Saturday, January 28, 2012

Carbonnade de Boeuf / Carbonnade a la Flamande (Beef in Beer)

I've been a crappy blogger this week - it's been over a week since my last post! However, I've got a pretty good excuse - the BF and I adopted a rescue dog! His name is Shelby, and he's an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) mix. We've been busy socializing him and getting him used to his new home, so cooking/blogging has been on the backburner a bit. 

BUT, it's Friday, payday, and time for me to get cooking!! So, i'm making some traditional French (ok, it's actually BELGIAN) country cooking since I got a GREAT sirloin tip roast on sale at Winn Dixie.

Carbonnade de Boeuf (Carbonnade a la Flamande) is a traditional Belgian meal of beef stewed with onions and beer, seasoned simply with thyme and bay leaves. The ideal beer for this dish is a bitter/sour beer such as Ommegang Abbey ale or Chimay. I prefer to use Orval, though, if you can't find these ales, a simple Newcastle brown ale will suffice. 

Carbonnade also has a sweet & sour flavor, brought on by the use of brown sugar (or even red currant jelly) as well as cider or wine vinegar. Traditionally served over boiled potatoes or egg noodles, this is one of those great dishes that is even better the next day! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aloo Gobi (आलू गोभी) - Indian Potatoes with Cauliflower (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Aloo gobi (आलू गोभी) is a fantastic vegetarian Indian dish made of potatoes (aloo) & cauliflower (gobi). This is a "dry" dish, meaning that there is no curry or thick sauce. The flavor comes from a myriad of Indian spices including garam masala and turmeric, which gives the dish its signature yellow color. 

Though I'm not a vegetarian, I LOVE vegetarian Indian dishes; this has become my new favorite at my go-to local Indian restaurant. Easy to make at home, and served simply with basmati rice & naan, aloo gobi is filling, healthy and FULL of amazing exotic flavor. This dish can easily be made vegan; simply omit the ghee and use coconut oil instead. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

Cream pies are a complex yet simple dessert, a single crust pie filled with a rich custard and then topped with whipped cream. You can have them in lemon, banana, chocolate, or, my personal favorite, coconut.

This version is FULL of coconut flavor, containing coconut milk, coconut extract, cream of coconut, and shredded coconut. Just remember that coconut milk is NOT the same thing as cream of coconut - you can find the coconut milk in the Asian section of your grocery store, while the cream of coconut is usually stocked with the bar mixers (margarita mix, pina colada mix, etc). 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Giouvetsi (aka Youvetsi) - Greek Baked Beef & Orzo

Giouvetsi is a traditional Greek dish of meat, baked in a tomato sauce and served with pasta, typically kritharaki (meaning "small barley") or hilopites, though many people simply use orzo. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb and cooked in a yiouvetsi, which is a deep, round clay pot used for baking, much like the Japanese donabe, though a casserole dish or Dutch oven works just as well. My version, however, is made with beef (lamb is expensive, y'all!). 

My first experience with giouvetsi was at a local Greek restaurant called Nabeel's. Here in Birmingham, we have a PLETHORA of great Middle Eastern food, from 24-hour Mediterranean/American post-bar joints where you can get amazing gyros or bacon cheeseburgers, to authentic Lebanese food. However, Nabeel's is TRULY Greek. Their version is known as "youvetsaki", and is served in its own casserole dish, with a fresh salad and crusty bread. 

Recently, I was craving youvetsaki, but didn't really feel like driving down to Homewood or fighting for a parallel spot on the street. So I decided to try my hand at making it myself. Bonus - it can all be made in one pot (and I know you guys know how much I love a good one-pot recipe!). 

Since the beef is stewed prior to baking, cheaper cuts of beef turn out melt-in-your-mouth tender. AND, I managed to find some lovely chuck roast on sale as well. WIN WIN!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Southern-Fried Chicken & Waffles

Chicken & waffles is a classic Southern soul food dish. Nothing beats the combination of crispy, salty chicken, fried on the bone, topping a sweet waffle, then covered with butter & syrup. Gladys Knight (yes, THAT Gladys Knight) has her own chicken & waffles restaurant in Atlanta, and Roscoe's is extremely popular in Los Angeles.

For my version, I made my chicken & waffles "sandwich-friendly". Instead of using a whole cut-up fryer chicken (that recipe's coming VERY soon), I used boneless chicken breasts, which can be placed in between the waffles, instead of on top. These waffles, not my usual BREAKFAST waffle recipe, also include cornmeal, which makes them a bit more savory and an excellent complement to the chicken.

Buttermilk Chess Pie

Chess Pie is a super-sweet Southern pie. The recipes for this classic pie vary, but always include the 4 basic pantry staples: flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Modern recipes often add vinegar, and the addition of cornmeal separates chess pie from the standard custard pie. Chess pie is quintessentially Southern, a recipe born out of necessity and a bare pantry. 

