked out really well together. I made a Roasted Tomato Panzanella salad and a Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salad.

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Grilled Chicken

Because you are grilling, I suggest bone in skin on; they are more forgiving of not overcooking or drying out; however please use your favorite or what you have on hand

You can also make this on the stove or in your oven if you don’t have a grill

4-6 Chicken Thighs – bone in skin on (you can always remove the skin before you eat it)

Olive Oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

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Grilled Pineapple Salad

Cut pineapple into spears

Grill 2-3 minutes per side or until charred. Remove from grill and cut into bite sized pieces

1-2 heads of radicchio

1 cup julienned carrots

2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbs chopped parsley

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Make the vinaigrette (you can do this ahead of time) whisk together the lemon juice, parsley, Dijon mustard and a drizzle of olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper; add the chopped grilled pineapple, radicchio and carrots to the bowl. Toss and coat all ingredients in the vinaigrette.

Clam Chowdah – I am from New England – it’s legal

I was sitting at the island yesterday morning updating a couple of FB pages we have, my husband’s company website and scheduling some cooking classes when my husband decided he would love for me to make him some clam chowder. I didn’t have any clam juice or can’s of clams in my cupboard. which is kind of shocking to even me, especially since they would sit quite nicely next to the beans, mustard’s and San Marzano tomatoes among everything else I have in there. I guess I could change that.

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I probably don’t have anything clam related on hand because I personally don’t eat clams, I do tend to make other soups, that I also eat, more often than clam chowder but both my guys really like it. Even though they do comment that mine is “different” don’t get me wrong they love it, but it is definitely not as creamy white (I do use milk not cream) as the ones they get when they order out. And I don’t recall ever seeing thyme in any clam chowder they have ordered. Regardless I know they love it when they ask me to make it and make a special trip to the store to pick up the ingredients for it.

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Clam Chowder

4-6 slices of bacon

1 medium onion diced

2 sticks of celery diced

1 bulb minced garlic

½ cup water

2 cups milk

4 cups clam juice

4 tbs flour

3-4 potatoes peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

½ tsp thyme

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

2 Tbs (optional)

Cut bacon into a few pieces, brown in stock pot on medium heat. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain, reserve 2-4 tablespoons off the bacon grease.  Add diced onion and celery; saute on low until soft. Add garlic saute another minute. Add flour cook thoroughly, add water and clam juice slowly stirring until smooth, add thyme and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, add diced potatoes and boil till tender 15-20 minutes.

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Side note if you want to thicken without or in addition to the flour/fat roux route and you have a potato ricer, you could peel a few potatoes and add them to the chowder, take them out and place them in the potato ricer, it will help thicken your soup/chowder

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Add clams, I tend to you use a combination of whole belly and chopped clams.  Add the milk and you can finish it off with a couple of tablespoons of butter.

Harvest Roasted Chicken – A must try

This dish is a must try!  I can honestly say those words and truly mean it. My daughter found this recipe and made it for dinner a few years back. Talk about a tough audience; my guys are extremely vocal when it comes to food and I am not shy about voicing my opinions either. Olives are not exactly eaten in abundance in my home to say the least. Cooking grapes we were also not sure we were going to be on board with that concept either.

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Since we have all been asked to try things out of our comfort zone; especially over the last few years; we were going in with an open mind. Or at least I was, again my guys what can I say, won’t go down without a fight. My kitchen is most definitely the heart of my home, we all hang out on the island which had two levels, the bar height is where we eat and the counter top height is our prep area. When you are making something someone is a little on the fence about, they tend to watch very closely what you are doing.

My daughter rose to the challenge and hit it out the park. Dinner was just plain delicious, had she not made this for us, I am positive I would not have had the courage to make it. Since then I have not only made it a few times for my guys and even for company. I have taught this dish in one of my classes that I hold in my home.

