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Thanksgiving Burrito

October 22, 2012 4 comments
Thanksgiving Burrito

Thanksgiving Burrito

Admittedly, I don’t like most chain restaurants. Most of the food is overpriced, and for lack of a better term, tastes like crap. The portions are measly and nothing is ever quite prepared the way food should be.  And since the goal is consistency — an Olive Garden in Pittsburgh should taste (and look) exactly like an Olive Garden in Minnesota — that means you’re probably getting canned or frozen meals heated by your “chef”.  Do I have facts to back this up, not really…but stop and think about it.  Yet, despite chain restaurant’s shortcomings, they remain successful.

I get why this is the case and by all means, who am I to tell you how to spend your hard earned dollars.  It’s just with so many local restaurants serving fresh, local food, I’d rather spend my money there.  To me, it just makes sense to help out the local guy.

Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t visit a chain from time to time — sometimes it’s just convenient. Other times I will go to a chain (or pseudo chain) because they serve a specialty item that, despite my displeasure of chains, can only be had by venturing to the restaurant that serves them.

Enter Mad Mex.  A decent tasting Tex-Mex restaurant, Mad Mex is a pseudo chain, with locations only in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  And every year I venture to tackle their seasonal burrito, The Gobblerito.  I’m not the only one as many of my other anti-chain friends also find their way to Mad Mex to get their hands (and ultimately mouths) on one.

Available annually for one month (Mid-October thru Mid-November) The Gobblerito is easy to explain – its Thanksgiving served in a burrito.  That’s it.  Simple, yet extremely tasty.

The craving was getting the best of me so it was time to give in and venture out.

Unless I could make my own.

Of course I can. But for fear of being sued, I will need a catchy name to protect my ass(ets)  I came up with “Thanksgiving Burrito.”

I’m so clever!

By the way, making the gut-busting burrito is so simple that I’m surprised I haven’t done it before.

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy — roll it up…heat it up…eat it up.  Done!

It came out almost (you’ll read why in a second) identical to the version we get at Mad Mex.  So much in fact, we’ll probably skip this years visit to Mad Mex.  That is unless one of us gets the craving for their Thai Curry Burrito.  Damn you Mad Mex!

By the way, this makes for an awesome alternative to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Ingredients (everything is approximate to make 4 burritos)

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced diagonally and thin (I used breasts from a roast chicken I made earlier in the day for soup — ideally you would use turkey, but chicken worked perfectly and it allowed me to make 2 meals with one chicken)
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (homemade if possible)
  • 1 cup of sweet kernel corn
  • 1 cups of cornbread stuffing (I used cornbread but use whatever you like)
  • 1 cup of chicken gravy (homemade if possible)
  • 4 burrito sized tortillas
  • Cranberry Sauce (optional)

1.  For each burrito, layer the ingredients in the center of 1 tortilla as follows:

1/4 cup of stuffing
1/2 of one chicken breast
Gravy
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup of corn

2.  Roll each tortilla to form a burrito and repeat.

3.  Wrap the burritos in foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

4.  Remove from foil, top with a few more spoonfuls of gravy (optional) and serve with fresh cranberry sauce (also optional).

5.  Finding yourself passed out in the recliner moments afterwards — not optional!

Carb Coma

Be prepared for a “Carb Coma”

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Chili

October 17, 2012 2 comments
Chili

Chili

I feel like its been ages since I’ve blogged.  It certainly hasn’t been a lack of cooking as I’ve been whipping up all sorts of things over the past few weeks — guess life just gets in the way sometimes.

Regardless, I’m back today and ready to blog about my (award winning) chili.  Ok, so I never won an award, but my family and friends really like it — so good enough in my book.

Synonymous with football and cold weather, to me, chili is always pleasing and always delicious. I like that there are practically a zillion ways to enjoy it too.

Ground beef or cubes of beef.  Beans or no beans.  Spicy or not spicy.  Maybe over rice or a macaroni noodle or as is in a big bowl. Condiments or none.

Here is how I like it: Beef (chili grind — see tip below), with beans, medium spice, hold the rice, with a dollop of sour cream and a small sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

I can’t forget the cornbread (a must for me).

Cornbread

A great accompaniment to chili

No matter how you like it, nothing is as comforting as a good bowl of chili on a cold autumn day. Not only warm you up, but to fill you up too.  Nice thing is a little goes a long way and its healthy for you (for the most part).

Now I know you have your tried and true version so really, why try mine.  I get it and I’m not going to be offended.  But if you don’t have your own, give this a try — then bookmark it because you’ll want to keep this handy for the next few months.

