PANKO CRUSTED SALMON

It seems people either love salmon or they totally hate it. We are in the company of the former…we do love salmon made any number of ways. Grilled…pan-seared…baked…poached…or in a pasta dish…it’s all good.

Whether it’s a salmon steak (cut crosswise through the whole fish) or a bone-less skin-less filet like this one, it does take a little finesse to cook it properly. Aim for 125 degrees for a medium rare to about 135 for medium. I prefer somewhere in the middle.

Here’s a recipe loosely based on one I saw on Binging with Babish, with a couple minor changes.

Ingredients:

  • Two 6-8 ounce boneless salmon filets (skin on or skinless)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard or whole grain mustard
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pat dry salmon filets with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and add the panko crumbs, tossing for about 1 minute to lightly brown. Add the chopped herbs and toss for another 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from skillet to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Mix together the mayonnaise and Dijon in a small bowl.
  • Wrap a small wire rack in foil. Spray generously with cooking spray. Place in a small sheet pan.
  • Coat the tops of the salmon filets with the mayo/Dijon mixture. Thoroughly cake the tops of the salmon with the panko mixture.
  • Place salmon on the foil wrapped wire rack and sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake for about 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Cook until the internal temperature is 125-135 degrees according to how done you like it.
  • Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dab of tartar sauce. I served mine with Creamy Cheesy Polenta.

LOAF PAN LASAGNE

C’mon, it’s just the two of us! So, I do this little meaty creamy cheesy lasagne in a loaf pan. Is it lasagne or lasagna? Doesn’t matter.

You can use regular lasagne noodles, but I love these little oven-ready lasagne noodles from Barilla. They are thin and don’t requite pre-cooking. Just try to find a small loaf pan that fits the noodles.

This recipe has 4 layers, double noodles, meat sauce, béchamel, a ricotta parmesan layer, and lots of mozzarella. You can also make it with marinara instead of meat sauce.

Ingredients:

  • Half package of Barilla oven-ready lasagne noodles
  • 2 cups bechamel
  • 1 1/2 cups meat sauce or marinara, home made or store-bought
  • 7 ounces ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, divided
  • 2 ounces of granted parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, 1/8 inch chiffonade

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Make the béchamel and set aside, keep warm.
  • In a mixing bowl, add the ricotta, egg, half the parmesan, 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg, a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  • Place the mozzarella ball in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Cut half into cubes and shred the other half.
  • Butter a non-stick loaf pan.
  • Place a thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Then layer 2 sheets of lasagne noodles, then another layer of béchamel, then a layer of meat sauce, spread a layer of ricotta mix, Add 1/3 of the mozzarella cubes then some fresh basil chiffonade. Place another 2 sheets of noodles, béchamel, meat sauce, ricotta mix, mozzarella cubes, then basil. Repeat until you have used all the sheets (about half the package), ending with meat sauce. Spread the top with shredded mozzarella and the remainder of the grated Parmesan. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes until the cheese are golden brown.
  • Let sit uncovered for about 30 minutes or longer to let it set up. Slice an serve.

SLOW ROASTED PRIME RIB

This is an herb and garlic crusted recipe. Although I cooked this one in my Pitt Boss smoker, the cook times and method works just as well in the oven.

The roast is a 3 1/4 pound boneless prime rib roast. It started out as a 5 1/4 pound roast, but I absconded with two big, thick ribs eyes for last use!

I think it is necessary to apply the seasonings the night before and place in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. The cook went 3 1/2 hours at 250 degrees, until it reaches 125 degrees, then about 25 minutes at 400 to raise the internal temperature to 137 degrees and crusting the outside. Resting it foil-wrapped for 20 minutes raises the temperature to about 137 degrees…a pretty good medium rare. It’s a boneless roast, but a bone-in roast will work but cook times may be a little longer. Just use a temperature probe like I do. Also, a 7 pound roast will required time as well.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 7 pound boneless prime rib roast
  • Seasoning mix – 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt

Directions:

  • The night before the cook, tie the roast at least 3 times lengthwise with butcher twine. This helps it maintain its shape doing cooking.
  • Place the rosemary, thyme, garlic, and olive oil in a small food processor and process into a rough paste. Season all over with the seasoning mix then with Kosher salt. Place on a wire rack over a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next day, take the roast out of the fridge about 1 hour before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the roast in the oven and cook for about 3 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees. Raise the temperature to 400 degrees and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 137 degrees and you have a nice crust. Remove from oven, wrap tightly in foil, and let rest of about 20 minutes. The temperature will go up another 5 degrees or so to medium rare. Remove foil and carve. Sprinkle each slice with a little Maldon flaky sea salt before serving. I served it with Hasselback potatoes.
  • Serve with horseradish cream and au jus.

