Posts Tagged With: sausage

taco night! (and what we did with the leftovers)

Consider, if you will, the following Venn diagram:

milk does NOT go with tacos…..sorry, Mom….

Okay, so I’ve pretty much always liked tacos.

I remember getting really, really, I’m-almost-embarrassed-to-admit-it excited about trips to Taco Bell when I was in middle and high school. That stuff is like crack for teenagers.

Mexican restaurants? Like, the kind with free chips and salsa? Poor-college-kid paradise.

But let me tell you guys, the last couple of years have been a slow, delicious taco revelation.

So, without further ado, let me present to you a list.

Ahem.

Stuff I know now that I didn’t know in my Old El Paso days:

1. You can make your own tortillas.

Scratch that.

You must make your own tortillas.

Buy a big bag of masa harina (which, I learned, is a type of corn flour that’s been nixtamalized ). Mix it with water and a little salt to make dough (there are directions on the bag), form your tortillas, and toast them in a skillet until they look kinda like this:

warm, fresh, delicious

They’re impossibly easy, especially after you’ve successfully whipped up a batch or two, and once you’ve tried these rich, savory circles of toasted corn goodness, you’ll never crave a crumbly shell from a box again.

2. Ground beef is not a necessity, despite the directions on that Old El Paso package.

Use chicken, or tofu, or shrimp, or some other ground meat like pork or turkey. For our taco dinner the other night, we used medium heat pork breakfast sausage.

Yeah, I said breakfast sausage. Sounds weird, but it’s got just a little heat and spice to it that blends perfectly with smoky cumin and a mess o’ fajita-style veggies.

Heck, you could skip the meat altogether if you like and just pile your homemade tortilla down with some deliciously seasoned vegetables, and you’d be in taco heaven.

3. Wait. Veggies?

Yes, please!

I know those Old El Paso-ans suggest that the only vegetables you need for a good taco are some shredded iceberg lettuce, a little tomato, and perhaps a black olive or three.

But we like to pack our tacos with sauteed garlic, onions, and bell peppers, some roasted poblanos, creamy avocado, and roasted tomatillo salsa verde.

Not to mention a bright, beautiful handful of freshly chopped cilantro.

Tacos kinda seem like junk food, but when they’re loaded with all these garden goodies, they might even be good for you. 🙂

4. You don’t need sour cream.

Actually, Micah and I don’t even buy sour cream. Mostly because I don’t care for it, so it never gets used up before it goes bad.

But, really, sour cream is kind of a kitchen unitasker anyway. (I don’t know anyone who just eats the stuff plain.)

So if you can substitute an ingredient that serves multiple purposes and is actually good for you, why wouldn’t you?

It’s easy: any recipe that calls for sour cream will work just fine with plain Greek yogurt instead. (And plain Greek yogurt is a perfectly normal thing to eat by itself, unlike a big bowl of sour cream.)

That’s right. If you’re really craving a little bit of creamy tang on your taco, a little dollop of plain Greek yogurt will do the trick.

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I’ve shared our taco enlightenment, let me tell you about taco night.

this feast makes enough leftovers for several more taco nights, if you’re so inclined

The thing about tacos is that they’re anything but high-brow.

They’re street food, fast food, convenience food, kid food, easy food.

Tacos are what people make when they don’t feel like cooking.

But when you do feel like cooking, or when you’re whipping up a nice dinner to impress company or celebrate with friends, don’t shun the lowly taco.

If you let it, that handheld pocket of savory goodness will wow special guests, add cheer to any celebration, or even spice up a date night with your favorite person in the whole world.

What I’m suggesting here is a little more work than shells from box and a packet of seasoning mix. But it’s worth it.

This is a taco night to remember.

