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  1. Friday, March 15, 2013

    Pork Chop Experiment

    Today’s post is fraught with diversions and side notes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Pork chops. There is such a fine line between good pork chops and terrible pork chops that I just usually avoid cooking them altogether. (On a related note, this recipe for pork loin is the best pork I’ve ever cooked or eaten. The recipe is super reliable and beyond delicious. Side note #1 is now complete.) The other day I was thinking about pork chops and thought to myself that the AMAZING technique I discovered from America’s Test Kitchen for cooking steak could perhaps be applied to pork chops. (Side note #2: If you haven’t yet made the perfect steak, what are you waiting for? Seriously, you’ll never cook a steak on the grill again.) The technique involves baking the meat before searing and using a thermoeter.  When you follow this technique, the steak cooks very evenly and comes out perfectly every time.

    Okay, so back to pork chops. When I toured America’s Test Kitchen in Boston last summer, I got to meet a few of the chefs. As I was ruminating over pork chops this week, I pestered emailed Chef Dan to ask his opinion. He said he thought it would work and gave me some advice, including target temperatures for the pork chops when cooking.

    SOOOOO…I tried it last night and…it worked! I used the garden variety 3/4″ – 1″ thick boneless pork chops at the grocery store because that’s all they had that day. The pork chops came out not dry (woohoo!) and had great flavor. It’s still pork, so, you know, it’s no filet mignon. But the pork chops were simple and yummy and Anna and Owen could not stop eating them!

    I am going to try the technique again another time with a different kind of chop and see what happens. But for now, here’s what I did if you want to give it a try yourself! The recipe is nice and simple!

    Thanks for the advice, Dan of the Test Kitchens! For the record, if anyone cooks this and something goes wrong, blame me and not Dan! Unlike ATK, where they test recipes literally hundreds of times, the recipe below has been tested ONCE by yours truly. That’s what I call thorough recipe development.

    Pork Chop Experiment
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
    • - ¾”³ – 1”³ thick pork chops
    • - Rock salt (or a nice coarse salt if you don’t have the rock salt)
    • - Pepper
    • - A bit of olive oil
    1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
    2. Let pork chops sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Pat dry then sprinkle with rock salt and pepper on both sides, pushing the salt into the surface of the meat with your fingers.
    3. Line a baking sheet with foil then place a wire rack on the lined cookie sheet (I also put a bit of foil over the wire rack for easier clean-up). Place the pork chops on the rack and insert an instant read, oven-proof thermometer into the center of one of the chops. Place in oven and cook until temperature reaches 115 degrees F (this took about 30 minutes).
    4. When the temperature hits 110 degrees, begin preheating a skillet at medium heat. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of oil on the pan while heating and spread it around by tipping the pan. Sear the pork chops (that have reached 115 degrees), about 5 minutes per side, until they reach 135 degrees. Don’t cook them longer than that! Quickly sear the edges just to brown them up and make them look prettier.
    5. Let meat sit for 5 minutes then serve.


  2. Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti

    Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by Italians. Literally surrounded. Three Catholic churches in our small town, 4 or 5 Italian restaurants in a 1/4-mile distance (keep in mind, there is just one traffic light downtown!) and last names like Pagnani and Martorana galore! Living around so many Italians meant lots of Italian food at community and school parties, specifically baked ziti. Baked ziti is to New Jersey as funeral potatoes are to Utah.

    easy and delicious lasagna-baked ziti from @janemaynard

    Needless to say, I ate some really delicious baked ziti growing up. Which makes it all the more disappointing that almost every time I’ve tried to make it, it just isn’t up to snuff. Well, I tried a recipe from my Real Simple | Best Recipes cookbook and I’ve finally found my winning ziti recipe! Woohoo! Move over, Italian mamas from New Jersey.

