November 12, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Herb Pork Meatballs (Recipe)

I really love spaghetti squash.  Ever since I was introduced to it, it is my preferred way to eat spaghetti.  Forget extra nutrition (although it's there in abundance.)  I just think it tastes better.  The squash is rich and buttery, and goes well against red sauce.  The chorizo spaghetti recipe I presented a couple weeks ago is a prime example, with the chorizo and chicken broth both complementing the squash perfectly, but when I wrote the post I ended up using regular noodles to appease Boy, who does not at all feel the way I do about this amazing vegetable.  

November 9, 2012

Quick Bite: Lunch at Burger Belly

I had burgers on the brain again today.  Since yesterday, actually.  I was walking home from the bus stop, and the smell of freshly grilled hamburgers permeated the air.  If I would have had ground beef at home, I would have called an audible and just cooked one for myself.  Instead, I shook it off and made a pretty fantastic (IMO) pork dish which I'll be writing about soon.  

November 6, 2012

Ciabatta Steak Sandwiches (Recipe)

The hippies were over again, and so usually that means several weeks of good vegetarian food to post on my blog.  Certainly some of the things going on in my kitchen were worthy of writing about.  But I didn't, because I wasn't the cook pretty much the whole time people were over.  Wife and I both like to cook for others, but she likes to entertain, and so she always made sure people had something tasty in hand.  When she wasn't cooking, our guests were.  I gorged myself on homemade pizza, and ate a crazy good quinoa salad with curry powder AND brown sugar, but apart from something I've already blogged about, I traded the kitchen for a cold beer and a Stephen King short story collection.  I wish I did have some fantastic new veggie meal to share, but I will have to console myself with presenting what I made Wife and I the night before our guests arrived--an amazing round steak sandwich.  
Perfect veg.
It wasn't supposed to be--my menu, meticulously planned, said "pork chops," and by now you probably know I'm a stickler for whatever's on the menu.  But the round steak was marked down, and when I found a perfect package of ciabatta rolls, I was sold on the idea.  Still, it starts with the produce.  As you can see, I had a green bell pepper, a prepackaged container of mushrooms, and a yellow onion.  Normally, I would cook this all together, but I wanted to make sure my sandwich had a ton of flavor, so I approached the mushrooms the way my wife would.  Into a large cast iron skillet went a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Once it had melted and was sizzling, I placed the mushrooms in a single layer. 

One layer!  Very important!
I cooked them in batches, about 3-5 minutes a side, until they were a beautiful golden brown, and lightly sprinkled them with salt.  Wife began preparing all mushrooms this way after a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown said that mushrooms needed to be treated like meat, and it certainly brings out the best in them when they are seared like this.  At the same time, I heated a second cast iron with a bit of olive oil, and added the bell pepper and half the onion, thinly sliced, and began cooking them down as well.  
So beautiful.  

From the Winco Deli.
 I kicked on my oven's broiler to its low setting and moved on to the ciabatta rolls.  Throwing health concerns to the wind, I put a thin layer of butter on the inside of the rolls (top and bottom.)  I wanted to make sure that these rolls were nice and crispy.  I put them in for five minutes initially, and then checked them each minute after that until I was content.

Eye of round is super cheap.
As the last of the mushrooms finished, I began preparing the meat.  Eye of round is pretty cheap, and I bought two packs of five thinly sliced steaks for just under five dollars.  That meant each sandwich would have two and a half slices of steak, which made my gluttonous little stomach jump with joy.  I rubbed each piece of meat with salt, pepper, and thyme.  I added just enough olive oil to the mushroom pan to keep things from burning, and ticked the heat up to medium high.  I wanted to get a good sear on the thin steaks without overcooking them.
High heat, short cooking time on these guys. 
I waited for the pan to get up to heat and then threw the steaks on for 45 seconds a side, which ended up just about perfectly.  If anything, I'd cut five seconds a side.
The good stuff.
I sliced some good mozzarella.

The onions are well caramelized. 
I placed the peppers, onions, and mushrooms on my toasted ciabatta.

Pretty hefty sandwiches.  
 I then followed it up with the steak and cheese.  Closing up the ciabattas, I lathered the top of each one with another pat of butter, and then put the sandwiches back under the broiler.  But I wasn't quite done cooking.  I'd saved the juice from my steaks:

Where flavor lives.
 This stuff was going to allow me to make a cheap au jus.  I used a can of beef broth to deglaze the pan where I'd cooked my mushrooms and steak, rubbing a wooden spoon along the bottom and sides to get up all the seared bits.  Once it was simmering, I added the steak juices, as well as a teaspoon each of thyme and worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  At this point the smells from the kitchen were driving Wife crazy.   And why wouldn't they?  I pulled the sandwiches out, and liked what I saw--the cheese was gooey and melted, the steak was still tender, and it was piled high.  I poured the au jus into ramekins and served dinner.  These were just great.  I even ate two, despite knowing several bites into the second that I was full.  And now that our vegetarian houseguests have gone, I just might make these again.