Meatloaf II: Bat out of Hell

Meatloaf 2I know that there aren’t a lot of recipes on here, so it seems silly to have a second meatloaf recipe, but we really, really like meatloaf at the Mox house.  And, more importantly, I didn’t want to forget how to do this one, which was ad-libbed with ingredients on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (grass-fed, please!)
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs OR crushed whole-wheat Ritz crackers (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs ground yellow mustard (Coleman’s)
  • 1 tbs Hungarian paprika
  • 1-2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1-2 tsp chopped fresh sage

For glaze

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire
  • 1/2 to 1 tbs Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 tbs ground cumin

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients very well in bowl.  On a greased 9 x 13 pan, shape meat mixture into loaf shape.  Dust with additional salt and pepper.  Cook for 1 hour.
  2. Mix ingredients for glaze, remove meatloaf from oven, and coat loaf with glaze.  Cook an additional 15 minutes.
  3. Serve with mashed potatoes and Kristine’s green beans!
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Sausage and Okra Gumbo

We can have an argument about ‘authenticity’ if you like, but I believe that ‘authentic’ gumbo is whatever you happen to like (and have on hand).  Having been in Texas for so long, we are partial to beef smoked sausage, and with other roots in the Dirty South, we try to work okra into as many dishes as possible.  Sure, some shrimp or lump crab meat would have been good, too, but those ingredients are fairly expensive in Chicago!

In my book, gumbo ought to be po’ folk food, so if it starts to get expensive or glamorous, you’re doing it wrong.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup bacon drippings
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 bell pepper, diced fine
  • 1 rib celery, diced fine
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. beef smoked sausage, sliced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tbls sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbls Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 (6 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. package of chopped, frozen okra
  • 1 tbls white vinegar
  • 1 tbls Worcestershire sauce

Process

  1. Heat bacon drippings over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Whisk in flour to make a roux, stirring constantly until a medium-light-brown color is reached (mahogany?).  This may take 20 minutes or more – watch the heat and stir frequently to avoid burning the roux.
  2. Stir in vegetables and saute for a few minutes, until softened.  Add in sausage, stir, and heat through, until fat begins to render.
  3. Add in stock and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add in sugar, salt, hot sauce, seasoning blend, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  Simmer over low heat for about 1 hour.
  4. After the hour, heat 1 tbls of oil or bacon drippings in a skillet, add okra and salt to taste, and saute until heated through.  Add vinegar and Worcestershire and continue to saute for a few minutes.
  5. Remove okra from skillet with slotted spoon and add to gumbo.  Simmer for as long as you can stand it, but at least for 20 minutes more.  Serve over cooked rice and with fresh French bread.

Zesty Basil-Lemon Penne

Here is a dish that we made from ingredients on hand.  In this case, “we” refers not to me and Kristine, but me and Bubba Jack!  He loves to help out when we cook, and he added all of my ingredients to the pan for me, including the fresh pepper.  He’s also learning how to best present food – he was insistent on a garnish!

Do not be fooled, however.  Although he was eager to help cook this one, he had no desire whatsoever to taste it.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. whole-wheat penne
  • 1 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 Fresno chile, diced
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, diced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli spears, steamed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Process

  1. Prepare to cook pasta.  While pasta is cooking, heat oil in large saute pan and add carrots and peppers.  Saute for two minutes, until carrot begins to soften.  Add lemon and garlic and reduce heat to medium – saute for a minute or two, but do not let garlic brown.  And please remember to use salt during all of this!
  2. Add in wine and toss pan.  Add mushrooms and broccoli and stir to coat.  Cook for two minutes or so, until broccoli begins to soften.  When pasta is al dente, drain and add to pan.  Toss to coat and add basil.  Toss and cook briefly.  Add Parmesan and toss to coat.  Add fresh-ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Serve in a large bowl, topped with additional Parmesan cheese and garnished with a basil leaf, if so desired.

Grilled Chicken Tacos

Chicken TacoI suppose many people would call these “fajitas.”  As with most things, I am a stickler and a purist; therefore, I would not actually refer to these as fajitas, since the translation of fajita is “little belt,” referring to skirt steak.  So just as I will refuse to call anything involving vodka a “martini,” I shall also refuse to call anything that is not skirt steak a fajita.

