Thursday, November 29, 2012

Iron Chef Leftovers Breakfast for Dinner

Question: do you think holidays were invented so we got to play around with leftovers? The answer is no. But damn I get a kick out of it. This year was an extra challenge of what to do with all the damn food in my house, because Matt took off so quick after Thanksgiving. Re-purposing all the sides and appetizers into decent meals that I can slowly chip away at has taken an extra dose of creativity (and sadly, I didn't get creative enough to re-visit green bean casserole... RIP, cream of mushroom-soaked stringies).

But as I stared at the leftover stuffing, so delicious and yet so not appetizing all over again, I had a thought. Stuffing was just a few eggs away from being strata. They were practically cousins, my favorite breakfast dish and carby side. Worst case scenario I end up throwing what would end up in the garbage anyway back in there, and boil up some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Mmmmm, KMaC.

What, now I have no culinary cred? Whatever.

So I opened up the deli drawer and took out every strange odd and end I had from the appetizer round: deli salami sausage, a hunk of Sriracha Cheese Log, sharp cheddar. Mixed in with the stuffing, broken apart slightly in my hand (my stuffing was pretty crumbly, since I'm careful not to get it all soggy and Stove Top-like the first time around). A little garlic salt, some pepper, and into the casserole dish.

When it came out of the oven, a taste tipped me off that it had worked, but it still needed something. One addition to yank the spotlight away from the stuffing's sage, one of the most overpowering herbs you can chiffonade. My solution? A healthy dollop of homemade salsa, and the last of the real sour cream. Back to Light until Christmas... sigh.

Today for lunch I had leftovers of leftovers, which is basically Inception Leftovers. Pow.

Sorry this recipe is written so casually, but now that I'm here cooking by myself my habits have taken on this bizarre primitive forager quality.

Stuffing Strata
3 cups cold leftover stuffing
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup's worth of miscellaneous cheese: goat cheese, cheese ball, shredded cheese, whatever's still hanging around
1/2 cup leftover salami, bacon.... uh, I don't know. You could use turkey if you had to, but that wouldn't be my first choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Salsa and sour cream to garnish

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the stuffing, breaking up as you stir. Stir in cheese and other leftovers you've collected. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a Pyrex baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, turning once during the baking process. Served topped with salsa and sour cream. Watch American Horror Story: Asylum and get really annoyed about how they decide to turn this season toward. Click over to Jon Stewart and marvel about how he's just turned 50 and still is as sexy as he was when you fell in love with him in 2000 when he was making fun of Al Gore and Stephen Colbert was still his underling. Remember to rinse your plate when you're done.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Iron Chef Leftover Edition Round II

What an amazing Thanksgiving this year at the Blaneknhaus! Dare I say Best Tday Ever? Well, okay. I'll commit to that title. We've been prepping for days (weeks if you count the Pier One table linens!), and the holiday started at 6 a.m. when we got up to get the smoker going for the turkey. Lesson learned: just like with an oven, the "recommended" per-pound cooking time is grossly overstated. Next year we'll sleep in, since the supposed 11-hour smoke only took 6. Luckily we kept Ol' Smokey warm until dinner, where we were joined by longtime and new friends in what may be a new tradition--orphanage Thanksgiving. Nowhere else to go? Come to Hubbard!
Aside from the incredible, slow-smoked cherry and applewood turkey, there were some other fabulous recipe discoveries. Martha Stewart's Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip was popular on the appetizer table, and the compound butter selection for the rolls was an everyday spoiler--why can't we have flavored butter choices everyday!? 

Instead of getting up before the sun for stupid Black Friday sales the next morning (or bailing right after dinner to follow this year's Screw Thanksgiving, Run Your Credit Card NOW GODDAMMIT marketing trend), we and our guests Brynne and Dan slept in, made spicy sriracha-cheddar waffles with apple butter syrup and bacon jam, and headed out for Willamette Valley wine tasting. I'm not sure how it started, but Black Friday's new haute snob tradition is wine tours the day after Thanksgiving. We battled wine limos and school buses full of tourists ("OMG we just HAVE to go to Erath!!") to visit Prive Vineyards and Anne Amie winery. We ended up in Carlton, an adorable-amazing, divinely-planned main street purely crafted out of tasting rooms and foodie boutiques. A half hour away, and I had no idea this oasis existed. Luckily there is still room in the world for holiday miracles.