HASH BROWN CASSEROLE

Otherwise Know As…Funeral Potatoes, Why are they called Funeral Potatoes? Simply explained…you guessed it…it is a dish often brought to after-funeral pot luck dinners in the Intermountain West. I’ve never had this at a funeral dinner, because…I’ve never been to a funeral-dinner. No biggee…I just love this casserole as a side dish for chicken or beef.

Ingredients:

  • About 8 ounces (1/4 bag) frozen (Ore-Ida) hash browns
  • 2-3 ounces sliced deli ham, 1/8 inch chiffonade
  • 1/4 cup onions, minced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 tbsp melted bitter
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Chopped chives or green onions for garnish

Directions:

  • Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan. Add the minced onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and the milk and let it come together and thicken.
  • Stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheddar and 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere and stir it in until melted and well combined. Stir in the sour cream, granulated garlic, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Let cook on low for 3-4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the shredded hash browns in a large mixing bowl and pour on the cheese sauce mix. Fold together until well combined.
  • Mix together in a small bowl, the panko crumbs, melted butter, and parmesan cheese.
  • Butter a 9×9 casserole dish then place the hash brown mix in the dish. Top with the chopped bacon, then 1/4 cup of grated cheddar. Cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the panko mixture and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

NEW YORK CHEESECAKE

I will get arguments and heated discussions here, but…a New York style cheesecake has more cream cheese than sour cream or cream and comes out denser than so-called “regular” cheesecake…that’s the difference. This has mostly cream cheese and just a little sour cream and a graham cracker crust. The famous Junior’s Cheesecake (which I have made on numerous occasions) has a thin sponge cake “crust” and typically no topping. I will give that a try again at a later date on this blog.

The topping I used is strawberry (recipe below), but any of your favorite toppings will do like blueberry or caramel.

Note: This is not light, fluffy, creamy little cheesecake…it’s got body…it’s a New York style cheesecake!

Ingredients:

For the graham cracker crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers (1 sleeve)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the cheesecake:

  • 4 (8 ounces) packages of full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs

For the strawberry topping:

  • 8 ounces of strawberries, fresh or frozen, stemmed and halved
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs, then add the sugar and melted butter and pulse again a few times. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan. Use the bottom of a 1/2 cup measuring cup to press the crumbs into the corners and up the side a bit. Try to make it as level and even as possible. Prebake for 8 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Place the pan on enough aluminum foil to wrap around the pan. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer) fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese and sugar at medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon juice and beat until combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time and mix just until well combined. Avoid over mixing or the cheesecake may crack as it bakes.
  • Pour the batter into the springform pan a smooth with a rubber spatula until even.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the foil wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven on the middle rack and carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan to a depth of about 1 inch up the side of the pan. Place in the oven and bake about 55-60 minutes until just beginning to brown on top. The cheesecake should still be a little wobbly when you shake the pan. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and let sit in the oven for 1 hour.
  • Remove from the oven. Remove from the pan and water bath, place on a wire rack and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Using a sharp, skinny paring knife, loosen the edges from the rim, then remove the rim.
  • Place the strawberries, reserving a few halves for garnish, in a small saucepan. Mix the cornstarch with 3 tbsp of water, add to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes while it thickens. Place in the refrigerator to cool. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the strawberries until smooth. Store covered in the refrigerator.
  • Slice with the same skinny knife, wiping clean and dipping into warm water between cuts, and use a pie pointed pie server to remove slices.
  • Top with your favorite topping and serve. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

CRISPY CHICKEN FLAUTAS

There is a Tex-Mex Southwestern Mexican style restaurant on the west coast called Chevy’s Tex Mex. They serve a menu of Mexican and Tex Mex style dishes (obviously, hence the name). I worked as a General/Kitchen Manager for them in the early 2000’s. The job didn’t last long but I appreciated the scratch-made food they had. One of the menu items I loved to eat during my dinner break was a version of the Crispy Chicken Flautas. My recipe here is very mild compared to their version that had some sort of habanero sauce that made them pretty spicy. You can make these spicier by ramping up the ingredients in the taco dressing that is inside the flauta and is served on the side for dipping.

