Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Filet Mignon and Baked Potatoes

It’s summertime, and that means it’s time to get out the grill!


Unless, of course, you’re like me and don’t have one because you don’t own your own home and are instead living in close enough proximity to strangers that grills are fire hazards… or maybe other people just don’t like seeing them. I don’t understand no-grill rules, honestly, but there is one in effect. No grill for me. I’m hoping that hubby and I will be buying a house of our own by this time next year, so this will definitely change, but I’ve got to make do for now.


I had filet mignons from Omaha steaks in my freezer and really wanted to give them a try. I did some googling so that I would make the best of the attempt. This is more of a cooking method than a recipe, and I’m sure it would work just as well for other cuts (though you might have to adjust cooking time if your steaks are a different thickness).

And honestly, it’s not hard at all!

First, season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper.


Shoo away any critters that are showing interest.


And preheat your oven to 375.


The plan is to sear both sides of the meat in a skillet before moving it to the oven to finish cooking. So, dribble a healthy amount of olive oil in a skillet and heat it. A few different sites said to wait until it is practically smoking before adding the meat.


But then you do. Sear them for 3 minutes on one side…


Then flip them over. Use a spatula, not a fork, since you want all the juices in the meat to stay right where they are, rather than letting them leak out everywhere. Three more minutes on this side.


Then just move the skillet to the oven for a bit. My sites said 4-5 minutes for rare, 6-8 minutes for medium, and 9-10 minutes for well-done. I like my meat red, and I also had thinner cuts than the sites called for, so I kept my cooking time real short.

When it came out, it was juicy.


Real juicy.


Real, real juicy.


Oh my gosh. So yummy. Of course, filet mignons are the pricey cut of meat and they’re known for being amazing, but it’s nice to know that I was able to capitalize on this. I would have been disappointed if I’d screwed this up, but I didn’t. Amazing. I’d like to try it with different cuts, but at least I know it works with these!

Because that method was so simple, I figured I’d post it along with another recipe-that-is-really-just-a-technique. Everyone knows that steak and potatoes go well together, so here’s a good way to prepare baked potatoes.

This recipe / method is from Alton Brown on the food network. He says to coat Russet potatoes (after washing and stabbing them) with olive oil, sprinkle coarse kosher salt, and then put them directly on the oven rack. Because mine dripped a lot, I put a foil-lined baking sheet on the lower rack to catch oil as it fell. And then cook for an hour at 350 (if you’re grilling, I guess it’d be the same principle but you’ll have to gauge doneness by squeezing since you have less control over the temperature). Simple as that!  To serve, slice lengthwise and then squeeze the ends toward each other. Top with sour cream, cheese, crumbled bacon, or whatever you would like. If you use this method, it should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Delicious, and the perfect foil for those summertime steaks!


Links to explanations are in the recipes tab.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

Seems an odd time of year for it, but a cold has been making its way through the members of the household for the last week or so. I decided to take advantage of my current joblessness and made some chicken noodle soup for everyone.


I had previously decided not to blog about recipes that I’d gotten from other blogs, but I made an exception for this one. Chef John from foodwishes.com posts excellent video blogs about various recipes, dishes, and techniques. I love his site, both for the food and for the humor that he sneaks in to each video. A while back, he had posted a two-part video about roasted chicken broth and chicken noodle soup, and I couldn’t un-forget it for the sake of my own easier, albeit unremarkable soup.

So here goes.

First, I started off by making the broth. This is a roasted chicken broth, so let’s start off by roasting a chicken. Chef John said to use a 3.5-4 pound chicken, but Wegman’s didn’t have anything smaller than 5 or 5.5 pounds, so mine was a little bigger than intended. No worries, I just left it in the oven longer.

I sprinkled it with a generous amount of kosher salt.


Next, I quartered an onion and cut up some celery.


Here’s everything in the pan together.


I put it in a 400 degree oven for an hour. Chef John said 45 minutes, but given that my bird was almost 2 pounds heavier than his was, I thought an extra 15 minutes was prudent.

In the meantime, I heated up my lunch: leftover chili and cornbread. Mmm!


This is what it looked like after an hour. It was so pretty, I almost wished I could just stop here.


But I didn’t. I transferred the vegetables to a big soup pot. I also added a few whole cloves of garlic. Bear with me, as there is no overhead light above this stove.


Ketchup is Chef John’s secret ingredient in the broth.


Throw the ketchup in there.


Then add 2 quarts of cold water.