Tip:  Ask your butcher if they will do a “chili grind” for your beef.  This is more course than ground beef and adds a nice texture.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs (chili grind) ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (a little goes a long way in my opinion — also I don’t measure.  I just take one of the peppers out of the can, cut it open, remove the seeds and just dice a small piece)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on heat)
  • 1 small jalepeno, seeded and diced small
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 26 ounce  can tomato puree
  • 1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 16 ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  1. In a dutch oven (or other heavy bottom pot), brown the beef over high heat.  Drain off fat and set aside.
  2. In the same dutch oven, heat oil, over medium high heat, adding onions when hot. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic, continuing to cook 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Add black pepper, cumin, chipotle, crushed red pepper, and chili powder while continually stirring until spices begin to stick to bottom of dutch oven and begin to slightly brown (about 30-45 seconds).
  5. Quickly add 3 cups of water.
  6. Add tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and the juice they were packed in.
  7. Add kidney beans and salt.
  8. Add the beef and stir.
  9. When chili begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover for a minimum of 3 hours to combine all of the flavors (stir every so often).
  10. I typically cook mine all day…about 6 hours.
  11. Ladle in to your favorite bowl, add your toppings (if that’s your thing) and enjoy!
Pot of Chili

I could eat all of this (not at once silly)

Beer Braised Pork Ribs

October 8, 2012 2 comments
Beer Braised Ribs

Beer Braised Pork Ribs

Before I get today’s story and recipe, I thought I’d share that today’s entry marks my 50th.

I assume somewhere in the blog-o-sphere, this is considered a major accomplishment.  But honestly, since I don’t own the blogging handbook, I really have no idea.  Regardless if 50 is considered an accomplishment, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back because I think it’s pretty special. Maybe I should have made a cake?

As I stated on the first day I got this up and running, I mainly do this for myself.  But I have to admit, it’s pretty cool when a total stranger, half-way around the world follows me regularly. Knowing this person took time to sign up to find out what I have to share is something I really didn’t expect.

So all you regulars, THANK YOU!  I hope you continue to enjoy what I have to say, and obviously, what I’m cooking.  Hopefully I’ve even inspired a few of you try something you really didn’t think you could do.

If this is your first time stopping by, thank you as well.  Maybe you’ll like what you see enough to want to come back.

********************************************************************

Today’s recipe is Beer Braised Pork Ribs.  In my best attempt to mimic Homer J. Simpson….”Mmmmmmmm Beeeeer.”

I recently attended one of Pittsburgh’s premier events, The Big Pour.  This event, now in its 6th year, is held annually to benefit Pittsburgh’s only (I believe) non-profit building material reuse retailer, Construction Junction.

Big Pour

Big Pour

The Big Pour allows anyone who is lucky enough to get a ticket (the event sells out in minutes) an opportunity to sample several types of beers from over 40 different craft breweries, as well as local food from area restaurants.  There really are no restrictions on how much you enjoy (that is until the keg runs dry).

The Big Pour is truly a beer lover/foodie paradise and my belly left happy.  More importantly, it left me with a nice feeling knowing that I’m helping out a good cause.

So what is Construction Junction?

Let’s say you’re remodeling your bathroom.  Instead of taking that old sink to the curb where it will eventually take up space in the landfill, drop it off at Construction Junction (or arrange for a pick-up).  As as long as it is still in working condition, they’ll take it off your hands.  Not only can you drop off, but you can browse and buy.  For example, if you’re looking for an old door (or anything really) to re-purpose, stop by CJ and they might have something you need.

So next time you have something to get rid of, think twice before letting the garbage men take it.

Ah…..feels good to give back.

Ok, enough of that….here’s the Beer Braised Ribs recipe which I found in the Food Network Magazine.  I don’t deviate from the ingredients all that much (just a slight tweak in the amounts).

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites. I enjoy the “gravy” it makes and a nice roll or hunk of bread comes in handy for sopping up the juice.  The recipe is perfect for those cold fall and winter nights. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 5 or 6 bone-in country style pork ribs (think 1.5 ribs per person depending on the size)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 large onions, rough cut in to chunks
  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (Original recipe calls for amber ale, I used Sam Adams Pils — use anything, just nothing too hoppy)
  • 1 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme (tie if you can to remove easier when time to discard)
  • 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Season both sides of ribs with salt and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon paprika.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
  4. Add the ribs in batches and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.
  5. Add the onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
  6. Once the onions have cooked, add the remaining 1 teaspoon paprika and season with salt.
  7. Add the beer and bring to a boil (be sure to save a sip for yourself).
  8. Cook until the beer is reduced by half. (make sure to scrap the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits).
  9. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme.
  10. When the liquid begins to simmer, return the ribs to the pot and transfer to the oven.
  11. Cook, uncovered, turning the ribs half way through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes (Cooking times are approximate based on size of the ribs.)
  12. Meanwhile, mix the vinegar and honey in a measuring cup.
  13. Remove the pot from the oven and place back on the stove and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  14. Add the vinegar/honey mixture and bring to a boil, then return the pot to the oven.
  15. Continue to braise, uncovered, until the ribs are tender, approximately 20-30 more minutes.
  16. Return the pot to the stove and transfer the ribs to a plate (tent with foil to keep warm) and discard the bay leaves and thyme.
  17. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat and cook until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  18. Return the ribs to the pot and heat through. Serve immediately.