The combination of the olives, grapes, shallots with the white wine and chicken stock plus the last sprinkling of fresh rosemary just melds beautifully in your mouth. I strongly suggest making this dish; it comes together quite easily; especially if you purchase the chicken already cut up in pieces, with minimal ingredients and you could have it on the table in just about 45 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 450’ with the rack in the middle of your oven

3-4 lbs chicken cut up – you can also use parts – thighs, drumsticks and/or breasts – bone in and skin on

Kosher Salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup seedless red grapes

1 cup or jar pitted Kalamata olives

2-3 shallots thinly sliced

1 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

1 Tbs finely chopped rosemary

Pat chicken pieces dry, season well with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (cast iron if you have it) over medium-high heat until it shimmers

Working in batches, brown chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about 5-7 minutes per batch

Don’t move chicken until it releases itself and is nicely browned

Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives and shallots.

Roast chicken in the oven until It has cooked through and the juices run clear, about 20-25 minutes

Transfer the chicken, grapes and olives to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in the skillet

Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it has reduced by half, 3-5 minutes

Pour over chicken and garnish with rosemary

Recipe adapted from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook 2012

Fried Calamari – easier than you think

A few years ago Calamari was another one of the things my son asked me to make that I had never made before. I am not sure if he is getting me back for making him try everything on his plate; which is still a rule in my house today. Or if he is testing to see if I can pull it off. Now that he is older I think he is having me test recipes to find the best one so he can make it someday. I’ve seen him more than once take my recipe binder and make a dish or two from my treasures.

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While he is the first to order it if it is on the menu while eating out; we all really enjoy eating calamari. We have made it a couple of times at home, the first time my daughter bought and cleaned it; while it was totally doable; it was kind of a pain to clean out all the bones and pretty messy. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a frozen package of cleaned calamari I immediately picked it up I figured why not try it out, if it was terrible I have no problem not eating or serving it. I have said more than once that if what I made was inedible takeout is only a phone call away. Thankfully I had not had to make any calls to date. Though I will definitely admit, some recipes have never been repeated or we discuss how to change it and make it more to our liking.

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Calamari can go from delicious to a rubbery mess in a matter of seconds.  While it requires a little TLC to make it delicious it really isn’t too difficult. Make sure the frying oil is at 350’ Make sure to soak the cleaned calamari in milk for a couple of hours before you are ready to cook them and only fry them for 1 to 2 minutes.

Calamari

If you are going to clean your own pick up 6 medium or 8 small quid

Or pick up a package of frozen cleaned calamari – must be entirely thawed

Milk to cover

Vegetable oil for frying

1½ cups AP flour

1 tsp dried oregano

Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Lemon wedges for serving

Roasted garlic aioli

Make sure to clean the squid thoroughly, cut the bodies into ½ inch pieces, and trim the long pieces of tentacles. Place in a bowl and cover with milk. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours – at this time you’ll want to roast the garlic for your dipping aioli.

If using a deep fryer heat to 350’ or place 2 to 3 inches in a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until it reaches 350’ using a deep fry thermometer.

In a shallow dish place flour, oregano, and season well with salt and pepper; drain squid and dredge it in the seasoned flour. Working in batches, fry the squid in the hot oil until golden brown 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon; transfer fried squid to paper towels to drain. Serve with lemon wedges and aioli or whatever your favorite dipping sauce is.

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Roasted garlic aioli

1 cup of your favorite mayonnaise

3 cloves roasted garlic

Squeeze garlic onto a cutting board; add a pinch of salt and using the side of a knife work the salt into the garlic which will turn into a nice paste. Add it to the mayo and voila – a delicious dip.

Roasting Garlic

You can either roast a few pieces or a whole head. I suggest a whole head, if can be used to flavor many dishes. For one; roasted garlic mashed potatoes YUM! Clip off the top of the head of garlic leaving the head intact but remove some of the paper to expose the tip of the garlic, add a little olive oil 1-2 tablespoons and place in a tinfoil packet. In a 400’ oven place foil packet in a dish and roast for about an hour. Cooking time will depend on size of garlic so keep an eye on it.