Etymology aside, this is a simple delicious dish that is representative of our house style of cooking.  Not too heavy, fairly healthful, and full of big flavors.  As with any simple dish, however, ingredients do matter.  For the love of Pete, don’t use frozen, salt-water-injected supermarket chicken breasts from Frankenchickens that have pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.  Find yourself a source for free-range (or at least free-roaming), vegetarian, air-chilled chicken.  Organic is a plus.

Ingredients

For marinade

  • 3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced + 1 lime, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tequila
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. chile powder
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, more or less to taste

For toppings

  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • Avacado, sliced
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Full-fat Greek-style yogurt or sour cream

Process

  1. Combine chicken and marinade ingredients in a large plastic bag and toss to coat.  Allow to marinate for as long as you have – at least an hour.
  2. Heat grill to high heat. Remove chicken from marinade (discard) and grill over high heat for about 10 minutes a side.  While grilling, squeeze lime half over chicken breasts.  Cut  the other half of the lime into wedges and serve with shots of tequila (this step is very, very important).
  3. Meanwhile, saute sliced onion, adding salt and a little soy sauce while cooking.  Stir frequently and cook until well browned.
  4. Remove chicken from grill to a warm plate.  Squeeze remaining lime juice over chicken and dust with salt.  Cover plate with foil and allow to rest while preparing the onions.
  5. Slice avocado and tomato and drizzle with lime juice and salt.  Slice chicken into thin strips and cover.
  6. To serve, spread a small amount of yogurt/sour cream on a warm tortilla, add avocado and tomato, then chicken, then onions, and top with cilantro.  Serve alongside Spanish rice and pinto beans.  And beer.

Pintos Rápido

Pinto BeansSo I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I love beans.  As a former resident of Texas (and a general Tex-Mex enthusiast), the pinto bean occupies a special place in my culinary heart.  They are full-bodied and earthy with a pleasing texture, they are nutritionally dense, and, of course, they are incredibly inexpensive.

I usually don’t have several hours to properly slow cook them, and I’m usually to rushed in the morning to drop them in a crock pot.  So, when we decide to have pintos with dinner, I pull out the pressure cooker.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. bacon grease (more or less to taste)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 to 6 dried chile pequin, crushed*
  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Process

  1. If time allows, soak beans in cold water, drain, and rinse.
  2. Heat grease in bottom of pressure cooker.  Add onion and saute until onion begins to turn translucent.  Add garlic and crushed peppers, stir, and saute for an additional minute or two (don’t let the garlic burn).
  3. Add 4 cups of cold water.  Add in beans and enough additional water to cover beans by at least two inches.  Stir, affix the lid of the pressure cooker, and bring up to steam.  Allow to cook at full pressure for about 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes at full pressure, remove lid and continue simmering for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour, until beans are cooked.  Check beans – once they are soft (but not fully cooked), add in bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

*I don’t think I’ve ever seen pequin peppers in the store – they grow all over Texas, and if you happen to know anyone with a bush, they’ll have piles and piles of them to share.  I suppose you could use regular red chile flakes.

Pinto Beans with Smoked Sausage

Pintos and SausageOK – I seriously love beans.  I know that they might seem like po’ folk food or an oft-forgotten side dish to tacos, but I can easily make a meal of them by themselves.  A lot of people never learn to properly cook dry beans, and even those that do often lack imagination when cooking them.  What follows is a basic improvisation on pintos.  Many other ‘New World’ beans would work, including mayacoba, vallarta, ojo de cabra, vaquero, yellow eye, etc.

As for the sausage – read your labels!  In this case, all-beef sausage is best.  Outside of Texas, it can be difficult to get proper smoked beef sausage, but whatever you do, try to avoid anything with a bunch of fillers or corn syrup or preservatives.

This recipe is good for two people; it can be easily doubled.  I use a pressure cooker to cut off a lot of time (especially important in an already steamy summer kitchen), but traditional method could work well, too.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. of dried pinto beans
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 large jalapeno, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 12 oz. beer
  • 2 to 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 lb. smoked sausage, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of uncooked brown rice
  • 2 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup cotija (or parmesan) cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Process

  1. Soak beans in a bowl of water for several hours.  Drain and rinse before cooking
  2. In cooking pot, heat oil and then saute onion.  Once onions are translucent, add garlic and onions.  NB: Do not add any salt before the beans are cooked.
  3. Add beer, then beans, then enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches.
  4. Bring pressure cooker up to steam and cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. Once beans are fairly soft on the outside (but still not completely cooked), add sausage and seasonings.  Bring to simmer and cook for at least 30 more minutes, until beans are cooked through.  Cooking longer certainly isn’t going to hurt.  Be sure to taste along the way so that the proper amount of salt can be added.  Stir occasionally and add water as needed.
  6. Prepare brown rice per usual methods.
  7. Serve beans atop rice and garnish with cilantro, onions, and cheese, along with fresh flour tortillas.  Also recommended are your favorite Mexican hot sauce (pictured) and a very cold lager beer.