    In case you are wondering, the recipe is also really easy to make. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti
    From Real Simple | Best Recipes with my notes
    • 12 ounces ziti, cooked to package directions (for some reason my grocery store did not have ziti, so I used penne)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • ⅓ onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pushed through garlic press
    • ½ pound lean ground beef or italian sausage
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce (I had a bunch of No-Cook Pizza Sauce left over and that made up the bulk of my sauce, with some leftover jarred sauce to make up the difference. The sauce was delicious!)
    • 1 bunch or 1 small bag spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
    • ½ cup ricotta cheese
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I did more than 1 cup”¦probably about 1½ or so)
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Drain cooked pasta and add it back to the pot.
    3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onion until soft and clear (4-5 minutes), then add garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add the beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is cooked through.
    4. Pour meat mixture into large pot of drained pasta. Add sauce, spinach, ricotta and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until ziti is hot all the way through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.


  3. Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Fresh Tasting Margherita Pizza Year Round!

    One of my biggest food pet peeves is unripe tomatoes. You know the ones, those tomatoes you buy at the grocery store or get at restaurants throughout most of the year. The ones that travel many, many miles in a picked-before-they-are-ripe state. The ones that are rarely red inside and are lacking that full, wonderful flavor that tomatoes are supposed to have.

    margherita pizza

    Since joining a CSA a few years back, I have pretty much stopped buying fresh tomatoes at the store. We enjoy fresh tomatoes only 1 or 2 months out of the year, when they are in season and are showing up in my weekly CSA bag. The rest of the time? I change my meal plans to reflect the lack of in-season tomatoes in our lives and go with recipes that utilize canned tomatoes instead. This approach has worked great!

    Sometimes, though, in the dead of winter, you need a little something to remind you of those summer and fall days, when fresh produce is in abundance. One of my most favorite foods is margherita pizza and it fits the bill when I’m feeling a little itch for summertime food. And a can of petite diced tomatoes is just what I need to make it happen.

    I recently started working with Hunt’s canned tomatoes and have really appreciated learning about about how they can their tomatoes. All of their tomatoes are grown in California, picked when they are ripe and canned within hours of harvest. The tomatoes go through a FlashSteam process, instead of being treated with chemicals like other canned tomatoes. As a result, the full tomato flavor is maintained and the tomatoes are fresh tasting.

    Which brings us back to the margherita pizza. A can of petite diced tomatoes works perfectly on margherita pizza. The pizza has all that great fresh tomato flavor I am always striving for. No unripe, mealy tomatoes for the Maynards…or their pizza. Here’s to delicious margherita pizza any time of year!

    Fresh Tasting Margherita Pizza Year Round!
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pizza
    • One recipe Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust
    • Olive oil
    • 1 can Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes, drained
    • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • Fresh basil
    • Salt
    1. Divide the Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust dough into four pieces. Roll each piece out to 9 inches.
    2. For each pizza, spread about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the surface of the dough. Spread ¼ of the canned tomatoes on the crust, then sprinkle with a bit of salt. Top with sliced mozzarella and bake pizza (preferably on a pizza stone at 500 degrees F) until edges are browned, about 8 minutes or so. Sprinkle with sliced fresh basil. (Putting the basil on the pizza AFTER baking is key!)


  4. Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Chicken Fried Steak

    Growing up, one of the dishes that I would always order if it was on a restaurant menu was Chicken Fried Steak. I loved the stuff.

    picture of chicken friend steak with gravy, mashed potatoes, and vegetables

    The last time I had chicken fried steak, however, was before Cate was born. It was at a restaurant in Orange County and it was only okay. So, I must admit, I have kind of shied away from the dish since that night.