What’s in it (the taco filling):

  • 1 pound medium heat pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is fabulous)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle
  • salt and pepper

Step by step:

  • Brown the sausage over medium heat in a large skillet, stirring and breaking the meat up as it cooks.
  • When the sausage is done, drain off most (but not all) of the fat. Don’t throw it away–this stuff makes a great cooking fat for scrambled eggs tomorrow!
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell peppers to your skillet o’ sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Stir in the tomato, herbs, and spices, and cook for about 3-4 more minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Remember that roasted tomatillo salsa verde that I mentioned earlier? You can make it, too!

What’s in it (the salsa):

  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatillos, halved (or quartered, if they’re big)
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatillos on it in a single layer.
  • Brush the tomatillos with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes or until they look really juicy and tender and sizzly and good.
  • Let the tomatillos cool for a few minutes, then throw them into the food processor or blender with the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and cumin. Puree until your salsa as smooth as you like, then season with salt, pepper, and cayenne until it tastes amazing.

You’ve got taco filling and salsa…now what?

Serve those tasty fixins with:

  • homemade tortillas (this recipe is the same one that Micah and I use from DIY Delicious, and basically the same as what you’ll find on a bag of Maseca)
  • steamed rice (I seasoned mine with butter, salt, lime, and fresh cilantro)
  • black beans (Micah stewed ours in the pressure cooker with vegetable broth, chopped onion, garlic, and cumin)
  • roasted poblanos (brush with olive oil, bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, stick in a paper bag for 5-10 minutes, then peel, cut open, remove the seeds, and slice)
  • fresh sliced avocado
  • lots of chopped fresh cilantro
  • a little bit of grated cheese
  • lime wedges
  • Greek yogurt (or, if you must, sour cream)
  • good tequila that you can sip (not shoot) throughout the meal

And the leftovers?

That’s what omelets are for:

mmmm…….

Because taco morning is just as awesome as taco night! (Though at this point I might suggest laying off the tequila. :))

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supper tonight – 5.24.12 – stewed andouille

When we got the andouille links out of the freezer a few days ago to thaw, we thought we might grill them last night with…well, something. We didn’t really have a plan (when do we ever?), but we were sure we could come up with some wonderful meal using those smoky, savory Cajun sausages.

We considered defrosting a pound of shrimp to make a jambalaya, but Micah didn’t really feel like beheading and shelling and deveining a bunch of shellfish last night.

We always get our shrimp with the heads on them so we can freeze the shells and noggins for stock. When we’re really lucky (as we were a couple of weeks ago), we’re able to get fresh Georgia shrimp from Athens Locally Grown or Fook’s Foods for just $5-6 a pound. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

What we ended up making was still pretty similar to traditional jambalaya in the veggies and seasonings–just a little different in the technique, since we winged it instead of following a nice, straightforward recipe like the one I linked above. 🙂

In any case, the resulting dinner was rich, spicy, and full of flavor, with the added bonus of leftovers for lunch today!

not only did the fresh veggies make this taste extra good, but the
green and yellow peppers looked lovely with those bright red tomatoes!

What’s in it:

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 3/4 pound andouille sausage links (or another smoky, spicy sausage of your choice)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or you could used canned)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage links and cook for about 6-8 minutes per side, turning frequently to keep them from burning.
  • Remove the cooked links to a cutting board to rest.
  • Pour a tad more oil into your skillet if you need to. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and saute for about 5-6 minutes or until they’re starting to soften and brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until incorporated.
  • Pour in the white wine, scraping with your spoon or spatula to get all the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the chicken stock and smoked paprika.
  • While the contents of your skillet heat back up, cut your sausage links lengthwise and then slice into half-moons. Or, you can slice the whole link thinly on the bias. Add the cut-up sausage to your skillet.
  • Let this simmer on the stove for a while. (I had a meeting last night and was gone for almost two hours, so we just let ours cook on the absolute lowest heat we could while I was gone!)
  • When your vegetables are super tender and the liquid has thickened into a rich sauce, it’s ready to eat. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and feel free to sprinkle in some cayenne for an extra kick.