Finally, pull all the white breast meat from the chicken off the carcass and set it aside. I didn’t let it cool enough, so I did this messily with tongs in one hand and a steak knife in the other.


Put the remaining carcass in the pot, dark meat and all. In addition to the bones, you want to include the wings and thighs. Because of the size of my bird, I added 2 extra cups of water just so that everything would be covered up. At that point, maybe season with some more kosher salt and then you’re good to go. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 3 hours. Yes, THREE. That’s enough to get all the flavor out of the meat and into the water.


During this process, you can do two things. One, skim off fat as it comes to the surface. There is a lot of fat, since I didn’t remove the skin. Second, add water if necessary to keep the water level constant. I didn’t have to do this, as I had a lid over the pot and not much seemed to evaporate.


After three hours, this is what it looked like.


Now it’s time to remove everything chunky from the broth. I used a big slotted ladle to remove the biggest chunks.


When mostly everything was out, I strained the broth through a colander. I would have used a sieve, if I could find one, but this worked fine.


Here’s all that beautiful roasted chicken broth, ready to go.


Next, I prepared everything for the chicken noodle soup and set it aside until it was nearly dinner time.

I chopped up the breast meat that I had removed earlier.


And I diced carrot, celery, and onion.


See, here’s everything all ready to go.


About a half hour before I wanted to serve, I melted some butter in the soup pot. When it was melted, I added those veggies and started to sauté them.


After a few minutes, I added about a tablespoon and a half of that reserved chicken fat and let the veggies continue to cook and soften.



When they were starting to get tender, I returned the broth to the pot and turned it to high.


When it came a rolling boil, I added about half of this package of wide egg noodles (3 of the 6 clumps), breaking them up a bit so the noodles weren’t too big.


After about 5 minutes, I added the chicken and let it simmer, too. I also added some more salt to the soup, as well as a healthy shake of cayenne pepper.

And then it was done!



I served with some grilled cheese sandwiches. Nom nom nom.


This was good soup. It was really, really good. It was much better than my normal chicken noodle soup, which I make without roasting the chicken. But, it’s also a lot more time consuming. I don’t think I’ll be making this again for a long time, simply because it just takes forever. For now, though, we have a vat of leftover soup that I will enjoy. That is the wonderful thing about making soup.

I definitely recommend it if you have the time, but I also think there are easier recipes out there.

And I’d also recommend giving Chef John’s website a look. It’s worth it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creamy Chicken, Bacon, and Tomato Pasta

Hubby and I are still staying with family for the time being, though we’ve signed a lease and expect to move soon. I’m still trying to alleviate the inconvenience of having us by making dinner when I can.


I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while but hadn’t gotten around to trying it. It’s actually fairly similar to Philly Shrimp, which is cool.

First, I got out some tri-colored farfalle pasta. I started to measure out the three cups that the recipe called for, but then I thought, “Screw that,” and dumped the whole box into boiling water.


Next, I cut up some chicken breasts. I used about twice as many as the recipe called for.


I also seasoned them with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and a touch of onion powder just for fun. This wasn’t part of the original recipe, but reviewers thought it should be.


Put it into a big skilled and start frying it up.



Meanwhile, I started prepping the rest of my ingredients. I love being back in an area where we have Wegman’s! I opened one can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, as the recipe called for, but then immediately decided that since I’d already doubled the chicken and put in more pasta than I needed, I might as well double everything.


So I opened another can.


Then I gave my niece a piece of farfalle pasta, which had been cooked and drained by this point. She wasn’t sure what to think of it.


But she liked the camera.



Anyway, once the chicken was about done, I transferred it to a saucepan so I’d have room to add more stuff. I added those diced tomatoes first.


And then a brick of cream cheese (my favorite ingredient!).


The recipe called for a bit of water to be added, but I used chicken broth instead.


Once it started melting and mixing, it looked more like this.


It got creamier as the cheese continued to melt. I also noticed that the sauce was a bit watery and mixed up some corn starch in water to thicken it up.


Also, I just realized that I have no photo evidence of the bacon that I fried up, crumbled, and mixed in. It’s there, I promise, I’m just dumb and forgot to take pictures.

It was too much pasta for one serving dish, so here’s about half of the yield.


And served on a plate:


Creamy and with a deeper taste than I’d anticipated. I liked the smoky flavor of the bacon combined with the tomato. Personally, I could do without the chicken, but I know a lot of people would disagree.

Regardless, delicious. And the leftovers were just wonderful.