Archive for ‘Dinner’

October 3, 2011

Fall Comfort Food: Sauces and Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Saturday seems like an eternity ago….

I was really tired going into Saturday’s class from a late night, not to mention my ankle was swollen to about 3x its normal size after a few spills. Needless to say, a Saturday night class seemed daunting.

Saturday was sauce day, so we worked on the 5 French mother sauces (named this because they are the basic sauces from which many other sauces can be derived). I got to work with a guy that has quickly become one of my better friends at school. I was glad that we worked pretty well together too.

We managed most of our sauces with little criticism from Chef, but had a harsh wakeup call when we went to make our white wine sauce. The sauce requires a decent amount of heavy cream, but there was little more than a drop left by the time we gathered our ingredients together. This was our second-to-last recipe of the night, and Chef seemed a bit less patient by this point. He basically said there was nothing he could do about the fact that there was no heavy cream left. Instead of pouring out some of the mixture to make it a bit equal to the amount of cream we had (why didn’t we think of this at the time!!), we just made do with the small amount of cream we had, but it just wasn’t enough and our sauce was far from what it should have been. Oh well! I guess we are still learning, and everything isn’t going to come out perfectly every time.

Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel

Besides my aching foot and the unsuccessful white wine sauce, class was pretty fun and very filling. One of the more advanced levels was hosting a charcuterie buffet—I didn’t love the stuff, but it was great to try a lot of different things made by others in the program. We also made homemade macaroni and cheese with the béchamel (creamy butter and milk sauce basically) AND we had the normal family dinner which consisted of sundried tomato and mozzarella risotto, carrots, pork, and more. Now you see why it’s hard to stay skinny and be a chef!?

Charcuterie Plate

Blurry Charcuterie Plate

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Inspired by a recipe Chef served us at FCI
Serves 8

16 ounces elbow/penne pasta

4 cups bechamel (recipe below)

4 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta according to package directions and prepare bechamel sauce.

2. While bechamel thickens, prepare toasted breadcrumbs.

3. Place pasta in casserole dish and cover with bechamel. Stir in cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

4. Bake for 30 minutes.

Bechamel
Adapted from FCI textbook
Yields approximately 4 cups

3 T butter

4 T flour

1 liter milk

salt, to taste

cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

nutmeg, to taste (optional)

1. Melt butter over high heat. Gradually whisk in flour, careful not to let butter or flour brown (This makes what is called a roux and it is a thickening agent for your sauce). Whisk until mixture is frothy.

2. Add milk and bring to a boil (a rolling boil is imperative to cook out flour taste and help sauce thicken). Turn heat down and simmer mixture for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.

3. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
Yields 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

2 T butter

1. Melt butter and stir in breadcrumbs over medium heat stirring constantly (to prevent breadcrumbs from burning) until toasted to a dark golden.


Homemade Macaroni and Cheese With Bechamel

Recreated the mac and cheese with bechamel for my family

 *Note: I didn’t price out any of this recipe because I didn’t plan on sharing it, but since it requires very few ingredients, it’s very inexpensive and easy to make. 

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August 4, 2011

My First Post: Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers

Hi Everyone (or more likely, Jess)!

I finally got around to cooking up something I felt I could share as a first blog post and not be entirely embarrassed. After all, how could I not feel intimidated – there are so many amazing food blogs out there!

A little bit of background on me (ya know, because I haven’t gotten around to making the dreaded “about me” page)… one day. I promise? Anyway, I’m in a twenty-something Jersey girl living and working in NYC. Sounds so glamorous and it kind of is. I love being in the big city. One thing I don’t love? The fact that my meager salary (don’t get me wrong…I LOVE my job! I kid you not, it’s my dream job) barely stretches to cover my food, drink, entertainment, shopping habits, oh yeah and the important things like my rent, electricity and savings account.

The truth is I’m pretty good at sticking to a budget. My mom calls it frugal. Yet I still manage to cook for myself most week nights. I’ve just learned to make myself some delicious (if I do say so myself) meals on lil budget. Believe it or not, I regularly spend about $36 per week on groceries – even in NYC!

So, if you’ll bear with me while I figure out the world of food blogging, I’d like to share my meals with whoever is willing to read along (again…Jess? Are you there?).

The first recipe I want to share is one that my grandmother makes for us. When I asked her for the recipe, she gave me a list of ingredients but said there is no real science to the amounts. So I improvised and only hoped mine would turn out just as delicious as hers. If the speed at which I ate my pepper last night is any indication, I think I did the dish justice.

*Please excuse the iPhone-quality pics… I lost the charger to my SLR and have yet to replace it. Next week – I promise.*

Stuffed Bell Peppers
(A family recipe)

Serves 4 (or a family of 1 for lunch and dinner, two days in a row – guilty?)

4 large bell peppers (any color will do)

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter

½ lb ground turkey breast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 cup diced onion

8 ounces canned tomato sauce

shredded cheese to taste
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse peppers in cold water and remove the tops and seeds. Use a spoon to remove excess membrane and seeds (be careful not to puncture the bottom or sides of the pepper!).

Cut the tops of the bell peppers

Place peppers in boiling water for approximately 3 minutes. Skin should be slightly softened. Drain and set aside to cool.

Boil peppers for approximately 3 minutes

At this point, if you aren’t using instant rice, it’s a good time to cook up that rice. I used a special blend from TJ’s of rice, orzo and pilaf but any rice will do. Melt butter in a saucepan and brown rice under low heat (you can skip this step, but why wouldn’t you want buttery, delicious rice??). Follow cooking instructions on your package of rice once the rice has slightly browned.

Brown and cook the rice

While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brown ground turkey in olive oil and chopped garlic. Add tomato sauce and finish cooking. Stir in rice.

Add tomato sauce and stir in rice

Fill peppers evenly and top with shredded cheese (I used a light Mexican blend), if desired. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

Fill peppers evenly and top with shredded cheese

And just because I am a hot sauce freak garnish (or dump the whole bottle on) with hot sauce and enjoy!

Pricing:
Bell peppers: $0.69 each
Rice: $2.98
Turkey breast: $3.30
Onion: $0.89
Tomato sauce: $0.99
Shredded cheese: $0.87
———————————–
Total: $9.72 ($2.43 per serving)

*A note on how I calculated the pricing: I omitted olive oil, butter and chopped garlic because, in my opinion, those are things you should always have in your refrigerator and they go a long way if you are using small quantities (ie not making cookies that require two sticks of butter). I also did math (yes, I can write but I can also do elementary math – sometimes) to calculate the cost of the items that I did not fully use, because I will use them for other recipes before they go bad – I promise. If anyone hates this method, let me know. I’ll see what I can do.*

What do you think?