Monday, March 30, 2009

More Thoughts on Beef and Mushrooms

My parents are in town for a visit, and tonight I made dinner for them. I tried to re-create the beef and mushroom dinner I made a few weeks ago, and mostly was successful. Everybody like it, but there were a few suggestions:
  • The last time I made this, the wine I used had turned to vinegar. This time I used fresh wine. The mushrooms came out all right, but I think they would have been better had I added a splash of red-wine vinegar to the mix. I also forgot to let the beef sit, and then pour the juice back into the pan when I went to make the pan sauce. The result was a winier-tasting sauce. Not bad, mind, but not what I wanted.
  • My wife suggested that I have ready a little bit of cornstarch in some cold water to add to the sauce, to make a bit of a roux. This would have stuck to the noodles a bit better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lemon-Ginger Chicken with Honey

1.5 Lbs. Chicken Breasts
3 Lemons
.5 C. Wine, plus more wine (I used Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio, but choose whatever strikes your fancy)
2 Tbs. Peanut oil
~3 Tbs. Ginger Spice Paste
2-4 Tbs. Honey
1 Box sliced Baby Bellas
1 C. of Brown rice
  1. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the bottom of a shallow pan (I used a 9x9 glass baking dish).
  2. Add the .5 cup of wine, and stir.
  3. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks, and marinate in the lemon/wine mixture for about 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse the rice, and get it started -- ricemakers are awesome!
  5. Heat a stir-fry pan over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the oil, swirl to coat.
  7. Add one Tbs. of the ginger paste to the oil, let sizzle for just a moment.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, add 1/3 of the chicken to the pan, and stir fry until cooked through.
  9. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate, and repeat steps 7 and 8 with the remaining thirds of the chicken.
  10. After removing the last of the chicken, drizzle the cooked chicken with just a little bit of honey, and cover with foil to keep warm.
  11. Pour the used marinade into the pan, and boil until it reduces to about 1/3 its original volume.  Stir frequently to keep the foam mixed in.
  12. Dump the mushrooms into the pan, and stir gently.
  13. Add in a little more wine, and bring to a boil.
  14. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cover.
  15. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  16. Serve with rice, and a glass of the wine!
This is sort of a chicken version of the beef dish I made a couple of weeks ago.  It was good, but it really needed some green veggies to provide color and a contrasting flavor.  The original plan was to serve it with asparagus, but there was none to be had when I went to the store today.  Oh, well, next time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Make-up Post: Seared Steak w/ Wine Mushrooms.

I've been sitting on this post for about a week or so, trying to pick apart where I went wrong.

I had this great idea.  I'd sear a steak, and then create a pan-sauce for the mushrooms.  Sounds great, and I did eventually figure out how to do it (see previous post).  But this attempt...

I think now that my big mistake was using a stainless-steel pan.  Stainless (I now know) conducts heat more efficiently than non-stick, which I'd used before.  The result was a LOT of smoke, and a burn across the bottom of my pan.  No sauce to be made there!  I'd chosen the stainless pan because I wanted all the little bits that you don't seem to get as much of with a non-stick pan.  A cast-iron skillet would possibly have been a better choice, but I don't have one of those yet.  So anyway, the steak was well-seared, but still medium-rare on the inside.

OK, so there is no fond for the sauce.  Well, there is, but it's all burned, and will likely taste pretty nasty.  What to do?  I'm still working with this idea of a wine reduction, so I pour about a half-cup of wine into a pan, and start boiling.  Note to self: never stick your face directly over a pan of boiling alcohol.  Anyway, the wine reduces, and I drop in the mushrooms and some chopped garlic.  As I saute, I add a little more wine, because I notice that I'm running really low on liquid.  The result was tasty, if not what I expected.  The mushrooms absorbed an intense wine flavor.  I don't know that I'd want to eat a lot of them by themselves, but they did complement the steak.

Not my best-ever dinner.  Fortunately, Scott likes his steak crispy on the outside and medium on the inside, so I got away with it, even if the house did smell like smoke for a day or two.

Garlic Bread

Last night was a much simpler meal -- just spaghetti and sauce.  We had a little leftover bread from Tuesday night's feast, though, so I figured I'd try my hand at garlic bread.  It was surprisingly easy.  I took a few big spoonfuls of butter, and melted them down in the microwave (25 seconds at 50%).  Then I stirred in a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic.  This left me with a bunch of liquid butter -- very tough to manage.  So, I got out a second bowl, and half-filled it with ice-water.  I set the bowl w/ the garlic butter in the ice water, and stirred until it just started to thicken.  Then I let it sit while I squeezed four slices of bread out of the remaining loaf.  By the time I had the bread sliced, the garlic mixture was just about perfect -- still spoonable, but not particularly runny.  I spooned the butter onto the bread (being careful to keep it away from the edges), and popped the slices into the toaster-oven.  The result was pretty good.  I want to try a version topped with mozzarella, but I think that will require use of the broiler.

Lemon-Pepper Stir-fried Steak w/ Mushrooms and Spinach

A week or so ago my wife bought a ton of frozen beef from a door-to-door salesman. There were a wide variety of cuts, and given how much we eat in our house, she probably saved us a good chunk of change. So far, everything has been pretty good.

On Tuesday, I took three of the lemon-pepper steaks from this collection, and cut them into 1/2-inch slices. Then I heated a stir-fry pan, sauteed up a little chopped garlic, and cooked the sliced steak. I removed the steak from the pan, added a little leftover wine that had turned to vinegar, and reduced it just a little bit. Then I dumped in a box of sliced baby-bella mushrooms, tossed them in the sauce for a minute or two, added a little more wine, covered the pan, and let them steam for about two minutes. This all got dumped into a serving bowl. The last stage of the meal was wiping out the pan, adding fresh oil and about a tablespoon-and-a-half of garlic, and sauteing some spinach.

There were no leftovers.

Two things:
  1. Cooking with frozen meat is a real challenge for me, because it means I have to plan my meals a couple of days ahead of time, so the meat has time to thaw. This is not my strong suit. I tend to be more of an "it's-3:00-what-am-I-making-tonight?" type of guy. Oh, well, I guess it's good discipline, and it is easier on the budget in the long run.
  2. This meal represents my first real success at cooking without ever once referring to a recipe. I was particularly pleased with the way the mushrooms came out. Pan-sauces rock!