Thursday, March 29, 2012

Herbed Skillet Bread

Just a quick post tonight. I've been thinking about starting a regular post of recipe reviews from recipes I've collected from Pinterest, the Food Network, the Food Channel and the many cookbooks occupying my kitchen and since I decided to make this for dinner tonight, I thought it would be as good a place as any to start.

This is a recipe I'm trying out for the first time from "The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook", written by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne. It's a great cookbook filled with recipes for your cast iron cookware. I first heard about it from a Girl Scout Leader I trained with and so far, I've enjoyed every recipe I've made or had from it. I'm also testing "rub with love" Steak Rub I recieved from my mom (along with a salmon rub and a poultry rub) at Christmas time on some nice steaks I thawed out this morning. Hopefully, the daylight will hold out long enough to get a good photo or two to share with you as well.

I threw all the ingredients in my bread machine and set it to "dough" this afternoon, just before the kids got home from school. I didn't make any changes this time around as the ingredients remind me of my favorite foaccacia recipe (besides, I generally do try to follow a new recipe the first time I make it), but I might play with it next time.

Ooooohhhh, this bread was so good! The cast iron skillet gave the bread a wonderful, crisp exterior but it was moist and spongy inside. So delicious! Incidentally, it was VERY much like the foccacia I usually make (a Frugal Gourmet recipe from back in the day), but it makes just one loaf - perfect for a family dinner.

Herbed Skillet Bread

1 tbls sugar
1 cup warm water (105 degrees F), divided
1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp bulk yeast)
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 tsp sea salt, divided (I actually used Kosher, so I guess I did change something)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbls olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup water, the flour, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Stir until well blended and the mixture forms a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Add additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise 45 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or cast iron dutch oven) with 1 tbls olive oil. Place dough in skillet and press to bottom of pan. With a sharp knife, score the top lightly in a crisscross pattern. Brush with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with garlice, rosemary and remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt. Let rise for 20 minutes.

While bread is rising, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Place skillet in hot oven and bake 20-25 minutes until crust is a light golden color. Remove from pan right away and place on wire rack to retain crisp crust. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, slice into wedges and serve warm.

Want to use your bread machine to mix the dough? Here are the dough ingredients broken out from the topping to make it easier:

1 Cup warm water (105 degrees)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 1/4 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBLS Sugar
1 pkg yeast

2 cloves garlic, thinly slices
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt (I actually just liberally sprinkled the top with salt - I didn't measure)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas - AKA: What to Feed Hungry Teens

I know, I know, it's been too long! Life has been busy here with our oldest in the school production of Les Miserable (which finally ended this past weekend), weekly snowstorms, homework, baking cookies and to top it all off, I've been battling a cold for over a week now!

So this week we finally had to cross a bridge with our very soon to be 16 year old. She was asked to "hang out" by a young man who she met while working on the musical. New territory can often be hard to navigate and our cautious, somewhat conservative young lady wasn't sure how comfortable she was going to a boy's house (frankly, I KNEW I wasn't comfortable with it) so she invited him here along with a couple of her girl friends so she'd have a nice, comfortable group to keep it all on the DL.

So, at this very moment, I have a group of 6 young people aging from 12-17 in my family room loudly playing video games while I share with you.

Of course, I need to feed them. I did the June Cleaver thing and had a fresh batch of twisted chocolate chip cookies (there is only one cookie left on the plate) , still warm and melty, for them when they came in, but dinner was the big question. Or at least it was up until about 3pm as I was driving home from work and came up with what I believe to be the perfect solution. Of course I could have gone with hot dogs, burgers, spaghetti or something along those lines, but my kids are always bragging about my cooking "skills" and I thought I should make something that would please them but still be easy to make and serve so I could monitor what's going on in the family room from the relative safety of my kitchen. I kept circling around tacos, but it just wasn't workin for me. Finally, I started thinking about enchiladas and after contemplating making them with pork filling I decided to make chicken enchiladas instead since I already had chicken thighs in the freezer that I thought would work perfectly.

They're in the oven now, and they are just starting to fill the room with a lovley aroma!

Chicken Enchiladas

2.5 lbs chicken, poached and shredded
1/4 large onion, chopped
1 small can (2oz?) cohopped, green chilis
1 tbls ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried cilantro (more if you use fresh)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup queso quesadilla cheese
1 cup manchego cheese

1 large can (15oz) green chili enchilada sauce
tortillas, warmed

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour about 1/4 of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix together chicken, onion, green chilis and spices. Add enough enchilada sauce to help it hold together and to keep mixture moist. Add 3/4 cup of each of the cheeses and mix well (Monterey Jack would be fine too). If it's a bit dry, add a bit more enchilada sauce.