    But a few weeks ago I got a hankering and decided to try my hand at making the stuff myself.

    top view of chicken fried steak on a plate with mashed potatoes and vegetables

    I followed Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for cooking the steak and Ree Drummond’s recipe for making the gravy. The result? Chicken fried steak in all its rich, delicious glory. For REAL…the fried breading part on this steak was to die for. I’ve never had a desire to fry chicken at home, but after this I am seriously considering it!

    side view of chicken fried steak with gravy

    Also, I used a thermometer and followed the directions precisely. I love it when Cook’s Illustrated recipes have a temperature to work with, I feel like success is much more imminent that way. Another ALSO…Nate has an infrared thermometer (science nerd alert!) that worked PERFECTLY for this. The surface of the oil reads the correct temperature and it’s a super fast way to read the temp. Speed is good when you’re frying food.

    a thermometer

    Note: this is not a difficult recipe, but it is a bit labor intensive. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. This might be a good recipe to tackle on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

    Chicken Fried Steak
    From Cook’s Illustrated
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Chicken
    • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 6 cube steaks, pounded to ⅓ inch thickness
    • cooking oil for frying (Jane note: I used canola oil)
    1. Getting the initial oil temperature to 375 degrees is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is also fine. If your Dutch oven measures 11 inches across (as ours does), you will need to fry the steaks in two batches.
    2. For the steaks: Measure the flour, 5 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne into a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, beat the egg, baking powder, and baking soda; stir in the buttermilk (the mixture will bubble and foam).
    3. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Dip steaks into the flour, both sides, shaking off excess. Using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off the excess, and place them on the wire rack.
    4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, set a second wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet on the oven rack; heat the oven to 200 degrees. (Jane note: I DID set up this wire rack in the oven, however. I wouldn’t skip this step! You will be cooking the steaks in batches and you want the ones that are already cooked to say hot and crispy throughout the process.) Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat 1 inch of oil in a large (11-inch diameter) Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Place three steaks in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes (oil temperature will drop to around 335 degrees). Transfer the steaks to the paper towel-lined plate to drain, then transfer them to the wire rack in the oven. Bring the oil back to 375 degrees and repeat the cooking and draining process (use fresh paper towels) with the three remaining steaks.
    Jane note: I just set a small wire rack over a dinner plate. Simple and easy.

    Jane note: the steaks were pretty large, so I believe I had to cook in three batches.

    Chicken Fried Steak Gravy
    From Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman
    • ¼ cup of the grease from cooking the steaks
    • ⅓ cup flour
    • 1½ cup whole milk (or whatever milk you have in the fridge)
    • salt and pepper
    1. After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.
    2. Sprinkle ⅓ cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.
    3. Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.

    view of breaded chicken before it is fried



  5. Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Easiest-Ever Chicken Pot Pie

    Hello everyone! I am back from vacation and can’t wait to share the fun we had…but I still have a lot of photos to go through and some decompressing to do! So, until then, how about an awesome recipe and a giveaway? Let’s do it!

    As you know, I love America’s Test Kitchen and have a great relationship with them. When I visited the kitchens this summer, I was given an advance copy of their new cookbook The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. Of course I love it…delicious and reliable recipes that are FAST? Yes, please. I found a real gem of a recipe in this book that has found a permanent place in our dinner rotation…the easiest-ever chicken pot pie.

    This chicken pot pie recipe is soooo yummy and it really is super easy. Everyone in our family eats everything on their plate and I’ve made the recipe several times. Boursin cheese is the secret ingredient. I love Boursin, but was a little worried it might taste too Boursin-y. It doesn’t at all, the flavor is fantastic and the gravy has perfect consistency.

    Now that the cookbook has been released, I can share the recipe with you AND give away a couple copies of the book! Yippee!

    Two of you lucky people will receive a copy of The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. As always, simply leave a comment on this post to be entered to win! You can add extra entries by liking This Week for Dinner and/or America’s Test Kitchen on Facebook. Be sure to leave separate comments for each extra entry! All comments must be added by Midnight PT on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.