One thing is for sure, though. Nobody REALLY knows where the name originated. Numerous theories and legends exist, but, all in all, it doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is that this pie is AMAZING. Sweet, but not cloyingly so, but you'd better have a tall glass of cold milk or a cup of hot, fresh-brewed coffee with a slice of this heavenly dessert.                                

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicago Stuffed Pizza

A few years ago, a GREAT pizza joint called Tortuga's opened up here in Hoover. Known for TRUE Chicago-style pizza and THE coldest beer in the Bham metro, I'm a HUGE fan of Tortuga's. The walls are plastered with Bears and Cubs memorabilia, which, as those of you who know me personally can attest to, makes me feel right at home. 

I usually get a 10" stuffed "Wrigleyville", which contains smoked sausage, Italian sausage, onions and green bell peppers. However, Tortuga's has odd hours, and more than once, it has been so packed that I couldn't even get a table. So, I decided to try my hand at recreating the classic Chicago deep-dish pizza.

Like hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago puts its very own Second City spin on the classic pizza. Their version has a thick and buttery crust, several inches tall, while the pie is stuffed with uncooked chunky tomato sauce, cheese and a myriad of toppings. 

Invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943 by original pizza chef Rudy Malnati (whose son later opened the Lou Malnati's chain), the pizza is cooked in a springform pan rather than atop a pizza stone. Toppings are added in single layers, with the meat usually pressed into a patty form. Taking it a step further, Giordano's tops the pizza with MORE dough, making the pizza "stuffed". 

For my version, I took the shortcut of buying fresh premade pizza dough from our local Publix bakery. Any toppings or fillings can be used, but don't skimp or cheat on the sauce or cheeses. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Slow-Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

An Italian Beef (also known as THE BEST SANDWICH EVER), is a Chicago specialty dating back to the 1930s & hailing from the Sout Side (no "h) of the city - thin slices of seasoned roast beef, drenched in au jus, piled atop a crusty roll and then dunked into the juices that the meat was cooked in. The sandwich is then topped with hot giardiniera or sauteed sweet peppers. Oh yeah, you won't find them anywhere in Italy, either. 

True Chicagoans pronounce it "sangwitch". Not to be confused with "samrich", though. 

Chicago natives are pretty picky about their Italian beefs; they're classical Second City, like Chicago deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs. Like with Philly cheesesteaks, there is a fine art to ordering the Italian beef, whether wet/dipped (the bread is quickly dunked in the cooking juices), to juicy (even wetter), to soaked (dripping wet). 

The possibilities are endless: 

Hot-dipped: Italian beef on gravy-wetted bread w/ giardiniera
Hot-dipped sweet: Same as the hot-dipped, but with sweet peppers added (My fave)
Hot-dipped combo: Same as the hot-dipped, but with sausage added.
Sweet dry: Italian beef on dry bread w/ sweet peppers
Soakers/Juice-ons: Meatless; bread soaked in beef juices and topped with peppers or giardiniera. 
Cheef (Cheesy beef): Italian beef with cheese (Provolone or Mozzarella)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Waldorf Salad (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Sometimes when I spend my lunch hour shopping for groceries, I'll go ahead and get myself something to eat from the deli. When at Publix, I always get a small Cobb salad, and their "Waldorf salad". Their Waldorf is simply a bowl of sliced apple wedges, topped with walnuts and raisins. No dressing or anything. 

It still tastes great, even though it's not a TRUE Waldorf salad, which is simply a salad of apples, celery & walnuts, served atop lettuce in a light mayonnaise-based dressing. 

The Waldorf salad is named for the iconic Waldorf Hotel (predecessor to the Waldorf-Astoria) in NYC; created between 1893 and 1896 by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’. Originally omitting nuts when first published, they were added between 1896 and 1928. 

This version does include nuts, along with the addition of grapes. You can omit the mayonnaise and use yogurt instead (to make it vegan), but I prefer the mayonnaise. This is the perfect appetizer, or light lunch; healthy as well as filling! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012...and HAM!!

Happy New Year!!

2011 had its share of ups and downs; though I'm not big on making resolutions, I have set myself a few goals for 2012. After spending several months down and out due to a torn LCL & peroneus longus and now being FINALLY finished with PT and cleared to resume normal activity, I definitely want to get back into shape by getting back into a more active lifestyle. 

I want to save more money (the new Aldi opening 5 miles from my house is going to help immensely!), and eat/drink better; paying more attention to portion control and nutrition, especially. I'd also LOVE to declutter my home somewhat; I spent a good portion of this past week doing some HARDCORE cleaning, so hopefully that gives me a good start!

Last year, I prepared the traditional Southern New Year's meal of collard green and black-eyed peas. This year, the BF has graciously offered to handle the cooking, and is also making a ham! It's a great year already!