We spooned this over bowls of steamed white rice (long-grain basmati, specifically, because that’s what we had in the pantry), but Micah suggested it would be fantastic over grits or polenta, and I’d also bet it would be tasty with mashed potatoes or pasta. So, in the spirit of winging it (like we always seem to), serve this with your carb of choice.

And don’t forget to finish the rest of that bottle of white wine while you’re at it.

And enjoy!

We definitely did. 🙂

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Jessica’s Bridal Shower!

My beautiful best friend, Jessica, and her man, Brent.

My mom says I’m the only person she knows who would blindly try out new recipes for my best friend’s bridal shower.

Mom also said I was the only person she knew who would attack her own wedding dress with scissors and a needle to make last-minute adjustments the week before the big day.

Apparently, I’ve got a thing for high-stakes wedding roulette. And the odds, so far, have been ever in my favor, as both my dress and the food for Jessica’s shower turned out pretty darn good.

My goal in altering my wedding dress was to pare down the extravagance. Originally, the gorgeous gown had boasted a glamorous, but cumbersome, cathedral train. Our wedding was much too informal for this fanciness, so I gathered up the dress and gauzy overlay, snipped off a boatload of extra fabric, and created my own permanent bustle to make the train a short sweep instead.

Not perfectly professional-looking, but pretty (and much easier to dance in).

Planning the food for Jessica was kind of the same. Her one request for the shower (not to mention for the wedding in the mountains this weekend) was a batch of my pimiento cheese, which she loves, so of course I had to oblige. 🙂

And once I knew I was making that Southern staple, the tone was set for the rest of the menu. My goal was to serve the kinds of things you’d expect to see at a rural Georgia wedding shower, but with some unexpected twists here and there. I didn’t want to be snooty or pretentious, so I tried to keep it simple.

The shower spread, in my lovely mother's lovely kitchen.

The menu:

* * * * *

French onion dip from scratch? But everyone knows that French onion dip is made with a tub of sour cream and a packet of Lipton’s soup mix!

The thing is, I don’t keep either of those things around my house…and I kind of wanted to tackle the challenge of creating this processed potluck party item using real ingredients. A web search provided several recipes to use as models, and my finished dip most closely followed this one from The Craving Chronicles.

Check out my mom's fancy-schmancy chip bowl! And my cute labels.

What’s in it:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped (I used one yellow and one red)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fat-free Greek yogurt

Step-by-step:

  • Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the onions, garlic, and salt, and cook until the onions are nice and golden brown.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Allow the onion mixture to cool.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the Greek yogurt and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. (I think keeping mine in the fridge overnight really helped the flavors mesh!)
  • Serve with some thick, ridged potato chips (perfect for picking up chunky dip without breaking).
  • Yield: about 2-1/2 to 3 cups

The verdict: Wow! I enjoy the sour cream + powdered Lipton variety, too, and this wasn’t quite the same (as at least one of Jessica’s family members pointed out), but the flavor was rich, salty, creamy, and tangy, just as I hoped it would be.

* * * * *

Another made-from-a-mix store-bought staple is the sausage ball, traditionally made with breakfast sausage, Bisquik, and cheese. I had some yummy, spicy sausage in the freezer from Moonshine Meats, but Bisquik is another convenience item that I’m too stubborn to keep around. You can make your own Bisquik, but I ran out of flour after making the biscuits and the cake (recipes coming up shortly!). So, I decided to basically follow this recipe, but substitute cornmeal for the flour.

Sausage balls!

What’s in it:

  • 1-1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter or bacon/sausage grease (I had leftover sausage grease in the fridge, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 pound spicy breakfast sausage
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray).
  • Whisk together the cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • Use a pastry blender, fork, or food processor to incorporate the butter/grease until your mixture looks coarse and kind of crumbly.
  • Mix in the sausage and shredded cheddar. (You’ll probably need to use your fingers!)
  • Pull off 1″ round balls of dough, roll between your palms, and place on the baking pan in a single layer.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until your sausage balls are nicely browned.
  • Yield: about 4 dozen

The verdict: These were super spicy, but delicious! I didn’t miss the Bisquik flavor at all and got a lot of compliments, especially from my mom and Jessica’s Granny Cilla. (And if Granny Cilla’s happy, everyone’s happy! :)) You could easily cut down the spice by using mild or medium sausage instead of hot.