One particular shop called out to me, as if the heavens had parted over its doors: The Republic of Jam. You know, dear readers, how much I cherish anything processed into a little jar. And this place didn't disappoint. Walls of creative flavors dreamed up and created in-house like Blueberry Syrah Black Pepper, Marionberry Sage, and Russian Plum (my new favorite creative condiment packed with a garlicky punch). I would have taken five of each, but I settled for the aforementioned Russian Plum and an Apricot Ginger.

Tonight, with a fridge overflowing with leftovers and a husband leaving for San Jose tomorrow (for a whole month!!!), I tried to use up as much as I could in the greatest Iron Chef Thanksgiving strategy there is: soup. I boiled the smoked turkey carcass to make a broth last night, and found a bag of Bob's Red Mill Grain and Bean Soup Mix in the pantry from my last visit. It's just dried beans, barley and other grains. Easy to recreate on your own--or even better, support the mission of Bob's Red Mill and buy a bag yourself! Don't forget a jar of Republic of Jam's Apricot Ginger. Balances out the smokiness of the turkey with a perfectly tart sweetness.

The result? A light dinner to balance out some of the post-pie guilt, and a pot's worth to freeze for some night where I don't have a smidge of the cooking motivation I just exerted this week. 

Smoked Turkey, Sweet Potato and Apricot-Ginger Soup
1 post-Thanksgiving turkey carcass (ours was smoked, but I'm sure a roasted turkey would be yummy to--albeit not as deeply flavored)
1 bag Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain and Bean Soup Mix (or three cup's worth of dried beans and grains of your choosing)
2 cups leftover Thanksgiving sweet potatoes
1 jar Republic of Jam Apricot Ginger jam
2 tbsp red curry paste
3 cloves garlic, mined
Salt and pepper to taste

The night before soup night, place the whole turkey carcass in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 4-6 hours. Cool, then fish out the bones and any unwanted skin/fat/gristle. Leave the meat in the broth, and add the beans and grains. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

Place the pot on the stove at least 4 hours before planning to eat. Add sweet potatoes, jam, curry paste, 3 cloves garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir and slowly simmer. Allow to simmer and marinate flavors for 4-6 hours, then serve with leftover rolls. I garnished the pretty bowl above with some leftover parsley and pepitas (pumpkin seeds I bought for a recipe I didn't end up making).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Craving Cacciatore

Can YOU remember the last time you had chicken cacciatore? I can't. I think I made it 100 years ago in my first apartment while I was making my way through my only cookbook, the Betty Crocker New Cookbook (of the checker cover and three-ring binder style). Ahh, I still remember the peanut butter noodle night that I insisted was delicious.

It was not.

Anyhow, the cacciatore I made back in the day was gross in multiple ways. Most importantly, leaving the skin on the chicken. During the slow braise it turns jello-like, never developing any sort of crust or crispiness necessary to making chicken skin palatable. The results were soggy pieces of chicken on noodles that were probably undercooked. Long story short, I haven't made the stuff in seven years.

But the thought of warm, lightly spicy chicken stew ladled over spaghetti has been tantalizing the back of my brain for a few weeks. Yesterday, with some terrible white wine in the fridge I've been wanting to use up, I decided to pull the trigger. I switched up this 1960's sort of recipe with the addition of sweet-heat Peppadew peppers, which livened up a sea of wilty bell peppers. Served with fresh baked bread, this warm and comforting dish was redemption from the awful sins of my cooking past.

Chicken Cacciatore
Olive oil
1 fryer chicken, cut into pieces and skinned
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs rosemary
1 chiffonade of fresh basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dry red pepper flakes
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup white wine (plus additional for deglazing)
1/2 cup water
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 cup Peppadew peppers, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add salt and pepper seasoned chicken and cook until browned on the outside. Remove to a bowl to capture the juices.
3. Stir in onions and mushrooms and deglaze pan with a splash of white wine; cook for 5-6 minutes until soft. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, oregano, tomato sauce, wine and water.
4. Place chicken pieces and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl on top of the cooked vegetables. Add more salt and pepper. Place pepper slices on top of the chicken.
5. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.