Chevys served these as an appetizer, but I served them with Mexican rice as an entree.

Ingredients:

For the chicken seasoning mix:

  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

For the flautas:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup Pace chunky salsa (or your favorite salsa)
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (half Monterey Jack and half Sharp cheddar)
  • Sour cream
  • Finely shredded lettuce
  • Chopped Roma tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Guacamole
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • Canola oil for frying

For the taco dressing:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tsp Cholula or Sriracha sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp lime juice

Directions:

  • Mix together the seasoning mix in a small bowl.
  • Butterfly the chicken breasts. Place between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper the coat with the seasoning mix. Heat a ribbed cast-iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly coat with canola oil. When the griddle is screaming hot, add the chicken breasts and press with a meat press or a heavy skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn and cook for another 2 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Remove breasts to a plate and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, shred or dice the chicken, place in a saucepan, then add the salsa. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Keep warm.
  • Core the Roma tomatoes and remove the seeds. Dice 1/4 inch.
  • Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • To assemble, lay the tortillas one at a time on a hot cast-iron griddle and until warm and pliable.
  • Lay the tortillas on a cutting board. Spread to 2 tbsp of the tortillas. Spoon on about 1/2 cup of the salsa chicken mixture leaving about 1 inch empty on the ends. Add 1/4 cup of the cheese blend. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
  • Mix together 2 tbsp of flour with 2 tbsp of cold water. Roll up the tortillas tightly and brush the flour and water slurry on the edge to seal. Slice of the ends of the flauta to square it off. Let sit for 5 minutes to seal. At this point, they can be kept covered in the refrigerator if you want to make them in advance.
  • When the oil is 350 degrees, fry the flautas until golden brown and crispy, turn, and fry on the other side. Place on a wire track over a sheet in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the flautas.
  • To serve, slice a flauta in the middle diagonally. Lay a bunch of shredded lettuce on a plate. Place the flauta on the lettuce then top with a dollop of sour cream, then top with chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and chopped cilantro. Serve with a small ramekin of the taco dressing.

PASTA e FAGIOLE

Pasta Fagioli…Pasta Fazool…or Pasta e Fagiole…however you choose to call it…it means Pasta and Beans soup. And it is one of the great meal soups. It’s got everything…vegetables, meat (Italian sausage or ground beef), pasta, and beans.

As always, you will find dozens of recipes from dozens of Italian chefs. No argument here…this is just my take on it. And, it is pretty much an accurate representation of Olive Garden Pasta Fagiole…I was a Kitchen Manager with The Olive Garden for 3 years.

I chose to use cannelini and red kidney beans, but you can use any favorite bean, tender bean. I the pasta is ditalini, but any small pasta, like elbow macaroni, will work.

One chef’s note: I would suggest you cook the pasta (Ditalini in this case) separately then add it at service. No matter how much stock or liquid you have in your soup, the pasta will almost always absorb most of it and it become Pasta Fagiole Stew instead of soup. When I freeze Pasta Fagiole, I cool the soup first, then add cooled pasta before freezing. Believe me, it is a method that works great, preserving the integrity of this iconic Italian soup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 pound Italian sausage, removed from the casings
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 large rib of celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 (15 oz) cans of cannelini, red kidney, or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups ditalini
  • Grated parmesan
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Add olive olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Place chopped onions, carrots, and celery in a food processor and process until finely minced. Add to the saucepan and saute for 7 minutes, stirring, until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the minced chopped rosemary, and garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the drained and rinsed beans and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
  • Cook the ditalini according to package directions (about 8 minutes). Drain and cool.
  • Reheat the ditalini in some hot water, a microwave will do. Then ladle soup into bowls, some pasta and garnish with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

BIG KAHUNA BURGER

“I hear they got some tasty burgers!”

So said Jules Winnfield (Samuel Jackson’s character) from Pulp Fiction. Full disclaimer: I’m just guessing what is in that Big Kahuna Burger from watching the movie dozens of times. Truth be told, there is no Big Kahuna Burger, it’s a fictional L.A. Hawaiian burger joint dreamed up by Quentin Tarantino and actually mentioned in a couple of this movies (Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs). Also, if you research “Hawaiian Burger”, you’ll find that it has grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce along with the ketchup and mayo seen in the movie. Not gonna happen here! No pineapple, no teriyaki sauce on my Big Kahuna Burger! This one is a double smash cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Here’s a recipe for 2 of my version of The Big Kahuna Burger from Pulp Fiction. The most basic of basic burger.