Bonus: Using cornmeal instead of flour made these almost taste like a hush puppy, one of my very favorite Southern sides.

* * * * *

Now y’all know how much I love biscuits, right? Well, I knew that regular-sized biscuits wouldn’t be the right size for a finger-food afternoon shower, but I have a cute little 1-1/2″ round cookie cutter that I thought might make perfect bite-sized mini biscuits.

Aww, look at the little baby biscuits!

And when I found a biscuit recipe on Ezra Pound Cake that also included toasted pecans, I knew I had to make them. Of course, since I don’t keep sour cream around (which seems to be a common problem in this post), I made some substitutions.

What’s in it:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecans
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. (Sounds a lot like the beginning of the sausage balls, huh?)
  • Put the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, and toasted pecans in the bowl of your food processor and pulse once or twice to combine.
  • Add the butter and process until your mixture is coarse and crumbly. (Deja vu all over again….)
  • Add the buttermilk and process just until your dough comes together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat down to a 1/2″ thickness.
  • Cut out with a biscuit cutter, a lightly floured drinking glass, or, in this case, a cute little cookie cutter.
  • Arrange biscuits on your baking sheet. Sides touching if you want them soft around the edges, space between if you want crispier edges.
  • Lightly press together dough scraps to cut the rest of your biscuits out.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are light golden brown.
  • Serve with butter, jam, or cheese.
  • Yield: about 3 dozen

The verdict: These little biscuits were adorable and tasty! I served them with FROG jam (fig, raspberry, orange, ginger) at the shower, but Micah and I discovered the next morning that the leftovers were also delicious with butter (because, let’s face it, what isn’t delicious with butter?) and with pimiento cheese.

* * * * *

Of course, a bridal shower isn’t complete without cake. And I really, truly thought about ordering a cake from one of Athens’ own excellent local bakeries. But, glutton for culinary punishment that I am, I decided I had to bake dessert from scratch instead. The recipe had four basic parts: yellow cake, strawberries, pastry cream, and whipped cream. On my way to the shower, I felt pretty confident that the cake would taste good…but I worried a lot about it falling apart. Fortunately, it managed to (mostly) stay together, at least until we cut into it.

See the spare tire around the middle? That's pastry cream and strawberries, just waiting to burst out the seams. A delicious disaster!

For the cake: I followed Crummb’s recipe for The Ultimate Butter Cake, which I doubled to make two 9-inch layers. I also substituted buttermilk for half of the milk in the recipe because I had some that needed using. The resulting cake was just as moist, buttery, and delicious as I hoped it would be!

For the berry filling: I washed, hulled, and sliced about 2 pints of fresh strawberries, sprinkled a little sugar on them, and let them sit for about 30-45 minutes. This got them nice and sweet and juicy.

For the pastry cream: I used a fantastic recipe from Sauce Boss, subbing extra vanilla extract for the balsamic vinegar and throwing in an extra egg yolk for added body.

For the icing: I made vanilla whipped cream by whipping 2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract until it was nice and stiff.

All of the components can be made a day ahead, though you might have to re-whip your whipped cream if it sits too long, and you have to make sure you press some plastic wrap into your pastry cream or it’ll form a yucky skin on top.

