Sunday, March 27, 2016

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Caramelized Leeks and Bacon

 OK, yes, I HATED brussel sprouts growing up. HATED. THEM. I was pretty picky (so weird considering I love to try new things now) but that was, like, top of the list. I had no idea why anyone would ever choose to eat those things. Well, one day in recent years, I just decided to try them again. I had never had them roasted, only steamed, which could have been the problem. I am not a big fan of steamed veggies period. I LOVE them raw, grilled and roasted, but spare me on the mushy steamed version.

 Anyway, I LOVED these little guys roasted. I came up with this recipe for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and it was a big hit. Since, there has been many a time I have made this, and only this, for dinner. It is that good, and so good for you! My husband STILL hates brussel sprouts, but I finally got to him to try these and he loved them. So hey, it's worth a shot!

Here is what you need (this is a fairly big batch)

2 bags of brussel sprouts (I buy from TJ's, you can also just buy the big stem they grow on if you're fancy like that)
2 leeks
1/3 to 1/2 package of uncured, nitrate/nitrite free applewood smoked bacon (OK, who cares, get whatever bacon you want, I just prefer this kind. Sometimes I even use turkey bacon or canadian bacon.)
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of balsamic reduction (TJ's has a great deal on this, or you can try and make your own. All you do is reduce a cup or two of balsamic vinegar by simmering on the stove until it thickens, this makes it sweeter)

Preheat the oven to 425. Start by cleaning and cutting your brussel sprouts - I wash, cut off the end and cut in half, depending on the size. Sometimes there are gigantic brussel sprouts that need to be cut in thirds or quarters. Make sure they are dry, and toss them onto a baking sheet (I ALWAYS foil line my shit, because it makes cleaning up easier. You do whatever you want!).

Pour a couple glugs of olive oil onto the brussel sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Toss them right there on the baking sheet then spread them out before popping them in the oven.

While those guys are cooking (it's going to take 20-30-ish minutes, keep an eye on them. You want them to be dark in some spots and cooked through, but NOT overcooked and mushy). Clean your leeks. Remember, leeks grow with sandy dirt piled up around them, which gets in between all those pretty spirals. The best way, I have found, is to peel off the outside layer, cut off the end and cut the leek lengthwise. Then chop, and throw into a bowl full of cold water. Move them around to get all the dirt to fall off then scoop them out with a slotted spoon to drain. Pat leeks dry. OR - Trader Joe's sells them already trimmed and cleaned.

Chop the bacon and add to a hot pan (medium heat) to brown. Once bacon is crispy (or however you like it), remove and drain excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon. Turn heat to medium low.
Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally. You want them to darken in spots and cook through. As they start to caramelize, add in your chopped garlic and let that continue to cook for a couple minutes. Turn heat to low and add bacon and balsamic reduction. Stir. Once brussel sprouts are done, remove from oven and add to the pan with bacon and leek mixture. Toss and serve warm. Shown here with cedar plank salmon and Greek yogurt "tarter sauce". 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Marinated Skirt Steak and Chimichurri Sauce

Like most of the recipes here at McMillen Kitchen... yea it sounds fancy. Is it difficult to pull off? Not at all. This recipe is a summer favorite. A simple marinade and a quick sauce that makes for a vibrant and delicious meal, trust me when I say you will want to make enough for leftovers!

1 bunch parsley, cut off the stems
1 bunch cilantro, cut off the stems
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
a teaspoon (or more if you like spice) red pepper flakes
a tablespoon dry oregano
a teaspoon dry mint,
the juice of 1-2 lemons, depending on size
About a half cup extra virgin olive oil, give or take

Throw all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more lemon juice, water or olive oil if you are having trouble getting the blender going. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skirt Steak Marinade:

Add your skirt steak to a shallow dish large enough to completely unroll the steak. Add a mixture of balsamic vinegar, worcestshire sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar. Rough measurements would be about 1/4 cup balsamic, 1/4 worcestshire, a few tablespoons of soy and a few tablespoons of brown sugar. I also added a good palm full of red pepper flakes and 3 cloves of minced garlic. Just go with your gut! Let this marinate for at least an hour, but up to a few hours if you can. Then cook your steak to your liking - I love it seared or grilled on a high heat for a few minutes on each side.. I go for a medium rare. Shown here with creamy polenta, roasted mushrooms and broccoli. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Creamy Garlic and Parmesan Polenta

To me, polenta was always this fancy, daunting, impossible dish. It seemed like it was a ton of work, easy to screw up and honestly, I was intimidated. For the sake of my ego, I decided to show polenta who is boss. Things worked out well for me and everyone who ate dinner at our house that night. Not only is this the perfect side dish to just about anything, it really is EXTREMELY easy and insanely inexpensive. This makes a huge batch... you could easily cut it in half for 2-4 people.

What you need:
2 cloves minced garlic
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups polenta (the dry kind, not the premade)
a knob of butter (eh 2-4 tablespoons depending on what you like)
as much freshly grate parmesan cheese as you feel comfortable with... the more the better

Start by boiling the chicken stock and garlic. Once it is boiled, reduce to a simmer and add in the polenta. Continually whisk (yes, you need a whisk) until the polenta thickens enough that it is no longer sinking to the bottom of the pan when you stop stirring. This is where the easy part comes in. I always was under the impression that you had to CONSTANTLY whisk polenta for like an hour to make it right. Not necessarily the case. I whisked for a few minutes until it started to thicken... then I went about making the rest of dinner, only going back to whisk a couple times every few minutes. After about 20 or 30 minutes, your polenta should be thick and creamy. If it seems too thick, add a little extra chicken stock. Once it is just about done, stir in the butter and parmesan. That's it! Here it is shown with my Crispy Garlic and Herb Chicken Thighs, quick and easy comfort food for a rainy day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Crispy Garlic and Herb Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are easy and inexpensive enough to throw together on a weeknight, but juicy and tender enough to be the star of the show at a dinner party. This is a recipe I have come up with after ending up with rubbery baked chicken FAR too many times. These go great with my parmesan polenta, a simple green salad or whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

What you need:
4 - 6 (bone in and skin on) chicken thighs
Grapeseed or Coconut oil

First, preheat the oven to 475. Rinse your chicken thighs and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet on medium high heat with a couple tablespoons of grapeseed or coconut oil (we need a high smoke point). When pan is hot, add chicken thighs skin side down. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until golden and crispy. While cooking, add a dry seasoning mix to the side not cooking. I used crushed coriander, marjoram, oregano and garlic. Flip over and cook about 3 minutes on the other side then transfer to an oven safe pan and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until juices run clear. If you are cooking in an oven safe skillet, no need to transfer, just pop that bad boy in the oven. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Italian Pressed Sandwhiches

This one is definitely a splurge but an easy and delicious way to feed a lot of people. I've made these on two different occasions to bring along wine tasting in Napa. After the 4th winery, these little guys probably saved some lives. I love that they are compact and not too messy, great to bring to potlucks, BBQs, picnics and parties. I have yet to meet someone who didn't love them... although that could be the wine.

I didn't add any measurements or amounts to this recipe because its really totally up to you and how many people you are feeding.

I used: salami, proscuttio, pesto, fresh basil, a bruschetta tomato sauce from Trader Joe's (the second time around I used a red pepper spread and that was even better!), mozzarella and a beautiful herbed focaccia bread also from, you guessed it, Trader Joe's.

I sliced the focaccia in half and spread pesto on one side and the tomato sauce on the other. I then layered one side with salami and the other with proscuttio. The fresh basil leaves and the sliced low moisture, part skim mozzarella came last. I put the sandwhich together and wrapped tightly with saran wrap. THEN - here is the "pressed" part - it needs to be weighted down in the fridge overnight. I laid two big college textbooks and a 10 lb kettlebell on each one - even less weight might be fine.

The next morning I unwrapped, trimmed up the edges, and cut into cute little rectangles. You can add a toothpick but they do pretty well holding up, even throughout the day.