    And now for the recipe, with my modifications. To get the even easier version from America’s Test Kitchen you’ll have to win or buy the book! 😉

    Easiest-Ever Chicken Pot Pie
    Modified from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook (their version is even easier than what I outline below”¦get the book to see the tricks!)
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry, Pie
    Cuisine: American
    • 8 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 (5.2-ounce) package Boursin cheese
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • salt and pepper
    • 1½ cups frozen peas and carrots
    • 1 refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust
    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    2. Boil chicken breasts until just done. Cut/shred with a knife and fork into bite-sized pieces.
    3. Saute mushrooms until softened and liquid has released.
    4. Combine broth, cream, cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper in large saucepan. Break up cheese and mix in. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until cheese is melted and mixture has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. (Note: I just leave the mushrooms in the pan where I sauteed them and add in the broth, etc and cook it with the mushrooms in there. Saves a pan and works great!) Stir in chicken, mushrooms, peas and carrots. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to 9-inch deep dish pie pan. My pie pan was not deep enough, so I used a 10-inch cake pan.
    5. Carefully lay pie crust over top. Tuck overhanging dough underneath itself so crust is flush with edge of pan. Cut three 1-inch slits in top of dough. Bake until filling is bubbling and crust is browned, about 25 minutes. Rotate dish halfway through cooking. Let cool slightly when done then serve.


  6. Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Cilantro Sour Cream Enchiladas

    Okay, people. Today’s enhiladas are scrumptious! You have to try them!! (Are you convinced yet? Did I use enough exclamation points? !!!!!! How about now?)

    The recipe comes from Ms. Erika, one of Anna’s preschool teachers. Cate had Ms. Ferneyn and Ms. Erika several years ago and now Anna has the same two lovely teachers. Not only are they fabulous preschool teachers, but they shower me with recipes, food and produce. These ladies are kindred spirits and I love them as much as my girls.

    Ms. Erika brought us dinner a few times last year through all the baby-being-born madness and these enchiladas were one of the meals she shared with us. These enchiladas are delectable and you can use chicken or black beans or both! The cilantro sour cream sauce is so good, with a mellow, balanced heat that pleases both kids and adults alike. It’s my new favorite enchilada recipe and, when I made them the other night, I could not eat just one.

    Cilantro Sour Cream Enchiladas
    From Ms. Erika, preschool teach extraordinaire
    Recipe type: Main Dish
    Cuisine: Mexican
    • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken OR 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or a half and half combo)
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 can (4 or 4.5 oz) chopped green chilies
    • 1½ cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese, or a combination
    • 1½ tsp minced garlic, or to taste
    • ½ tsp ground cumin, or to taste
    • 1 package (10 count, 17.5 oz) soft taco size flour tortillas
    • 1 jar (16 oz) green salsa
    • ½ cup water
    • Suggested toppings: sour cream, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, diced onion, minced cilantro, extra green sauce
    1. Grease a 13×9-inch baking dish. (Jane note: I did not grease my pan b/c I forgot. Everything turned out fine.)
    2. In a bowl, mix chicken, half of the sour cream and half of the cilantro, the red pepper, chilies, ½ cup cheese, garlic and cumin.
    3. Puree salsa, water and remaining ½ cup each of sour cream and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Spread 1 cup over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
    4. Spoon about ¼ – ⅓ cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in rows on the sauce in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate, along with the remaining sauce and cheese, up to 2 days.
    5. To serve: Heat oven to 350*. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas; bake uncovered 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes longer or until bubbly.
    6. Serve with lots of toppings and tortilla chips.
    7. Jane notes that you need to read: I think these are better if you make them the day before, but I cooked them as soon as I assembled them and they were still AWESOME. Also, I didn’t pour all of the sauce over the enchiladas for baking – I reserved probably ½-3/4 cups or so and used that as a topping when we ate the enchiladas.

    cilantro sour cream enchiladas | from @janemaynard at

  7. Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Pollo Guisado (Chicken Stew)

    One of the dishes I grew up eating was “chicken fajitas.” They weren’t fajitas in the traditional sense but that’s what we always called them. My mom would make a chicken stew called pollo guisado. We would use the stew as a filling in tortillas and eat them like fajitas. Everyone in the family loved “chicken fajitas” for dinner…kids and adults alike!