Put about 2 forkfuls of filling on each tortilla, roll up tight and place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until all filling has been used. Pour enchilada sauce over the center of the enchiladas, and pour any remaining sauce around the edges of the baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream or any other "taco" topping you like.

Makes 8-10 enchiladas depending on size of tortillas and how much filling you put in them.

Savory Nut Mix

This has been a week of celebrating anniversaries. On St. Patrick's day, we got together with family for dinner at a local bar and grill, then all attended the final performance of Les Miserables at the local high school. That was our "house" anniversary celebration. 7 years ago on March 20, 3 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew moved in with us and became "our" kids. 14 years ago on March 21, my wonderful husband and I were married. Since the kids just happened to move in the day before our wedding anniversary, we have started doing something together as a family to celebrate - last year we also went to see the musical at the high school and I think the year before that we went to see Alice in Wonderland together.

Anyway, since Tuesday and Wednesday were the actual dates involved, I tried to have a little something special to nibble on each night. I kept the meals simple since I'm still battling a nasty cold, but I did make savory nuts to munch as an appetizer on Tuesday and a Queso Fundido to have for an appetizer last night (my husband and I were then too full to really eat dinner, but that was ok).

So I thought I'd share the nut mix since it's a family favorite (although in truth I never make it exactly the same way twice).

Savory Nut Mix

3-4 cups nuts, or nuts and seeds
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
parmesan cheese to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread nuts and seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and add spices. Pour over nuts and stir well to evenly coat nuts. Bake until nuts are golden brown. Grate parmesan cheese over top of nuts and bake a few minutes more. Allow nuts to cool. Store in an airtight jar - if they last that long!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Turkey Bacon Club Sandwich (aka: TurkeyMaster)

When my dearest friend, Tammy, lived in the Shoreline District of Seattle, she fell in love with a sandwich that Burger Master had on their menu.  I don't know if the name on the menu was TurkeyMaster or not, but that is what she always called it.  Any time we were in the area together, we'd swing through there and devour these delicious sandwiches.  It's so tasty with toasty, grilled-to-perfection sourdough bread, plenty of melty cheese (yes, I said melty), and the chewy bacon to impart a bit of smokey goodness, and plenty of mayo and shredded lettuce to balance out the hot ingredients with something cool and crunchy... I'm salivating just thinking about it...

But alas, I'm a rural girl and I rarely get into Seattle (and would probably get myself lost trying to find the place without Tammy), so I decided to come up with my own version and it has become a favorite in our house.  These sandwiches pack well too, for picnics and such (if you don't mind eating it cold - which we don't), just wrap them up individually in parchment, then foil and it will keep them from turning soggy on you.  When our nieces and nephew first moved in with us, we went to a lot of counseling sessions and with 4 kids we were there a couple of hours each session, so we'd pack these sammies for dinner along with some chips and drinks and we'd be all set. 

Cook your bacon first. Have you tried baking it in the oven yet? It's really the only way to go. Bake it at 425 on your broiler pan or on a wire rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Your bacon will stay mostly flat, the fat will drip down onto the pan below and you can make a lot of bacon at one time. Beware though, if you bake several batches at once, each subsequent batch will take about 2 minutes less than the batch before it.

I made just one sandwich today so I could take advantage of the natural daylight for the photos and I'd had breakfast late this morning so I did use just one slice of bread and cut it in half.

Top one slice with a pile of turkey. Then top that with a pile of bacon, and a slice of cheese - I used smoked fontina today just because I've been on a fontina kick for a couple of weeks now.

You know how it goes, top it with the other slice of bread, butter the exterior of each slice generously (or you can brush them with olive oil if you prefer)and grill it in a skillet or on a griddle on low heat until both sides are golden brown and the cheese is all melty. You could certainly do this with a panini press too, if you prefer. I used my cast iron skillet since I was just making one for me. Tonight when we have them for dinner I'll use my two burner griddle so I can make several at once.

Once you remove it from the pan, griddle or whatever, pull off one slice of the bread and slather it generously with mayo and add lettuce - you can add tomato if you like at this point too. Enjoy it while it's hot, preferably with fries or good quality kettle style potato chips (I like those salt & pepper ones a bit too much).

MMmmm.... That was so good. Sorry, was I supposed to save some for you?

Turkey Bacon Club Sandwich (aka: TurkeyMaster)

8 slices sourdough bread *
1 lb deli sliced turkey
8 slices cooked bacon
4 slices provolone cheese
1/2 head shredded iceberg lettuce
mayo to taste

*Often times in our area we can only get large rounds of sliced sourdough (I used cracked wheat sourdough today), resulting in bread slices that are twice the size of typical sandwich bread. In this case, 4 slices of bread will work just fine, slice them in half and proceed as per above - each "half" now constituting a "whole" sandwich.