Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Teriyaki Marinated Beef Steak

By Paul Briand

Sometimes it's nice to let someone else figure out a dinner menu for you, especially when a hurry-up day doesn't give you much time to think about or even prepare a dinner for four.

Lots of grocers have seen the need to help harried consumers and have come up with prepared or semi-prepared meals. I recently tried one from Hannaford, a large grocery store chain in this part of the country. Hannaford describes these meals as "a cooking show to go: everything you need -- fresh, pre-cut and measured for a fantastic meal you make at home."

Meals are offered to cook four or two, the the store provides handouts listing a two-week menu, so that you can decide on Thursday, for example, you might want the chicken thighs with leeks, olives and orzo, or you might want to wait until Saturday for the Caribbean tilapia with toasted cabo coconut with jicama slaw.

I decided to try the teriyaki marinated beef steak with citrus sesame summer slaw. Indeed everything is self-contained. Ingredients are measured and cut, then bagged or put in a container. Then it's all packaged in a convenient, easy-to-carry cardboard box. Cooking instructions are contained within the label that's taped to the box. Here's a look at what was inside (which you could duplicate on your own):

1 1/2 pound beef loin grilling steak, marinating in a 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce
12 ounces sliced Chinese cabbage
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 small sliced red onion
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons dried ginger
2 teaspoons granted orange peel
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime juice
3 ounces wonton crisps

1) On a preheated grill cook the steak 5 - 8 minutes or until medium rare, transfer to cutting board and let sit 10 minutes. (If cooking under an oven broiler, cook 7 minutes per side or until desired level of doneness.);
2) Place vegetables -- cabbage, carrots and onion -- into a large bowl;
3) Combine ginger, orange peel and sesame oil and mix thoroughly then combine with orange juice and lime juice in a small bowl and mix all together;
4) Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to thoroughly coat the slaw;
5) Thinly slice the steak against the grain;
6) Divide slaw among plates, top with sliced beef and wonton crisps.

The directions go so far as to suggest a complementary wine: a Pinot Noir.

This meal was ready in 20 minutes and was a real time saver given the extent of vegetable and dressing ingredients' preparation that would have been necessary had you done this on your own.

All in all it was very tasty, though I thought it was a little heavy on the red onion. I would have used maybe a half a red onion rather than a whole one.

For more information go to: http://www.hannaford.com/cookingshowtogo.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mac and Cheese with Scallops and Bacon

By Paul Briand

In last week's post, I wrote of how great it was to eat a variety of great seafood at a local seafood festival my wife and I attended. In particular, I had the chance to munch scallops and bacon on a stick.

I confess to a passionate love for scallops and bacon. It is my favorite appetizer. Any cocktail party that serves scallops and bacon is a hit in my book. I'm the guy with the toothpick chasing after the server with the scallops and bacon tray, knocking aside whoever and whatever is necessary to get to them.

In that vein, I was moved last week to cook my own scallops and bacon but with a twist -- combined with homemade macaroni and cheese.

1 pound sea scallops -- numbers about 12
1 pound package of thick cut bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Italian fontina cheese
1/4 cup minced onions
Dash Tabasco sauce
Pepper to taste
Splash of white wine
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1) Start by cooking the bacon in a large skillet, set aside on paper towels to drain (break into pieces once cool enough);
2) Retain some of the bacon fat and in the same skillet sear the scallops, browning on all sides;
3) Add a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan, set scallops aside and cut in half;
4) Cook elbow macaroni in 4-5 quart pot of boiling water about 6-8 minutes or until just tender (macaroni will cook more when it's baked);
5) While the macaroni cooks, prepare the cheese sauce in saucepan by first heating milk but not letting it boil;
6) Melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour;
7) Gradually stir in heated milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens;
8) Add onion and cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts;
9) Add dash of hot sauce and pepper, stir;
10) Combine cheese sauce with cooked macaroni;
11) Stir fontina cheese into mixture;
11) Combine halved scallops and crumbled bacon into mac and cheese;
12) Spoon entire mixture into large greased baking dish;
13) Top with bread crumbs;
14) Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This dish feeds 6-8. I like the fontina cheese as an addition because it combines a complimentary taste to the cheddar and has the stringy, cheesy quality of mozzarella.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Corn and Crab Bisque

I had the occasion during the weekend with wife Jane to attend the annual Hampton, N.H., Seafood Festival. Certainly as the name implies, it is a festival devoted to seafood and we certainly got our fill as we trolled the food tents, assessing the offerings from a variety of restaurants from throughout the New Hampshire seacoast region.