 

Beer Braised Ribs and Sides

Thank me later!

Steak Wedgie

October 7, 2012 5 comments
Steak Wedgie

Steak Wedgie

The picture above is a wedgie.  Yes, it resembles a calzone or stromboli but rest assured it is not either. You have to trust me when I say it is a wedgie.

What exactly is a wedgie?  In a nutshell, it is sandwich that uses pizza crust to replace the bread or bun.  It is flat, like bread, not puffy and doughy.  Additionally, while I have zero facts to back this up, the wedgie supposedly got its start right here in Pittsburgh back in the late ’60’s.

Just about anything you can put on a sandwich can go in to a wedgie.  The two most common types on the menu’s around here are Italian and my favorite the steak wedgie

Even though the wedgie is rumored to have been around my whole life, the first time I had one was the mid 90’s from Angelo’s pizza shop in Pittsburgh’s Little Italy section of the city, Bloomfield.

Their steak wedgie is PHENOMENAL.  It is one of the tastiest foods to ever find its way in to my mouth.  I’ve seen steak wedgies on other menu’s around the city and I’ve tried a few of them, but nothing comes close in taste and quality of Angelo’s version.  They set the steak wedgie bar high for me.

If you live in Pittsburgh and plan on trying one from Angelo’s, keep in mind their service around lunch time is slow.  If you order one for take out (or sit down – as they have a few tables), order ahead of time and give yourself plenty of time.  I can’t tell you about service other times of the day because that’s the only time I’ve gone.

Wait, you read my blog but you don’t live in Pittsburgh? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with my take on Angelo’s very delicious steak wedgie.  It does take a bit of pre-planning, but this nice pizza or hoagie/sub alternative is worth it.

Here are a few tips to help with this recipe:

  • To achieve the best results for the meat used in this recipe you will want to use thinly sliced steak.  Ribeye tastes best but I find a nice cut of sirloin gives me great results at a fraction of the price.  If you have a deli-slicer, just set the piece of sirloin on the slicer and slice on the thinnest setting.
  • If you don’t, place the sirloin in the freezer for about an hour or two.  Remove and slice as thin as you can until you have about 15 to 20 pieces of sirloin.
  • Another option is to slice the meat and pound it thin between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.
  • No matter how you do it, the key is to make it thin so it cooks quickly.
  • Once the meat is cut, quickly cook the meat in a pan over medium-high heat with a touch of olive oil.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels to remove excess grease.
  • You can also use store-bought steak-like meat, but ummm, please don’t.
  • Caramelized onions take anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, they can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator .
  • The garlic mayo can be made ahead of time also.
  • Make sure you have either a pizza tray or pizza screen (both can be bought for a couple of dollars at local restaurant supply stores) or a pizza stone.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Pizza Dough equivalent to one 16″ pizza  (basic pizza dough recipe)
  • 1 large onion, caramelized ( how to caramelize onions)
  • 15 to 20 pieces of cooked thinly sliced sirloin, then rough chopped (see info above)
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of lettuce, shredded
  • 3-4 slices of provolone cheese (mozzarella would work too)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Mix mayonnaise and garlic, set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Shape pizza dough to approximately 16 inches (i.e. large pizza size).
  4. Lay out the dough on either a pizza tray/screen and brush with melted butter.  If using a pizza stone, then lay the dough out on a pizza peel and brush with butter.
  5. Place dough in oven and bake for about 2 minutes.  Just enough to start to get the dough firm.
  6. Remove dough from oven and spread the mayo/garlic mixture on the entire surface.
  7. Top half of the dough with cooked steak.  Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Then top with onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese.
  9. Fold the half of the dough that isn’t lined with the ingredients over the half that is.  Do not seal.
  10. Brush top with melted butter.
  11. Return wedgie to the oven and bake about 5-6 minutes or until the top begins to brown.
  12. Flip and brush with melted butter.
  13. Bake an additional 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.
  14. Remove from oven.   Let sit for 5 minutes.
  15. Cut in to wedges and serve.
A wedge of the wedgie

A wedge of the wedgie. Fantastic!