To assemble:

  • Make sure all of your finished components are cold! This will keep your pastry cream and whipped cream from running too much and making a drippy mess (which would taste fine, but won’t look too pretty).
  • Start with one 9″ cake layer. Poke lots of holes in it with a fork or skewer. Why? You’ll see…
  • Pipe a ring of pastry cream around the edge of the cake. This will help keep your strawberries from sliding out.
  • Add a generous layer of the macerated strawberries, reserving a few for decorating the top of the cake. Pour all those yummy strawberry juices over the strawberries. The holes you poked a minute ago will soak up all this deliciousness quite nicely.
  • Top the strawberries with a layer of pastry cream.
  • Add your other cake layer and smooth a little more pastry cream around the seam, just to help hold things in a little better.
  • Frost the cake with the whipped cream and decorate with more strawberries.
  • Yield: one very tall, gooey, delicious cake!

The verdict: this cake took a lot of steps, but the finished product was both beautiful and tasty! The combination of the buttery cake, rich pastry cream, sweet strawberries, and fluffy whipped cream was pretty much perfect. The only downside was that once I started cutting the cake, it pretty well fell apart, mostly because my middle layer was too thick and slippery. If When I make this cake again, I might split each layer into two (for a total of four layers) so that I can fill it with several thin layers of pastry cream and strawberries instead of one thick one. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing!

* * * * *

Jessica has been my best friend since 5th grade–it’ll be 21 years in August!–and I love her dearly. She was the maid of honor at my wedding back in 2009…

Eric, me, Micah, and Jessica
July 18, 2009

…and I feel so fortunate to be matron of honor at her wedding in just a few days!

Just like with my last-minute alterations, the menu I made for Jessica’s shower wasn’t quite perfect, and if I could do it over again, I might make a few minor changes. But while my cooking is far from professional, with plenty of technical imperfections, the most important thing to me was to pour my heart into making delicious food for someone I love.

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lazy brunch – 3.16.12 – sweet potato grits with sausage and eggs

image from indibound.com

I don’t yet own this cookbook by Virginia Willis, but have a feeling I’ll have to stroll on over to Avid Bookshop very soon to buy a copy. Several recipes from the book were featured in American Profile a couple weeks back, including one for sweet potato grits.

Yep, you heard me right. Sweet potatoes + grits = Southern food heaven.

So yesterday, when Micah and I were brainstorming brunch ideas to use up the last of some leftover sausage, that sweet potato grits recipe dropped by and said, “Hey, y’all!”

I made a few modifications to Ms. Willis’s recipe because I had polenta in the pantry (but no grits–for shame!), I wasn’t really in the mood to season my already-sweet veggies with cinnamon and ginger, and I didn’t really want to be cooking my breakfast for 45-60 minutes. (Especially since we’d already slept until 11:00. Ah, spring break, I will miss you so!)

We made a meal of the grits and sausage by topping the dish off with a sunny side up egg and some fresh cilantro:

Doesn’t that look tasty? It was. But don’t take my word for it. Or Micah’s. (We both licked our bowls clean.) Try it for yourself! (This will make a reasonably-sized brunch for two, or a big ol’ brunch for one. :))

What’s in it:

  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup polenta
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 pound of pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 eggs
  • a little more salt and pepper
  • a big handful of fresh cilantro

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven on warm (about 170-200°F).
  • Ms. Willis grates her sweet potatoes into the grits and then lets them cook for about an hour. I was too impatient for this, and it’s really quick and easy to bake sweet potatoes in the microwave–so that’s my recommendation. Get those tubers nice and tender, squeeze them out of the peel, and then mash them up real good.
  • In a small saucepan, heat your milk and polenta together over medium heat, whisking as it thickens. I’ve always heard that you should boil the cooking liquid first, then vigorously whisk in your polenta. But mine always turns out lumpy when I do it that way, and lumpy polenta ain’t good eats. (Well, actually, I’ve eaten and enjoyed lumpy polenta many times….but it’s even better when it’s smooth and creamy!) Yesterday, as an experiment, I tried whisking everything cold and letting it all heat together, and my polenta was nice and smooth. If you try this, please let me know if it works for you or if it was just a fluke for me!
  • Once the polenta is good and thick (about 10 minutes later), add the mashed sweet potato, butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. (Of course, you can always add more butter, salt, and/or pepper to suit your liking.)
  • Divide the cooked polenta into two oven-safe bowls and stick them in your warm oven while you tend to your sausage and eggs.
  • Brown and crumble the sausage in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Use a slotted spoon to top your bowls of grits with the sausage, then put those bowls back into the oven.
  • Pour off most (but not all) of the sausage grease from your skillet–you want to leave some to cook your eggs in!
  • Crack your eggs into the hot pan and cook them until the whites are cooked through and the yolks are just starting to firm up. To make sure the tops of your whites get done, you can put a lid over the pan for a minute or spoon some of the hot sausage grease over them à la the Pioneer Woman. Make sure to season your eggs with a sprinkle of salt and pepper while they cook.
  • Get your bowls out of the oven and slide the cooked eggs on top of the grits and sausage.
  • Finish with some fresh cilantro leaves on top.
  • Enjoy!

