Croque-Monsieur – Bon Appétit, May 2014

My dad, like most, was not first in line to start texting. “You can just pick up the phone and call someone,” he would say, Dad-ly.

But the future catches up with us all. A few months ago, this happened:

2014-05-26 11.29.45

Although I did not immediately run out and procure sandwich ingredients, it stuck in my mind as “something I need to east soon.” So when I saw a Croque-Monsieur recipe in the latest Bon Appétit, along with a béchamel tutorial, I decided it was a sign.

Good news, everyone: this is a really easy sandwich to make. The thick, country style bread is spread with creamy béchamel  sauce (with a hint of mustard), then topped with ham and Gruyere cheese before being baked. The result lies on the “life changing” tier, somewhere between “discovering goat cheese” and “buying a coffee grinder.”   Don’t be intimidated by the béchamel! It involves a good bit of stirring and whisking, but comes together quickly and easily.

You can even make the sauce and assemble the sandwiches the day before, then just pop them in the oven 15 minutes before you want to eat them.  We ate these two days in a row and found that sitting overnight gave the flavors time to develop.

The first thing I did after making these sandwiches was text a picture to my dad. He promptly one-upped me.

 

CHEESE IN THE SAUCE, YOU GUYS. 

I’ve included the original recipe below, but I will never make it again without adding cheese to the sauce. I suggest you do the same.

 

Croque-Monsieur 

(Bon Appétit, May 2014) – Recipe by Jody Williams

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I plan to re-make these but add half a cup of Gruyere to the béchamel, per my dad’s instructions. I don’t think you can go wrong with additional cheese.
  • I used dijon mustard in absence of whole-grain mustard.
  • These really do taste better after sitting overnight, which is good for you since they’re so easy to prep ahead of time.

Ingredients: 

BÉCHAMEL

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ¼ ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt

ASSEMBLY

  • 8 slices ½”-thick country-style bread
  • 6 oz. ham, preferably Paris ham (about 8 slices)
  • 3 oz. Gruyère, grated (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Preparation:

BÉCHAMEL

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and cook, stirring, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and somewhat elastic, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season with salt.

DO AHEAD: Béchamel can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; press plastic wrap directly onto surface and chill.

ASSEMBLY
Preheat oven to 425°. Spread bread slices with béchamel, dividing evenly and extending all the way to the edges. Place 4 slices of bread, béchamel side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet; top with ham and half of cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread, béchamel side up, then top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with herbes de Provence. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Sandwiches can be made (but not baked) 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.

 

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Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops and Cheezy Orzo

 

Finally a balcony not occupied by wasps.

Parmesan everywhere!

We moved last weekend. It was very dramatic, complete with Christopher spraining his ankle the day before the move. Cooking currently takes eight times longer, since grabbing a fork now involved opening every drawer in the kitchen while yelling “WHY IS EVERYTHING SOMEWHERE WRONG?!”

Tired of take out but reluctant to run one more errand, I wanted to cook a meal from what I already had on hand, which in this case happened to be pork chops and Locatelli Parmesan cheese. Extensive googling of “Pork chop recipe” “pork chop parmesan recipe” “QUICK Pork chop recipe” finally led me to this Cooking Light recipe for Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops.

I used to be very suspicious of Cooking Light, but far from the usual “use sadness instead of sugar!” and other terrible substitutions you see floating around, they have careful and well crafted recipes that make you go “Really, this is healthy? Nice!”

The battering process they use for the pork in this recipe provides maximum adherence of the lovely cheesey breading. You coat the pork chops in flour to dry them and help adhere the egg whites and mustard mixture, followed by dipping them into the bread crumbs, sage, and Parmesan. The result is a light, flaky, cheesy breading over tender pork with a hint of tang from the mustard.

Obviously I could not allow a “light” recipe to stand alone, so I paired it with cheesy orzo (adding an extra half cup of cheese to the recipe, I regret NOTHING), and a green salad. I left the orzo alone for most of the cooking process until most of the liquid was absorbed, then stirred continuously like it was a risotto, resulting in a creamier texture.

Start to finish, this took about 40 minutes, which could work well on a weeknight. I imagine you would be even speedier if you knew where all your forks were hiding.

Photo Credit: Randy Mayor

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops

(Cooking Light, December 2008) – Recipe by Lorrie Hulston Corvin

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I sliced those one inch Costco pork chops in half so I didn’t have to fiddle with my meat thermometer and for maximum breading to pork ratio. You could also make things easier on yourself and use thin-cut pork chops.
  • I had no white bread to toast and three containers of bread crumbs to choose from, so I used Panko bread crumbs and it worked perfectly. I’d actually recommend this  over making your own bread crumbs.
  • I used one teaspoon of dried sage instead of fresh.
  • I used dijon mustard.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 (1 1/4-ounce) slice white bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless thin-cut pork loin chops, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

Preparation:

  1. Place bread in a food processor; pulse bread 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, sage, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Combine mustard and egg whites in another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.
  2.  Working with one pork chop at a time, dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Dip pork into egg white mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat pork completely with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining pork, flour, egg white mixture, and breadcrumb mixture.
  3.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done.

 

Cheesy Orzo 

Adapted from Rachel Ray

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 14 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat an 8 inch pot over moderate heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and saute unit soft, 2 to three minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and return to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. To add a risotto-like texture to the orzo, begin stirring the orzo continuously when most of the liquid has been absorbed. Begin adding the Parmesan, stirring continuously until all cheese has been added and is melted. Serve immediately, with additional Parmesan.

Thai Veggie Salad and Chicken With Basil and Lime

I have many culinary obsessions. If someone says “pasta sauce” within a 500 foot radius of me I will appear instantly at their side, rambling on about garlic and onions and which brand of tomatoes you must buy and how it will change your life. I’m a lot of fun to work with.