Jerk Chicken and Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Jerk ChickenI’m posting this one up not necessarily because I’m proud of the recipe – it’s really an adapted recipe from a couple of different ones that I found on the web, not an ‘original.’  I’m posting it mainly so I’ll never lose it – Kristine said that this was her absolute favorite chicken dish that I’ve ever cooked.  In life.  Ever.

Usually on the weekends, when we’re trying to decide what to cook, we usually just say, ‘something spicy.’  Most of the time, that’s usually something Indian, but I’ve been wanting to branch out into Caribbean and African cuisine.  The pineapple salsa is an original recipe, however.  It’s actually quite essential for balance, since the flavors on the chicken are so bold and savory (serving coconut-milk flavored rice and beans also helps).  So here ’tis:

Ingredients

For jerk chicken…

  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (two good-sized limes)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Water, as needed
  • 4 chicken leg quarters

For the salsa…

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 to 8 rings of pineapple (fresh is best, of course!)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. olive oil + extra for basting
  • 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Combine all ingredients for jerk chicken (except chicken) in a blender and pulse until a smooth paste develops.  Add water to thin, as necessary.  Marinade should be a thick liquid – like a semi-melted milkshake.
  2. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade to use later as a sauce.  Place chicken in a gallon zip-top back or large Tupperware dish and coat with remaining marinade.  Toss chicken pieces to coat and set aside to marinate in refrigerator – at least for four hours or overnight.  (Tip: Let chicken come up to room temperature for about an hour before cooking.)
  3. To begin salsa, preheat grill to medium-high temperature.  Brush both sides of pineapple rings with oil and dust with chili powder.  Grill for five to eight minutes per side – until pineapple is soft and had dark grill marks.  Remove, allow to cool, and dice.  Mix with remaining ingredients for salsa and set aside.
  4. Increase heat on grill to high.  Remove chicken from marinade and grill for 8 to 10 minutes per side, until nicely browned.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook through (to 180F).  Prepare to fend off curious neighbors.
  5. Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Mix a little water with reserved marinade to create a dipping sauce for chicken.  Serve chicken with salsa on side – also good with Caribbean rice and beans and cole slaw.

Beer pairing: Excellent with any sort of very cold light lager or American wheat beer (such as Bell’s Oberon).

Flounder Poached in Court Bouillon

Poached FlounderOK, this sounds a lot fancier than it is.  Flounder was on sale at the market, so we got some.  Had some myseriously un-drank wine laying about the house, and we had just planted some fresh herbs.  (I also wanted to expand my repetoire a little bit.)  As I was preparing it, I was somewhat hesitant, since there was little to no color, and I assumed that he flavors would be too…’subtle.’  I ordinarily favor big, bold flavors – and let me just say that this actually delivered! 

If you’re intimidated by cooking fish, this is a good place to start, since you really can’t mess it up.  This is also a good recipe for dipping a toe into French cooking methods.  Goes well with white wine or Two Brother’s Brewing Domaine Dupage French Farmhouse Ale.  The Brussels sprouts in the picture look a little dead, but let me tell you – they taste really good with some ‘browning’ on the outer leaves!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 to 1 lb. of fish fillets (I used flounder – any other delicate white fish would do)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (including leaves)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tbls salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbls flour
  • 1 1/2 tbls butter
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Onion chives, chopped

Process

  1. Place all ingredients except fish, flour, butter, and lemon juice in a large stockpot.  Bring to a boil, then gently simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain into a large saute pan or skillet.
  2. Heat court bouillon to 160 F.  Add fish fillets – they should be completely submerged by the bouillon.  (Pro tip – if the fillets are skin-on, cut X’s into the skin to prevent the fillets from curling up.)  The temperature of the bouillon should remain between 160 and 180 F – cooking time is about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare a roux by melting butter in a separate small saute pan, adding flour, and cooking while stirring.  Once fillets are cooked through, remove from liquid and set aside in a warm oven.  Add about 1 cup of bouillon to roux and stir.  Cook sauce down to desired consistency, adding lemon juice near the end.
  4. To serve, spoon sauce over fish and garnish with chives.  I served mine alongside roasted Brussels sprouts – rice or mashed potatoes would also be good.