A note about the eggs: there’s some controversy over whether it’s advisable to eat them sunny side up. The odds are slim, but not quite none, that raw eggs could make you sick. And salmonella infections, from what I hear, are no fun. If you’re concerned, or just don’t like your yolks runny, then by all means, flip your eggs and cook ’em a little more.

But, anecdotally, I’ve been eating my eggs sunny side up or soft-poached for years (not to mention plenty of raw eggs in cookie doughs and cake batters), and have never once suffered a salmonella infection. Lots of other people do this, and I’d be willing to bet that the farmers who sell us our eggs are among this group.

Until I’m stricken with terrible salmonella poisoning, I’ll keep eating my lazy brunch eggs sunny side up, because there are few things in life that I enjoy more than piercing a golden egg yolk with the tip of my fork…letting it spill onto the rest of my food as a rich, thick, gorgeous sauce…and scraping up every last drop of that delicious stuff with a hunk of warm bread or (with a Southern-inspired meal like this) a fluffy buttermilk biscuit.

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supper tonight – 3.14.12 – Paula Deen married Alton Brown and they made a meatloaf baby

A few months back, Micah and I got a craving for meatloaf. We had ground beef, an egg, breadcrumbs, and ketchup–all the stuff I remember grownups putting in and on their meatloaves when I was a kid–but no idea how long or how hot it needed to bake, no idea what proportions to use. So, we decided to consult some experts for their opinions.

Google meatloaf and you’ll come up with lots of hits: “I Would Do Anything for Love,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad“…

…and plenty of recipes, too.

(Sorry. My love for meatloaf is rivaled only by my penchant for cheese and corn. :))

Anyway, we probably read a couple dozen recipes that afternoon, some really basic, some a little strange (breakfast sausage and clams? so weird I might just have to try it one day!). But since we were both craving that classic, homey, comfort-food meatloaf flavor, we ignored some variations like the Pioneer Woman’s that sounded really good in favor of the recipes that were a little more traditional. (Plus, we were out of bacon.)

The only problem was, instead of finding “the one,” we narrowed it down to two, and we weren’t going to do that whole one-for-the-wedding-and-one-for-the-reception thing.

First, Paula Deen’s recipe. It’s pretty standard, but it called for quick-cooking oats. We only had steel cuts, and I thought those might make for a too-chewy substitution. We did like the addition of canned tomatoes (which seemed like they would add moisture and flavor), and the recipe had heaps of good reviews. (Plus, Paula’s the self-proclaimed goddess of Southern cooking, and this meatloaf called for zero sticks of butter and no deep frying.)

The other contender? Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats (which was one of our favorite Food Network shows before we cancelled our cable). Also fairly classic, also well reviewed. Pros: carrots, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and the ease of chopping lots of yummy veggies in the food processor. Cons: Cumin is one of my favorite spices, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it in my sauce (and some of the reviewers were a bit iffy on it as well).

So, we lovingly welcomed into this world Alton and Paula’s meatloaf love child, a sweet little guy with just a bit of a fiery temper. While we did improvise a little (hey, it’s what we do!), this baby’s got Paula’s tomatoes, Alton’s carrots, and hopefully a good shot at inheriting both celebrichefs’ fortunes one day.