    I’ll never forget one chicken fajita night in particular. My mom called us all into dinner and we sat down to eat while she finished up a few things in the kitchen. We each started eating then slowly looked at one another. Something was not right. In fact, our food tasted downright weird. No one in the family had the heart to say anything, so we just kept eating. My mom finally sat down, took one bite and said, “Why are you guys eating this?!?!” She immediately realized she had put cinnamon into the stew instead of cumin. Might I recommend NOT using cinnamon in this dish!

    Pollo Guisado (Chicken Stew)
    From Cuisine of the American Southwest by Anne Lindsay Greer This stew is rarely served alone as a main course, but rather is frequently used as a filling for Tortas, Tacos or Chalupas (or, in the case of the Wallins, Fajitas)
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry
    • 2 pounds boneless raw chicken, skinned and cut into bite-size pieces, see note*
    • ½ cup flour
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1-2 tablespoon butter
    • 1 medium onion, minced
    • 1 small bell pepper, minced
    • 1 14.5 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with the juices
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • Chicen stock, if needed to thin, see note*
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Place the flour, salt and pepper in a bag. Add the chicken in several batches and shake vigorously to coat very lightly with the seasoned flour. In a large skillet, saute the chicken in the oil and butter over medium heat until all sides are lightly browned. Add additional butter if necessary (my mom says she find this is always necessary!). Remove the chicken.
    2. Saute onion and bell pepper 1-2 minutes in the remaining fat in the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes and the juices breaking up the tomatoes with a fork. Stir in the cumin and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the chicken and some stock if the mixture seems too thick. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Serve as a filling for tortas, tacos, chalupas or fajitas and top with whatever toppings you like (cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole, yadayada). Yields enough filling for about 12 tacos.
    4. *Note: Because this is a filling, the amounts of chicken and liquid are variable depending upon how you plan to use it.


  8. Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Oriental Chicken Salad #2

    Thought I’d share a quick salad favorite, since it’s summer and all.

    I have two Oriental chicken salads on my recipe list – one from my mother-in-law Pat that has been a go-to for years (Oriental Chicken Salad #1) and another that I got from my friend Brittany ages ago after eating it at a baby shower (Oriental Chicken Salad #2). They are both delish and easy! The thing I love about Brittany’s is the homemade dressing. It’s scrumptious. I also love the homemade fried wonton strips. This week I bought fried wontons and it just was not the same. Go for it, make the strips. You’ll thank me.

    Here’s the recipe! Enjoy!

    Oriental Chicken Salad #2
    From Brittany Reisenberg
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Salad, Poultry
    • Dressing:
    • 1 cup oil (Jane note: I use canola oil)
    • 6 tablespoon sugar
    • 4 tablespoon soy sauce
    • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1½ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 3 shots tobasco sauce
    • 2 tablespoon sesame seed
    • Salad:
    • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
    • 2 small heads iceberg lettuce, chopped (Jane note: I prefer two heads (or 1 if it’s really big) of romaine lettuce, chopped)
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    • 2 stalks celery, cut diagonally
    • 2 small cans mandarin oranges
    • 1 pkg fried wonton strips (see below for directions. you can also buy fried wonton strips, usually found in the produce section by all the salad toppers”¦that’s what I did this week, but the homemade ones are SO much better)
    1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Let sit for a few minutes.
    2. Mix salad ingredients. Toss with dressing. EAT! YUM!
    3. To make fried wonton strips – buy wonton wrappers in the produce section of the grocery store. Cut the wrapper squares into thirds to make strips. In large, deep frying pan with enough oil to cover the strips, cook on medium-high heat until strips are brown and bubbly, flipping once during cooking. As I recall, they cook quickly! Drain on paper towels.


  9. Friday, March 23, 2012

    Spinach Mushroom Panini with Feta

    Yesterday I shared my friend Natalee’s apple ham panini with you. Now it’s time to talk about the second panini flavor she shared with me, which was equally delicious.