I got more than my fill with lobster stew, scallops and bacon on a stick, and lobster roll. It also inspired me to try something new in the kitchen for dinner, which I'll talk about next week.

The festival included some cooking demonstrations, and we watched Ron Boucher, a restaurant owner and instructor, show how to prepare his recipe for sweet corn and crab bisque. Boucher (pictured here, photo courtesy of his web site) owns Ron's Landing in Hampton, N.H., and Chez Boucher, his French cooking school.

Here is the bisque recipe he presented at the festival:

12 ears of corn on the cob, hulled (Save the used cobs, you'll need them later.)
1 each bay leaf
1 stick unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 each Vidalia onion, diced
16 ounces crab meat
8 cups seafood stock (Boucher recommended the clam juice that you can buy bottled at your local food store.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 package fresh basil, stemmed and chopped
2 ounces butter
2 ounces sherry

1) Hull all of the corn off the cob and reserve;
2) Melt butter on low heat in a large soup pot. Add the diced onion and hulled corn kernels, cover and sweat on medium low heat for about 12 to 15 minutes. (In the demo, he talked of the importance of sweating to covert the starch of the corn into sugar.);
3) Add the seafood stock and blend well;
4) Tie all of the fresh basil stems together along with a bay leaf and fresh thyme and drop them into the pot along with the corn cobs;
5) Bring the soup to a slow simmer and once at a simmer cook it out for 20 to 30 minutes;
6) Remove the corn cobs and fresh herbs. Puree the soup with a stick blender to a pulpy consistency;
7) Add the crab meat, chopped basil and heavy cream. Bring the soup back to a simmer, adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper;
8) Optional: Finish the soup with a little butter and splash of sherry if desired.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Easy Chili

By Paul Briand

My son David called the other evening from college, not about money or his courses, but about my easy chili recipe. I've used this recipe often and cooked it with him most recently when we were together for a few days toward the end of his junior semester in London. We made this chili in his dorm kitchen and shared it with the friends he'd made during his semester at King's College.

He was entertaining again and couldn't remember the specifics of the recipe. So here it is for David and you.

1 1/4 pounds hamburger
1 onion
1 green pepper
Several cloves garlic
16 ounce red kidney beans
Chili seasoning mix
24 ounce jar of salsa

1) Chop onions and green pepper;
2) Peel and mash (or rough chop) the garlic. Use more to satisfy your own particular garlic need, by the way;
3) In a large skillet at medium/high heat, sautee onions, peppers and garlic in heated olive oil;
4) As the vegetables just begin to soften (about three minutes) add hamburger;
5) Cook hamburger thoroughly and drain excess grease from pan;
6) Add chili seasoning mix and completely stir through the mixture;
7) Add kidney beans undrained and completely stir through;
8) Add salsa, stir through and reduce heat to low/medium;
9) Add a bottle of your favorite beer, a little at a time to control the foamy head;
10) Heat through, about 10 minutes, stirring as needed;
11) Serve with any number of toppings -- sour cream, shredded cheese and sliced jalapenos for example.

Now, there are about a billion chili recipes out there. Okay maybe not that many, but do a Google search of "chili recipes" and you'll get 690,000 results.

What I like about this recipe, besides the fact that it's quick and easy, is its versatility. The versatility comes with the salsa, because, once again, there are about a billion salsas out there. You can choose a mild, medium or hot salsa. You can use a thin salsa, a chunky salsa, or a southwestern style with some beans and corn in the salsa. And there is versatility in the beer you use. With some darker beers the hops and caramel will add a certain nuttiness to the chili, less so with lighter beers. And, of course, you can elect to cook without the beer and add up to 1 1/2 cups of water instead.

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