This is now our go-to meatloaf recipe, which we spiced up for supper tonight with pork sausage in place of some of the ground beef and a little more hot sauce in the glaze. We enjoyed this yummy stuff with the last of those leftover butterbeans and some collards:

What’s in it (the loaf):

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork or mild pork sausage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

What’s in it (the ketchupy glaze):

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (or less, if you want a not-so-spicy loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • Put the ground beef and pork sausage in a big bowl.
  • Finely chop the carrot, onion, and garlic (or let your food processor do it for you like I do–thanks, Alton!). Add these to the bowl.
  • Add the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, tomatoes, and egg.
  • Roll up your sleeves and get to mixin’! Combine everything thoroughly, but don’t smoosh the meat too much.
  • Transfer the meat to a 9″x13″ baking dish and mold it into a loaf-shaped mound.
  • Wash your hands! 🙂
  • Mix together the sauce ingredients and spread that out on top of your loaf.
  • Bake for about an hour, cool for a few minutes, slice, and enjoy! (It’s even better if you drizzle some of those yummy pan drippings over the top.)

We were meatloaf-challenged a few months ago, but now we’ve got a recipe we can count on. (Tonight’s was the best batch yet!)

What’s your favorite way to make meat(or meatless)loaf?

 

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

quick lunch – 3.12.12 – leftovers mashup + quinoa

I’m on spring break this week (woohoo!), so Monday I decided to cook a midday meal for Micah and enjoy it with him on his lunch break.

The challenge? Leftovers.

Besides my neuroses about eating my food from contrasting dishes, I’ve also got a serious obsession with eating or using every last tidbit of leftover anything. Sometimes, that  just means I’ll eat chili every day for a week at lunch because we made a big batch. Sometimes, leftover vegetables go into a soup. Sometimes, that leftover soup becomes pasta sauce. And sometimes, I’ll save things like 3/4 of a cup of potlikker from a batch of collard greens.

Yes, I hoard cooking liquid. But if you’ve ever slurped up a spoonful of potlikker, you know why. It’s smoky and salty from the ham hock that simmered in with the greens, it’s tangy from a splash of apple cider vinegar, it’s spicy from a dash of hot sauce, and it’s sweet from a sprinkling of brown sugar. This humble stuff is amazing all on its own, and when you cook with it, you can work magic.

Besides this 3/4 cup of heavenly broth, what else did I have to work with? About two cups of leftover butterbeans from a veggie-filled supper last Tuesday, a couple of pork sausage patties from Sunday’s lazy brunch, some lovely cherry tomatoes, and a bag of rainbow quinoa.

The delicious result:

This came together in about 30 minutes (most of which was inactive time as the quinoa cooked), and Micah and I both enjoyed this hearty one-dish meal.

What’s in it:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup potlikker
  • two cups cooked butterbeans
  • two cooked patties of pork breakfast sausage (about 2-3 ounces), crumbled
  • about a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered, if they’re big ones)
  • a little oil for drizzling over the top

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa. Stir it around in the hot oil for about 5 minutes. (It’ll smell yummy and nutty as it starts to toast.)
  • Add the potlikker, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the beans, sausage, and tomatoes, and warm on the stove until the whole thing’s heated through.
  • Divide into two bowls. Or eat the whole pot by yourself, because that’s kind of what I wanted to do. 🙂
  • Drizzle with a little more olive oil, or (even better) a splash of red chile oil and cilantro oil. (We cancelled our cable and no longer have the Food Network, but we’ll always have the magic of Bobby Flay’s flavored oils.)

You could substitute your favorite variety of beans, any kind of sausage, a different grain….you could even use regular old chicken broth instead of the potlikker, if you have to. But if you happen to cook and eat a mess of greens any time soon, save the juicy goodness that’s left in the pot. It’ll change your life.

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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