Portobello Fajitas

Thank goodness Kristine and I know how to cook Tex-Mex, since the flavors haven’t quite been mastered here in Chicagoland!  This is simple, delicious, and healthy – not much more to say!

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 3 small carrots, cut into sticks
  • 1 bunch green onions, trimmed
  • 6 to 8 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tsp. oil + spray oil, as needed
  • 3 limes, juiced and divided
  • 1 tbsp tequila
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • salt (do I have to say this?)
  • ‘Tex-Mox’ seasoning (recipe follows)
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Salsa Verde

Procedure

  1. Heat cast iron skillet to medium-high heat; preheat broiler.  Mix tequila, juice of 1 lime, and garlic powder and toss with mushroom slices.  Arrange ‘shrooms and green onions on broiling pan.  Squeeze juice of one lime over onions and salt liberally.
  2. Heat oil in skillet.  Add carrots, toss, and saute for 1 or 2 minutes.  Add onions and peppers.  Salt liberally stir frequently.  Season with ‘Tex-Mox’ as desired.  Saute until desired level of carmelization/scorching is reached.
  3. Broil ‘shrooms and green onions for 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning at least once.  Coat with more lime juice and spray oil, as needed.
  4. Add tomatoes to skillet and toss – cook until skins slip and tomatoes soften.
  5. Heat tortillas.  Spread each tortilla with 1/2 tsp of yogurt, top with mushroom slices, veggies, and salsa verde.  Serve green onions on side. 

Ideally, serve with pintos and Spanish rice.

‘Tex-Mox’ Seasoning

This is our ‘house’ spice blend that I use on most of our Tex-Mex food.  I just mix it in a bowl and then keep it in a spice shaker.  These measurements are in no way precise.

  • 4 parts ancho/New Mexico chili powder
  • 2 parts garlic powder
  • 2 parts ground cumin
  • 1 part cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)

Trout Provencal and Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Trout Provencal and Brussels SproutsI know that I keep saying that I make all this stuff with ingredients I have on hand, but to be fair, we buy some fairly uncommon ingredients.  Generally, though, we try to buy what’s freshest, cheapest, and looks the best.  Plus, it helps to keep a few ‘gourmet’ ingredients on hand, just to take everyday things up to the next level.

Steelhead trout isn’t always available, but salmon makes a fine substitute (any sort of pink fatty fish will do).  As for the Brussels sprouts – ignore common sense and let them burn.  I don’t know what it is, but there is something completely addicting about burnt Brussels sprouts.  Trust me on this one.

Another confession – a lot of my recipes are adapted from others’ recipes I keep track of.  This recipe, however, is a complete original.  I think it reflects well my progress as a student of food and food culture.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 2 medium shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 (15 oz) can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • 1 lb. steelhead trout filets, skin-on (or salmon)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the ends off of the sprouts and split in half.  Meanwhile, render bacon in a cast iron skillet.
  2. Once bacon is crispy, remove and set aside.  Add 1 chopped shallot and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add Brussels sprouts and toss well to coat.  Allow sprouts to brown on one side, toss again, and brown on another side.  Crumble bacon and add back to pan.  Remove skillet from heat, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and place in oven. (Cook until remainder of recipe is finished – about 25 to 30 minutes.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a second large cast iron skillet (or frying pan) and then fry remaining shallot.  After about 5 minutes, add celery and garlic.  Salt and pepper vigorously.  Toss and saute for additional 3 minutes.
  4. Add in tomatoes, herbs, and cayenne.  Stir well and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes – until extra liquid is cooked off.
  5. Meanwhile, rinse fish and pat dry.  Salt and pepper vigorously.
  6. In skillet, scoot aside tomato mixture and place fish fillets on pan.  Spoon mixture over top of fish and place in oven.  Cook until fish flakes easily – about 15 minutes.
  7. When removing Brussels sprouts from oven, drizzle with lemon juice.
  8. To serve, plate fish alongside sprouts and brown rice.  Top fish with tomato sauce.

Beer Pairing: Bell’s Oberon.