    Enter the spinach mushroom panini with feta. This is a nice vegetarian option that is full of flavor. There’s a little prep work involved, but it’s still easy, I promise! And the flavors are all just so yummy together. Mmmmmm. Natalee made these paninis for our friend Ana, who is a total foodie. Ana said it was the best panini she ever had. Now that I’ve set your expectations really high…whoops…here is the recipe!

    Spinach Mushroom Panini with Feta
    From my friend Natalee
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Panini
    • around 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • Sliced mushrooms (8 or 10 ounce package)
    • Small bag of spinach (6-10 ounces or so)
    • Crumbled feta cheese
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Sliced bread of your choice
    1. Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil in a large sautee pan, until moisture is released and mushrooms are cooked through. Add spinach, tearing up the leaves a bit as you add them to the pan (if you feel like you need another swig of olive oil added to the pan, go ahead and add it). Cook until spinach has wilted, then add feta to taste – we found adding a lot of feta was better. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir.
    2. Use mushroom mixture as filling for the panini and cook paninis as you normally do, in a press or with two frying pans.


  10. Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Cooking the Perfect Steak

    We rarely eat red meat, so when we do, we make sure it is high-quality and delicious. My favorite cut is filet mignon…when cooked correctly, it is just so darn tender and tasty. When Nate’s mom was here last November, she made us a fantastic dinner, which included some filet. While we were debating about how to cook our beautiful hunks of meat, she mentioned that she and my father-in-law had used a technique from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated that worked beautifully. We dug around the Internet, found the recipe and…

    cooked steak on a white plate

    piece of sliced cook steak on a plateSorry for the not-so-pretty photos. Truth is I wanted to eat the steak more than I wanted to photograph it! 😉

    …PEOPLE. This is the perfect way to cook steak. Seriously. Perfect. It comes out medium-rare and is so juicy and tender. For those of you scared of red/pink in your meat, please believe me when I tell you medium-rare is the way to eat your steak. REALLY. The flavor and texture are so much better than medium or well-done, but it’s still hot and cooked through just enough. The first time I ate a medium-rare steak was at Donovan’s Steak House and I have never eaten it another way since. It’s the only way to go!

    So, back to the Cook’s Illustrated technique…you salt and pepper the steak and then bake it in the oven BEFORE searing it on the stove. The reasoning is that your steak will cook evenly throughout and that the final sear will give the steak a nice, caramelized crust. We found another blogger who had used this recipe and he said that it’s been consistent every time. I love reliable recipes like that!

    Cooking the Perfect Steak
    Method & recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I’ve written it out here in my own words, so if something goes wrong blame me.
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Beef
    • 2 boneless strip steaks 1½”³ – 1¾”³ thick, about 1 pound each (filet mignon or ribeye may be substituted)
    • Salt & Pepper (I like to use coarse versions of both)
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil (2 tablespoons for filet mignon)
    1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven.
    2. Cut steaks vertically in half so you have four 8-ounce steaks. Let rest outside of the fridge for about 15 minutes. Dry off steaks with a paper towel then pat liberally with salt and pepper. Place steaks on a wire rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet so steaks are not resting directly on the pan. Insert an instant-read, oven-safe thermometer into one of the steaks, then put steaks in the oven until the internal temperature of the steak reaches 90 – 95 degrees for medium rare (20-25 mins) or 100 to 105 degrees for medium (25-30 mins). GO WITH MEDIUM RARE! 😉
    3. Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat on your stove. We used one of my copper-core heavy bottom frying pans – I think a cast-iron skillet would be ideal, but mine is buried in storage somewhere. When oil starts to smoke, sear the steak in the pan ~ 2 minutes per side. Sear the edges as well, ~ 1 minute per edge.
    4. Place steaks back on rack on cookie sheet, tent with foil and let rest ~ 10 minutes. Eat!