The fries are hand cut (3/8 inch) Russet potatoes. Par-boiled by placing in a saucepan of cold water, then bringing to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and place in the refrigerator to cool. Dry the fries completely. Then deep fry at 350 degrees for about 3 1/2 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef, divided into 4 (2 oz) balls
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 slices of American cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • 2 small hamburger buns
  • Unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly butter both sides of the buns and lace on the griddle, letting them get golden brown. Remove to a cutting board. Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun, mustard on the top bun.
  • After forming your ground beef into 4 (2 oz) balls, place on the griddle over medium high heat. Add a little canola oil. Place the ground beef balls on the griddle and smash with a sturdy spatula or meat press. Yes, we’re making smash burgers here.
  • Let them cook until you see some fat appearing on the surface, about 2 minutes. Then using that sturdy spatula, scrape the burger off the griddle and flip, allowing it to finish cooking, another minute. Add the sliced cheese to each slice then pile one patty on top of the other, cover with a large pan lid, and let the cheese melt for about 30 seconds.
  • Place each double stack on the buns, add ketchup to the top of the cheese, and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

LORETTA’S INSTAPOT BEEF STEW

My sweet wife, Loretta, doesn’t cook very much. In fact, I do all the cooking around these parts, and she’s just fine with that. However, every once in a while, I talk her into cooking something when I just get tired of doing it! Most of the time, she will cook if I talk her through each recipe. And so it goes…I walked her through this Instapot Beef Stew recipe. Although, it is not at all less involved than the stovetop braised version, it certainly takes less babysitting once everything is going.

And here’s how Loretta’s Beef Stew goes…

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chucks, fat trimmed, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, 1/4 inch slice
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 2 medium celery ribs, 1/4 inch slice
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Bouquet garni – 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs flat leaf parsley, 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Make the bouquet garni by wrapping all the garni ingredients in cheesecloth and tying with a string.
  • Heat the Instapot on Saute. Season the cubed beef with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the meat to the pot and brown on both sides for about 3 minutes, do not crowd the pot. Remove the beef to a bowl.
  • Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot and stir to saute about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the stocks and bring to a simmer. Turn off saute.
  • Add the browned meat back to the pot. Seal and pressure cook for 45 minutes, letting it release naturally. Hit cancel to turn off Warm.
  • When done cooking, remove the lid and add the potatoes and stir in. Seal the lid and pressure cook for 4 minutes. When done, release the pressure placing a kitchen towel over the release valve to avoid the steam. Turn off Warm.
  • Remove all the meat and vegetables to a large bowl and turn on Saute. Mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. When the liquid begins to simmer stir in the cornstarch slurry and let thicken for 1 minute. Add all the meat and vegetable back to the pot, stir to combine, and add the chopped parsley. Serve immediately or keep warm.

POTATO LATKES

Full discloser…it’s the first day of Hanukkah, but I’m not Jewish. I just love latkes and it seemed appropriate to make them today.

There are many recipes out there for latkes, but I borrowed this one from Babish (with a couple minor changes). I, like he, did not use schmaltz (chicken fat) to fry them…though I would have had I found some. Canola oil worked well. This recipe will give you 5-6 latkes.

In my book, this blows potatoes traditional hash browns out of the water!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Russet potatoes or other starchy potato
  • 1/2 onion
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 2-3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • Canola oil for frying

Directions:

  • Peeled then grate the Russet potatoes and the onion at the same time. I used one of those cheap little crank things, but you can use a box grater. Do the next step immediately or your potatoes will brown quickly.
  • Place the grated potatoes on a clean kitchen towel and roll up, twisting the ends. Hold the towel over a medium mixing bowl and squeeze and a twist to get all the liquid out of them. Let the liquid go into the bowl. Let the bowl sit for few minutes, then carefully pour off the water and reserving the potato starch in the bottom.
  • Place the grated potatoes, beaten eggs, granulated garlic, Kosher salt and white pepper in the bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  • Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a medium skillet to 375 degrees.
  • Make about 5-6 “balls” of grated potatoes, place on a sheet pan, smash down to form about 1/2 inch patties. Leave the edges raggy as this will give you nice, crispy edges.
  • When the oil is hot, place the latkes in the the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy. Place them on a wire rack over a sheet pan in a warm oven while you make the remainder. Season with salt when they come out of the oil.
  • Serve with sour cream and diced green onions. Some people like to serve them with applesauce as well. Happy Hanukkah!