I have a guilty pleasure of peanut Thai-ish dressings. I’m pretty sure it is not an authentic Thai flavoring, but a teaspoon of sweet peanut butter mixed with about two tablespoons of soy sauce and a clove of garlic is an amazing dressing over leftover brown rice and basil chicken. (More on this below). If you’re bringing it for lunch, you can even toss in a bit of kale so you can think “I’m so proud of myself for putting Kale in my lunch!” even if you push it out of the way while eating.

When this recipe for a Thai Veggie Salad complete with peanut dressing appeared in my email inbox from Pure Wow, I was ON IT. I bought all the requisite veggies. This led to a moment during checkout where, aghast, I realized the giant red cabbage was $1.59 a pound and I was spending $8 on red cabbage.  This was not a pleasant moment. But I did not turn back.

This is a super tasty salad. However, and I’m sorry if this is wrong, I suspect the people doing the write up for this recipe on Pure Wow did not actually make the salad themselves. Because oh my goodness I’m pretty sure I sprained my wrist chopping.

“This is so therapeutic!” I thought as I chopped the bell pepper and scallions. Then I moved onto the peas. Then the carrots. Then the peanuts and cucumber and dried mango and HOW HAVE I BEEN CHOPPING FOR AN HOUR. My wrist was killing me. I took a break to make the dressing. I got my knife stuck in the World’s Largest Eight Dollar Red Cabbage and Christopher had to rescue me.  I chopped half the carrots and decided I was done. The radishes went back into the refrigerator, abandoned because I could just not go on.

I served the salad with teriyaki chicken, which I halfheartedly began to chop then just tossed the cutlets on the salad because I was SO over it and it was 8:30 pm and I just wanted to eat my dinner and watch Bob’s Burgers.

It’s a great salad if you can trick someone into chopping everything for you. If you cannot, well, admire the picture and think “Allison, you fool.” Then make some delicious basil lime soy chicken and serve the leftovers with peanut dressing instead. I’ve included all the recipes below.

Photo Credit – Martha Stewart Living

Chicken with Basil and Lime 

Martha Stewart Living – December 2011

My Notes

  • Double this recipe. The leftovers are incredible.
  • Serve with brown rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon safflower or peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each), pounded to an even thickness (about 3/4 inch)
  • 1 cup basil leaves

Directions

  1. Stir together 1 tablespoon lime juice, oil, soy sauce, sugar, shallot, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in an 8-inch square baking dish. Add chicken; toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat broiler. Arrange chicken on top of shallot in dish. Broil 8 inches from heat source until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Flip chicken, arranging shallots around sides. Broil until chicken is cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let stand for 5 minutes. Slice chicken crosswise. Reserve pan juices.
  3. Transfer chicken and reserved pan juices to a bowl. Toss with basil and remaining tablespoon lime juice.

Soy Peanut Dressing

An Allison Original Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 small clove of garlic

Directions

  1. Mix dressing in small bowl. Pour over leftover brown rice and basil lime chicken for a delicious lunch bowl. If you have any cilantro lying around, add it with abandon.

Photo Credit – Pure Wow

Thai Veggie Salad – Crunchy Salad with Peanut Dressing

Pure Wow 

Salad

  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced or shredded
  • ¼ red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  • ½ English cucumber, cut into strips
  • 1 cup dried mango, thinly sliced
  • ⅔ cup peanuts, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
  • ¾ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

Dressing

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • ½ cup seasoned rice-wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter

Instructions

  1. Make the salad: Toss all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together until the dressing is smooth in texture. (You can also use a mini food processor or an immersion blender to mix the dressing. If so, you don’t have to chop the garlic or ginger.)
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. To serve, pile a helping of salad onto a plate and top generously with more cilantro and peanuts. The salad gets better as it sits and will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

 

Farro with Spanish Chorizo, Feta, and Dill – Food and Wine, April 2014

"This smells like a Christopher meal!"

“This smells like a Christopher meal!”

One last hurrah from April’s Food and Wine issue before we move onto May. Farro with Spanish Chorizo, Feta and, Dill caught my eye and piqued my curiosity because I honestly could not imagine how all the flavors would work out together.

This is a quick stovetop meal, perfect for a weeknight or the middle of a True Detective marathon. It falls right in the middle of the chopping scale of “no knives required” to “I think I sprained my wrist.” The farro cooks separately while you cook the chorizo, shallots, and celery. The farro is chewy and a bit creamy, like a faux risotto, the chorizo is delightfully spicy, and the feta is creamy and tangy.

I only made a few adjustments to this recipe – the dill. The recipe calls for a quarter cup of dill, which is a horrific amount. I like dill. It’s great in ranch dressing and sprinkled lightly onto things. But it can easily overwhelm this dish as well as the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. So chop about a tablespoon instead of the quarter cup, and sprinkle a tiny amount onto your plated dish and give it a taste. You can always add more! But the statement “too much dill” isn’t nonsense like “too much feta.”

Photo Credit – Christina Holmes, Food and Wine

 

Farro with Spanish Chorizo, Feta, and Dill

(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Chef Hugh Acheson

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I used the ten-minute farro from Trader Joe’s and followed the instructions on the bag, cooking for 10 instead of 25 minutes.
  • I took the casings off of the chorizo before slicing it. I’m not sure if you were supposed to leave them on or not, but I am not a huge casings person.
  • A little bit of dill goes a LONG way. I used just the tiniest amount. I think the quarter cup this recipe calls for is too much.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups farro (12 ounces)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry Spanish chorizo, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled ( 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill

Preparation:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 25 minutes; drain well.
  2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chorizo and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the drained farro and the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until most of the stock is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and parsley and season lightly with salt. Transfer the farro to shallow bowls, scatter the feta and dill on top and serve.